Helpful Sleep Habits

Having trouble sleeping? Here are some simple habits that you can put in place to increase the chance of a better sleep.

Sleep problems appear to be increasingly common. Sleeping well can improve your mental health and wellbeing. There are a number of ways that you can improve the chance that you will get a good sleep and wake up more rested and refreshed. Many sleep problems develop from poor sleep habits that have built up over time. Sleep problems don’t usually disappear immediately, but consistent use of helpful sleep habits makes is much more likely that your sleep will improve. Don’t expect perfection: if you have a night where you don’t follow your helpful sleep habit routine, just go back to it the next night and keep persisting.

REGULAR SLEEP TIMES - try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day. This helps to train your body to get into a regular rhythm of sleeping well.

AVOID CAFFEINE AND NICOTINE – especially in the afternoon and evenings. These substances are stimulants, and interfere with sleep, including the quality of your sleep.

AVOID ALCOHOL – for 4-5 hours prior to bedtime. Although you might think that alcohol helps with sleep, it actually results in poorer quality sleep.

KEEP YOUR BEDROOM FOR SLEEPING – Try to limit the use of your bedroom to sleep or sex. If you engage in other activities in your bedroom like watching TV, eating, using technology (phone, tablet, etc), your body begins to associate your bed and bedroom with waking activities.

CEASE OR LIMIT NAPS – It is best not to nap during the day if you are having trouble sleeping at night. It can interfere with your natural sleep cycle and increase sleeplessness at night. If you can’t get through the day without a nap, limit it to 45 minutes or less, and ensure that you wake up before 4pm.

SLEEP RITUALS – Develop your own sleep rituals to remind your body that it is time to sleep. For example, before bed do some relaxing stretches, breathing exercises, meditation or mindfulness exercises, or have a calming cup of caffeine-free tea.

BATHING / SHOWERING – Having a hot bath or shower 1-2 hours before bedtime can be useful for many people, as it will raise your body temperature and then induce sleepiness as your body temperature drops again.

NO CLOCK WATCHING – Many people who have difficulty sleeping tend to watch or check the clock. This usually wakes you up and/or makes you feel more stressed (e.g. thoughts such as, “Oh no, it’s so late! I’ll never get to sleep!”, or “I’m awake now and only have 2 hours until I have to get up!” etc).

GET UP AND TRY AGAIN - If you aren’t able to get to sleep after about 30 minutes or more, you can try getting up, going into another room, and doing something boring or calming until you feel sleepy. Then return to bed and try again. Avoid doing anything too interesting or stimulating, or using bright lights or technology, as this will wake you up even more.

EXERCISE - Regular exercise and physical activity can help with sleep. Try not to exercise in the 4 hours before bedtime, as it takes time for your body to wind down after exercise.

EAT RIGHT - A healthy, balanced diet will help you to sleep well. Try not to have too big or too small an evening meal, and if you are hungry after dinner you can try a light snack (without much sugar, if any).

THE RIGHT SPACE - Make sure that your bed and bedroom are comfortable and quiet for sleeping. A cooler temperature with enough bedclothes to keep you warm enough is usually best and darken your bedroom at night where possible.

KEEP A CONSISTENT DAY TIME ROUTINE - Even if you have a bad night sleep and feel tired, it is important that you try to keep your daytime activities the same as you planned. Don’t avoid activities because you feel tired. Regular routines can help the body clock to run more smoothly.

TURN OFF TECHNOLOGY (smartphones, laptops, tablets, desktop computers, etc) - at least 30-60 minutes before bedtime. The light from these screens stimulates your brain to stay awake and suppresses the important sleep chemical melatonin.

GET SOME SUNSHINE - Try to get some natural light exposure during the day, particularly in the morning. This helps to set your body clock correctly for the day and evening. Open windows and curtains or go outside in the morning and during the daytime.

DON’T WORRY - Find ways to distract your mind from worrying. Try scheduling a limited “worry time” earlier in the day to deal with your worries or write them down and put them away to deal with the next day.

DON’T GO TO BED UNLESS YOU’RE SLEEPY - If you aren’t sleepy at bedtime, do something calming or relaxing for a while to relax your body and mind before going to bed.

TAKE MEDICATIONS AS DIRECTED - Prescription medications may cause alertness or sleepiness – follow the instructions that come with them. Don’t vary the time that you take your medication and let your GP (doctor) know if you hare having sleep difficulties so that they can account for this.