Practical tips for a good night's sleep

Sleeping well is essential for your health and wellbeing, but many of us struggle to get quality sleep. Physiologist Jade Wells provides her tips for having a good night of restorative sleep.

For many reasons, sleeping well can be a challenge. Our quality of sleep is affected by our emotional health, our nutrition, our fitness and our general wellbeing.

But it works both ways. Having a bad night's sleep can contribute to negative effects in these areas too, and over a long period of time can have a dramatic effect on your health.

If you're really struggling with sleep, you should speak to a GP who will be able to help. But in the meantime, here are some simple tips that may help:

1. Follow a schedule all week

"Sleeping in" on weekends makes it harder to wake up early on Monday morning because it re-sets your sleep cycles for a later awakening. Try instead going to bed at a set time each night and setting your alarm for the same time each morning. This has the added bonus of giving you extra time to be productive at the weekend.

2. Exercise daily

Try to exercise for 20 to 30 minutes every day. Daily exercise can help to use all of the energy you've stored from eating and so can help you sleep. When you workout is equally important because exercise can also cause a spike in adrenaline, which keeps your body in an alert state. For maximum benefit, try to get your exercise about five to six hours before going to bed.

3. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol

These are all stimulants which increase your blood pressure and heartrate, keeping you awake. Cutting out caffeine could in the long run remove the desire for that mid-afternoon pick-me-up cappuccino.

4. Unwind before bed

Taking a warm bath, reading, or meditation before you go to bed can make it easier to fall sleep. Lavender is a naturally soothing scent which can be used to help lull you to sleep too. It's possible to train yourself to associate certain restful activities and smells with sleep and make them part of your bedtime ritual.

5. Control your room temperature

Extreme temperatures can disrupt sleep or prevent you from falling asleep in the first place, so try to maintain a comfortable temperature in the bedroom either by opening a window, using air conditioning or adapting the thermostat/heaters in your room.

6. Sleep until sunlight

Sunlight helps the body's internal biological clock to reset itself each day so if possible, wake up with the sun, or use very bright lights in the morning. There are even alarm clocks that mimic the effect of the sun rising to wake you up gently every day.

7. Turn off all other lights

Light from under the door or electronic devices can be very disruptive to your sleep, particularly if the light is flashing. This is because your body is naturally programmed to wake up with light. So if you have a light on your phone, or any other device turn it off to give your body the best chance of uninterrupted sleep.

8. Put down your phone

And your laptop. These devices emit blue light, which can be disruptive to sleep. Put them down at least an hour before bed and maybe pick up a book instead.

Last updated Friday 7 October 2022

First published on Monday 8 August 2016