How to improve your sleep
A good night’s sleep means better mental health, whereas a lack of sleep can cause irritability, poorer memory and loss of and concentration. Here we look at some of the ways you can develop healthy sleep habits, and improve your general mental health and wellbeing in the process.
Improve your sleeping environment
Is your bed comfortable? Make sure your mattress is comfortable and replace old, flat pillows. Keep your bedroom dark, well-aired and not too hot. Research by the National Sleep Foundation also found that people who make their beds every day are 19% more likely to regularly get a good night’s sleep. And 75% of people surveyed said they sleep better when their sheets are freshly cleaned.
Consider your consumption
What we eat and drink before bed can significantly impact our sleep. If you’re drinking tea, coffee or caffeinated fizzy drinks close to bedtime, the likelihood is your sleep will be affected.
Although alcohol can make you drowsy, it disrupts the second phase of our sleep. This phase is vital in helping our bodies restore energy. Alcohol can also worsen sleep apnoea and snoring.
The nicotine in cigarettes and vapes is a stimulant, and research indicates that smoking can cause difficulty in falling asleep. Smoking is also associated with breathing problems that affect quality of sleep.
If you can, try and cut down on these stimulants. Eating earlier in the evening can also help, as digestion – particularly the digestion of fatty foods – interferes with sleep.
Activities that require a lot of concentration can prevent you from drifting off. Switching off from taxing mental activity earlier in the evening might be easier said than done, but if your brain is too active at bedtime, you could end up tired – and lacking in concentration – in the morning.
Give yourself half an hour of wind-down time before bed for a more restful night.
Cut your screen time
Looking at a computer screen, phone or TV just before bed not only leaves the mind over-stimulated, but can actually trick the brain into thinking it’s daytime. The blue light from screens emulates natural daylight, which prevents the brain from releasing sleep-inducing hormones.
If your phone has a night-shift mode (a timer which alters the light from your screen at bedtime), give it a try. But it’s still important to take a time-out from your tech just before bed.
Take control of your worry
Worry can hugely impact your sleep. If you find your thoughts running away with you at night, note them down on a piece of paper and put it away until the morning. It may sound silly, but actually allocating some time to worry about it the next day can help. Next to each worry, note down what you can actually do about the situation.
You may find our module, ‘Taking Charge of your Worry’, useful (this module is available on our Android app now and coming soon to our Apple app). Our modules have been researched, compiled and clinically tested by the world-renowned Black Dog Institute, and can help you reduce stress and anxiety in eight weeks. Get the app here.
Develop a consistent routine
Training yourself to get up and go to bed at regular times helps can significantly improve your sleep. Hard as this may be, stick to it throughout the week – even at weekends. Developing a routine will helps your body know when to turn sleep hormones turn on and off. You may feel you need the weekends to ‘catch up’ on lost sleep during the week, but it’s far more effective to get the right amount every night. Sadly, there is a limit on how much lost sleep you can actually catch up on.
Identifying patterns in your behaviour versus your sleep quality is a good way to tackle the causes of poor sleep and resulting tiredness.
Start a daily diary, recording the following:
- Fall asleep time
- Any episodes of night waking
- Wake-up time
- What you ate and drank before bed
- What activities you did before bed
- Any physical activity you did that day
- Whether you took a nap that day
For an easier way to record your sleep habits, you can use the tracking feature in our app.
Implementing change can be difficult under certain circumstances, such as if you’re a new parent or a night-shift worker. If you’re struggling with fatigue and there’s little you can do about your routine, it’s OK to ask for help. If you’re suffering from severe insomnia, speak to your doctor.
If you want to start tracking your sleep, exercise, diet, worry levels, alcohol intake and much more, try our app today. You can also access our clinically-proven modules, to help reduce stress, anxiety and depression, and improve your general happiness and wellbeing.