We all know what it feels like to toss and turn in the wee small hours of the morning, then dread the sound of the alarm clock and have to get up without having had a decent sleep. Having the odd bad night isn’t too much of an issue, but if struggle to improve your sleep, then it can cause problems for both your mental and physical health. We’ve compiled an easy-to-follow list of tried and tested ways to help you get a good night’s sleep.
The best way to have a good night’s sleep is to practise good ‘sleep hygiene’. That means achievable sleep habits and behaviours and having the right environment to promote a great night’s rest. That means keeping an eye on what time you wake up, what you do during the day and what you eat. It also may mean making adjustments to your bedroom and night-time routines. We’ll discuss everything below, so you have a clear idea of what you need to do, and what to avoid.
It sounds odd, but how you begin your morning may be the key to how to sleep better at night. Make sure you wake up at the same time every day, so your body learns a regular pattern. There’s also the bonus of getting as much natural morning light as possible, which also affects our ability to drop off later. Resist the urge to keep pressing that snooze button! And when it comes to the weekend or days off, don’t lie in for too long as you’ll mess up your body’s natural cycles and undo all the good work you’ve done to improve sleep during the week.
The key to good sleep is consistency. Try to get at least 20 minutes of exercise a day – that could be as simple as walking the dog, a trip around the shops, doing the school run, or strolling in the local park at lunchtime. The theory is if you tire out your body during the day, you’re more likely to sink under the duvet and get a good night’s sleep. Make sure you avoid vigorous exercise around 90 minutes before bedtime as strenuous activities that raise your heart rate can also overstimulate your nervous system. Allow your body time to recover.
Here are some of our top tips to help you get a better night’s sleep if you’re struggling to get into a routine:
As well as changing your habits and environment to get a good night’s sleep, there are foods we can recommend to help you sleep better. They all contain important nutrients like tryptophan. This is an amino acid that your body needs to make serotonin and melatonin, the hormones to help you to relax. Serotonin and melatonin are also useful in controlling when you sleep and when you wake. Foods that include serotonin and melatonin include bananas, cherries, cherry juice, and pineapple.
In addition, try to eat something that contains magnesium and potassium –bananas are a great source – as those minerals help to relax your muscles, and improve the quality of your sleep.
Foods that contain tryptophan include turkey, salmon, bananas, cereals, dairy products like yoghurt and cheese, oats, pulses, nuts, and seeds. So, if you’re still peckish after teatime and don’t want to sleep on an empty stomach, then a small peanut butter sandwich or a cracker smeared with hummus or cottage cheese would be a great evening snack to help you get a good night’s sleep.
Milk also contains tryptophan, which is why so many people recommend a warm milky drink before bedtime too. Add a pinch of nutmeg to promote a sleepy feeling, or try camomile, valerian, or lavender herbal teas for the same dozing effect.
You probably already know which foods and drinks to avoid. Tea, coffee (even decaffeinated versions), energy drinks and cola are great for giving a burst of energy, but that’s not the effect you want. Try to limit your intake of caffeinated drinks from around 5 pm onwards. The same goes for sugary drinks like fruit juice, and sadly biscuits and chocolate are also a no-go. They’re delicious and great while cosying up on the sofa, but the sugar content is too stimulating if you need some help to nod off.
Although a couple of glasses of wine may help you feel drowsy, you’ll sleep less deeply after drinking alcohol and you may notice the next day, you'll still feel tired, so put that bottle down!
The place where you lay your head needs to be a restful, relaxing haven from the stresses of the day. Experts suggest that to guarantee you’ll have a better night’s sleep, you should use your bedroom for sleeping and being intimate only. Your décor is also important. You may love bright vibrant shades, but it’s best to create a calming, welcoming room that can become a place where you’re looking forward to spending many hours. You can find lots of great ideas for the best flooring for your bedroom in our Ideas Hub.
And if you need more inspiration on transforming your bedroom, why not take a look at our guide on how to feng shui your bedroom, for more tips on how to create a calming, zen atmosphere?