11 Tips That Will Help You Get A Better Night’s Sleep. Whether or not we carry them out, we all know the fundamentals of a healthy lifestyle are. A balanced diet, regular exercise, minimal alcohol consumption, and plenty of social interaction. But sleep? A good night’s sleep is often overlooked.
The Evolution Of Sleeplessness
As human beings have evolved, so has our ability to hamper our natural sleep cycles. Whether it’s technological development (lightbulbs, curtains, alarm clocks, device screens, sleeping pills) or societal development (shift work, commuting, working overtime, inescapable communication, self-improvement), most advancements in daily life have had the unfortunate effect of sleep taking a hit.
Our social attitudes only cement this, with social media pushing the endless rhetoric of “sacrifice equals success”. All the while, news cycles and magazine profiles detail how billionaire founders frequently run their companies on less than five hours of sleep.
Sleep is now considered a global health issue. In what the World Health Organization has referred to as the “sleep loss epidemic”, two-thirds of adults in so-called developed nations are not getting the recommended eight hours of sleep a night.
Granted, on a global scale, sleep disorders are on the rise. However, at the center of the WHO’s findings are that people that should be sleeping, aren’t. Sleepers in the UK average just 6 hours and 49 minutes a night, with one in two Brits surviving on six or fewer hours.
As you may have guessed, this lack of sleep is doing nothing for your health. But what’s important to note is that as a society, we completely underestimate its effects.
A lack of sleep is clinically linked to increases in serious health problems. These include cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Lack of sleep is also linked to suicide, depression, and other mental health issues. And if that wasn’t enough, it can also decrease fertility, lower immunity to diseases, and create a poor sex drive.
And yet, we continue to play down the importance of sleep, with loss of sleep costing the UK economy over £30bn a year in lost revenue (2% of GDP). Less sleep is also proven to make you dumber, forgetful, and more likely to crash your car. (The list is endless).
How To Sleep Better
1. Change Your Mindset
With all the above in mind, you really need to take sleep seriously. It might not be the quick fix you’re looking for, but you should respect sleep.
That means accepting and prioritizing it over another pint, that extra episode on Netflix, personal admin, or that peer-pressured late-night bar crawl.
The first step towards a better night’s sleep is admitting to yourself that a better night’s sleep is crucial to both your short- and long-term well-being.
2. Get Into A Routine, how to get a better night’s sleep
You should aim for 8 hours of sleep a night based around a regular schedule.
The key with sleep is routine: set an alarm, so you know it’s time to wind down. In this case, it’s best to set times for going to bed and waking up.
The important thing to note about sleep is that, unlike a diet in which fasting could help bring some regularity if you’ve eaten more than usual, you can’t simply have a lie-in here and there to make up for lost hours.
3. Exercise Early
Getting in at least 30 minutes of exercise each day is crucial to a healthy lifestyle, but you want to be doing your exercise at least three or four hours before going to bed.
4. Avoid Caffeine And Nicotine, how to get a better night’s sleep
These might seem obvious ones, but drinks that contain caffeine (tea, coffee, fizzy drinks, workout supplements) are all stimulants likely to hamper your sleep, whether consumed at night or even in the afternoon.
If you’re struggling with sleep, it’s worth considering how many cups you have a day, and when you’re drinking them. Consider switching to decaf as the day goes on.
Nicotine is another widely used, addictive stimulant that can affect your sleep; it has been found that smokers tend to wake up earlier due to withdrawal.
5. Avoid Alcohol Before Bed, how to get a better night’s sleep
Easier said than done. Although alcohol will essentially knock you out, it also suppresses melatonin, the key sleep hormone.
It also reduces REM (the brain-nourishing “rapid eye movement” stage of sleep), thus keeping you in the lighter stages of sleep for longer.
Alcohol is a diuretic too, which means it’ll encourage your body to lose liquid, through sweat or urine, as you sleep.
6. Optimize Digestion
Large meals before bed can lead to digestive issues that hamper sleep. Likewise, drinking extensively (alcohol or not) before bed can lead to more frequent waking up to urinate.
7. Your Bedroom Is For Sleeping Only, how to get a better night’s sleep
The environment and conditions you sleep in make a huge difference when it comes to getting your 8 hours in. Ideally, you want to get into a mindset where the only activity you do in your bedroom is sleep, thus adding to a sense of routine for your body.
Your bedroom at night should be cool, quiet, dark, and free of electronic distraction, and your mattress and pillows comfortable. Likewise, it’s worth having a reading chair elsewhere in your house so that, again, your bed is solely used for sleeping.
At night your room should be dimly and comfortably lit, and for the sake of your body clock, blackout curtains are to be avoided. If you require an alarm, use a softer one like a wake-up light, and keep clocks away from where you sleep so that you’re not tempted to check the time. Keep all distractions–whether electronic or not–to a minimum.
8. Don’t Nap After 3 pm
Remember, cycles are key. Your entire body is moving to a sleep-when-it’s dark-rise-when-it’s-light cycle, so try to set a deadline of no naps after 3 pm. Naps are fine if taken earlier in the day, but keep them short.
9. Take A Shower Or Bath Before Bed, how to get a better night’s sleep
Not so much sleep hygiene as temperature regulation. Simple sleep science dictates that in order to fall asleep, your body requires a 1°C drop in temperature. Having a bath or shower before bed is not only a good chance to unwind and relax, but coupled with a cooler room, should help you nod off.
10. Gradually Unwind
It should come as no surprise that all the melatonin-suppressing light coming from all the screens you’re forced to look at throughout the day is bad for your sleep.
So try to set aside an hour before bed to unwind, avoid screen time, and ease yourself into a more relaxed state for sleep.
Controlled breathing, dimmed lights and a reading spot should do the trick, but find a routine that works best for you.
11. Can’t Sleep? Do Something Else, how to get a better night’s sleep.
We’ve all been there: tossing and turning, working ourselves up about the fact that we can’t sleep on the eve of an important morning.
We lay there running through all the possible worst-case scenarios. Even making ourselves anxious and both sides of the pillow uncomfortably warm.
From now on, do something else. It’s as easy as that. There’s no point lying there.
Read a book, do the washing, do some sort of activity (not involving a screen) and come back to bed when you feel like sleeping.