Need some tips to help you sleep? It isn't always easy to get the basics right, so here are our top sleep tips to get you started:
Resist the temptation to snooze
In that groggy state after waking up, hitting the snooze button becomes all too easy. It's likely though, that delaying your alarm won't just make you late for work, it will also leave you feeling worse once you are up and out of bed.
Your body begins preparing you to wake some time before the alarm goes off, releasing hormones that promote alertness and getting you ready to face the day. Hitting the snooze button confuses this process, as sleep-promoting hormones are released into your bloodstream, making it even more difficult to awaken.
Caffeinated beverages late in the day have been shown to prolong efforts to fall asleep as well as negatively impacting sleep quality. Even the healthiest sleeper should be careful with the amounts of caffeine that they are ingesting.
Whilst we're familiar with caffeine in tea, coffee, chocolate bars and soft drinks, it's important to note that caffeine can also be a 'hidden' substance in products such as medication.
Cut down on alcohol in the evening
Alcohol may ease getting to sleep as it can make you feel sleepy and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. However, sleeping with alcohol in one's system changes the composition of sleep stages so that once the alcohol wears off, you will spend more time sleeping in the lighter, non-restorative, stages of sleep. Alcohol-induced sleep can thus not only leave one more vulnerable to sleep disturbance but prevent one from feeling refreshed in the morning. Vivid or bizarre dreams are also more common during alcohol-induced sleep.
Napping during the day can lower the sleep pressure we feel in the evening, postpone feelings of sleepiness and reduce time spent in deep sleep during the night.
On the whole, sleeping during the day is inconsistent with our internal biological clock and can lead to a more variable sleep times and quality during the night.
Avoid stimulating activities late in the day
Stimulating activities should be avoided before bedtime. These can include overloading oneself with food in the evening or even reading the latest page-turner in bed.
The ideal activity at this time of the day would be to relax the body and the mind and let go of the day behind you. The point is to de-arouse oneself to prevent struggle falling asleep.
Keep your bedroom dark
Keeping one's sleeping environment dark will not only prevent sleep disruption due to lights but can also affect how one sleeps. It is during the dark phase when the hormone that promotes sleep (melatonin) is released in the brain. Lying down in a dark bedroom can further stimulate its production and thus ease the onset of sleep.
Commit to a schedule
A consistent bed and rising time is key for a poor sleeper and will increase the predictability and consistency of sleep. Regardless if one is a night owl or a morning lark, sleeping at the right time of the day is important in order to get the right composition of specific sleep stages for maximum sleep benefits.
Exercise has long been linked to better (and deeper) sleep, whilst reduced physical activity has been linked to more frequent incidence of insomnia.
Aerobic exercise in particular, practiced three times a week, has been shown to help adults with chronic insomnia by improving their sleep quality, reducing the time to falling asleep and reducing the number of awakenings during the night (Passos et al. 2011). However, intense aerobic exercise is discouraged too late in the day as it may postpone the initiation of sleep.
Brown, S.L., Salive, M.E., Pahor, M., Foley, D.J., Corti, M.C., Langlois, J.A., Wallace, R.B., Harris, T.B. (1995). Occult caffeine as a source of sleep problems in an older population. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 43(8), 860-864.
Passos, G.S., Poyares, D., Santana, M.G., D'Aurea, C.V.R., Youngstedt, S.D., Tufik, S., de Mello, M.T. (2011). Effects of moderate aerobic exercise training on chronic primary insomnia. Sleep Medicine, 12, 1018-1027.
Espie, C.A., Kyle, S., Williams, C., Ong, J.C., Douglas, N.J., Hames, P., Brown, J.S.L. (2012). A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of online cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic insomnia disorder delivered via an automated media-rich web application. Sleep, 35(6), 769-781.