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How to Improve Sleep

A good night’s sleep is something that a lot of people struggle with and can be unpleasant.  Restlessness or insomnia can lead to feeling exhausted and unproductive during the day and can lead to other health issues if it is a long-term problem. However, there are some things people can implement into their daily routine to try and make falling asleep and staying asleep is an easier thing to do. Here are just some ways how to improve sleep and ensure a restful slumber.

Keep your bedroom as a place to relax and sleep

It is common to have our bedrooms as not just places to sleep. Many of us have TVs in our rooms and use spend ages lying down in bed scrolling through our phones. However, this behaviour is not helping us sleep. Experts say that bedrooms should remain a place to simply relax and sleep, so try and avoid having a TV in there or watching anything on your phone. 

Also, take into account the temperature of your bedroom. People sleep best when the temperature is comfortably cool and when the room is well ventilated and dark. You could make your room darker by investing in shutters or blackout blinds to improve sleep quality. A cheaper option is to buy an eye mask. Also, ensure your mattress and pillows suit you and are changed regularly. Mattresses should be replaced approximately every 8-10 years.

Keeping your bedroom as a calm and comfy room will help your brain associate your bedroom with sleep. 

Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake

Reducing caffeine is something that seems obvious and is often the first thing people try when they are struggling to sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake so it is important to avoid drinking this for 4-6 hours before going to sleep. Many people opt for decaf coffee in the evening but some people forget about other items that contain caffeine such as cola drink, tea, and some pain medication. 

Whilst drinking alcohol can initially make you feel sleepy and can in fact help you fall asleep. You will often end up having a disturbed or restless night’s sleep. This is because, after a while, alcohol also acts as a stimulant. After a few hours, you will probably find yourself waking up after drinking a substantial amount of alcohol or having a bad quality night’s sleep. To combat this and improve sleep quality, limit alcohol consumption to 1-2 drinks a day as a maximum and avoid drinking within 3 hours of your bedtime.

If you are a smoker, you should also try and avoid smoking too close to bedtime as well due to the nicotine in tobacco which also can act as a stimulant. 

Use a meditation or sleep story app

Whilst using your phone late at night can be counter-productive when you are staring at the screen, your phone can help you sleep if you use it in the right way. Try downloading a meditation or sleep story app. These apps can play soothing music or will read a story that is designed to help people drift off to sleep. They have been proven to be very effective in improving sleep quality for some people. 

Have a relaxing pre-bed routine

Quality of sleep can often be determined by the things you do before you go to sleep. So, establishing some sleep habits can make a huge difference. Try taking a bath, reading a book, or doing yoga or meditation. Avoiding activities that are stimulating, like doing work, can secrete the stress hormone cortisol which increases alertness. If you are struggling to sleep because you have a lot on your mind, try taking a notepad and pen to bed with you and jot down anything you need to remember. This can help empty your mind and allow you to fall asleep.

Go to sleep when you are tired 

Whilst having a routine and a regular bedtime can be greatly beneficial, don’t force yourself to go to sleep. Only go to sleep when you are truly tired. Otherwise, you will lie awake, getting frustrated that you are too awake to go to sleep. If you have not fallen asleep after 20 minutes, take this as a sign that you are not tired enough and get out of bed. Use this time to do a task that is relaxing like reading or listening quietly to music. During this time, don’t have any bright lights on as this will make you more alert.

Be careful with naps

If you are partial to a nap, which is perfectly normal, just be careful when you time them. You need to make sure the naps are not too late in the day. Try and make sure naps are only taken before 5 pm and are not too long. If you take long naps regularly, this could be one of the main reasons why you struggle to sleep well when nighttime comes.

Turn your clock away from you 

It can be horrible when you cannot sleep and you end up staring at your clock. This doesn’t help at all and can impact you falling back to sleep. So instead, turn your alarm clock away so you cannot watch the time. Alternatively, some clocks automatically switch the screen off until the alarm goes off to help stop you from simply staring at the clock in the middle of the night.

Don’t eat heavy meals before bed

Where possible, avoid eating your evening meal too late and have it finished several hours before you go to sleep. Also, try and avoid foods that are prone to causing indigestion. If you are eating, later on, try and avoid dairy or heavy carbohydrates that could potentially impact the quality of your sleep.

All of the methods above are what researchers identify as ways to improve your “sleep hygiene”. Whilst some of them may take time to adapt to, there are some things that you can change immediately and make part of your daily routine. So, whether you have just had one bad night's sleep, you have jet lag, you have awkward work shift patterns, or it is an ongoing issue, following these tips will hopefully mean you have found some ways to improve your sleep. 

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