Everybody needs to sleep, and the recommended amount for the average adult is between seven and nine hours each night. Sleep helps us to conserve energy and plays an important part in maintaining body temperature, controlling weight and boosting our immune system. When we don’t get enough sleep, our brains stop functioning properly leading to lapses in memory, short attention spans and general irritability. It’s fair to say that a good night’s sleep is extremely important for our well-being.
To ensure a good night’s sleep, you need to develop a good bedtime routine. The following 5 tips should help.
1. Get your sleeping environment right.
Your bedroom should be a relaxing environment and only used for sleep and sex (unlike most vigorous physical activity, sex makes us sleepy). Ideally it should be dark, quiet, tidy and kept at a temperature between 18 - 24°C.
Feeling too hot or cold can negatively affect your sleep patterns, so ensure that your duvet has the correct tog rating to suit your personal preference. If you sleep with a partner, consider using separate duvets if your preferences differ.
If you’re kept awake by light, blackout blinds or thick curtains can help. Thick curtains can also help muffle external noises if these also keep you awake.
Finally banish everything that disturbs the association between the bedroom and sleep including: TVs, electronic gadgets, creaky beds and lumpy mattresses.
2. Take time to relax before bedtime
The brain starts preparing for sleep around two hours before bedtime and so it’s important for us to unwind and prepare the body for sleep.
This may not be as easy as it sounds. We all lead busy lives and finding the time to relax after a busy stress-filled day can often be difficult. The pressures of juggling the needs of partners, children, friends, household chores and work commitments can often get in the way of quality ‘down’ time.
Light exercise like yoga, reading and listening to music are all good ways of preparing for sleep as is taking a bath. If work or unfinished tasks are causing you stress, make a ‘to do’ list to help organise your thoughts for the following day.
3. Go tech free
We all have an internal body clock that signals when it’s time to sleep. The hormone that regulates the body clock is called melatonin and the brain releases it in response to changes in light. Computers, smartphones and tablets emit what is known as ‘blue’ light and even a few seconds of exposure from a blue light-emitting device an hour before bed can disrupt the release of melatonin. If you must watch TV before going to bed, make sure you watch a conventional TV and not a tech device. Conventional TVs don’t emit blue light and therefore shouldn’t prevent you falling asleep and ensure you wake feeling refreshed.
4. Watch what you eat and drink before bed
Feelings of hunger can stop us sleeping. A light snack that’s high in carbohydrates or protein like rice, oats and dairy products can produce chemicals that help the sleep process. However, it is important to avoid heavy foods, big meals and foods that are high in sugar before going to bed as these can keep you awake. Caffeine can stay in the system for up to nine hours, so avoid tea, coffee and other caffeinated drinks at bedtime as well as alcohol. Although alcohol can make you feel sleepy, it often impairs the quality of sleep, dehydrates you and causes you get up in the night to visit the loo.
5. Keep regular sleeping hours
It’s important to keep regular sleeping hours. Our internal body clock revolves around the 24-hour day. By keeping regular sleeping hours, we programme the internal body clock and it gets used to the set routine.
As well as regular bedtime hours, it‘s also important to try and wake up at the same time every day; even at weekends. It may seem like a good idea to try to catch up on sleep after a bad night but doing so on a regular basis can disrupt the internal body clock.
One more thought. As you develop your bedtime routine to obtain a perfect night’s sleep, isn’t it good to know we’ve already perfected your perfect bed?