Girl sleeping in bed

A good night’s sleep is important for a lot of reasons and it can feel nearly impossible to have a good day following a poor quality sleep. Tiredness can lead to irritability, a lack of concentration and problems with sleep over longer periods of time can lead to other health problems. We all have the odd night where it can be hard to drift off but if you regularly find yourself unable to doze off for hours on end or waking up in the middle of the night for no reason you may need to have a look at your current routine and surroundings and see if there is any way to make any adjustments to improve your sleep.

#1 Have a set bedtime and stick to it

When you stay awake late one night and then go to bed early, or sleep late the next to make up for it, your body gets confused and doesn’t know what time to start getting prepared for sleep. It’s much better to stick to a regular bedtime so your body falls into a natural cycle of sleeping and waking up at the same time.

#2 Create signals for your body that it is time to relax

Today’s busy lifestyles mean that it can be difficult to wind down in the evenings. However, this is something you will need to make an effort in order to improve your sleep. Create a routine that works for you and make sure you stick to it. If you find yourself constantly checking and responding to emails late at night, set a time for switching off your laptop and switch to a relaxing activity such as reading to give your brain a rest from the day’s work. After a couple of weeks, your body will get into the routine of starting to relax at a certain time, when you do certain things, making it easier to fall asleep when you do go to bed. 

#3 Invest in a pair of blackout curtains and a high quality eye mask

Blackout curtains and eye masks aren’t just helpful for shift workers, they could also help you sleep more deeply at night. Invest in a high-quality eye mask and if possible, try them on before you buy to see how they feel. Eye masks that press onto your eyes will disturb you during REM sleep when your eyes move about a lot, so choose ones that look more like goggles.

#4 Switch off your mobile phone and laptop well before bedtime

Studies have proven that the blue light from laptops, phones, e-readers with a backlight, and indeed, your television have a detrimental effect on your sleep. Not only can you take up to 3 hours longer to fall asleep after exposure to this light, your sleep can also be of a much lower quality. To avoid this, switch all these items off at least 3 hours before bedtime and try to relax by reading a printed book, or an e-reader which utilizes a natural method of lighting. 

#5 Make sure your mattress is not too firm or soft

An unsuitable mattress is a major cause of back and neck pain. Most mattresses will last between 5-10 years, depending on the quality and after that it’s really time to get a new one. There are also different types of mattress toppers available , so if you cant afford a new mattress at the moment, it may be worth investing in one of those.

#6 Ensure your pillow isn’t too fluffy

Your pillow should not lift your head and neck more than a couple of inches, just enough to keep your spine as straight as possible. Fluffy pillows cause you to adopt an unnatural sleeping position with your head and neck bent forward. What sort of pillow you choose ultimately depends on a lot of facts – even the mattress you currently have will affect how it feels and you won’t know how comfortable it is until you try it on your own bed, so the best advice is to choose one that you will be able to return if it isn’t suitable.

#7 Make sure the temperature in your bedroom is right

A bedroom that is too warm or cold is not conducive to a good sleep and is likely to disturb your sleep. Leave a window open at night if possible for a constant supply of fresh air throughout the night. The ideal temperature for your bedroom is around 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit , although you may wish to adjust this slightly.

#8 Don’t go to sleep on a full stomach

Eating a large meal before bed can lead to indigestion and heartburn. Try to avoid large, fatty or spicy meals 3 hours before bedtime, but a light snack is fine if you feel hungry. Consider snacks such as warm milk with honey, cheese and crackers or a bowl of low sugar cereal with milk and sliced banana.

The average adult requires eight full hours of sleep each night, however some people may need slightly more or less. It’s common have the odd night where it is difficult to fall asleep, especially if you have things on your mind, but if you consistently struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep then you should make an appointment to see your doctor, who will determine whether it is necessary for you to see a sleep specialist. You may need to experiment to find methods that work best for you when it comes to improving your sleep habits, as a method that works for some people may not work for all. However, giving yourself a set bedtime and forming consistent habits are a firm foundation for healthy sleep habits and you will very quickly notice the difference they make in the quality of your sleep.

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