Getting a good 8 hours of sleep every day is the foundation of good health even more so than healthy eating or exercise. These top twelve tips have been summarised from the recent book by Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep: The new science of sleep and dreams.
The most important tip of all : stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Do not sleep later on weekends as you will not fully make up the sleep and it will disrupt your pattern for Monday morning. Set an alarm for bedtime.
Exercising every day for 30 minutes is great, but no later than 2-3 hours before bedtime.
Avoid caffeine and nicotine. Coffees, colas, certain teas and chocolate contain the stimulant caffeine and can take up to 8 hours to wear off fully so avoid in the late afternoon . Nicotine is also a stimulant which can make you sleep only very lightly and can make you wake up early due to withdrawal.
Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed. Heavy alcohol use robs you of REM sleep keeping you in the lighter stages of sleep and may affect your breathing. It also tends to make you wake up during the night when the effects have worn off.
Avoid large meals and beverages late at night.
If possible avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep. if you are having trouble sleeping, talk to your GP or pharmacist to see if your medications might be involved and whether you could alter the time of day you are taking them.
Naps are great for making up for lost sleep at night but don’t take naps after 3 pm as they may prevent you from falling asleep so easily that night.
Allow time to unwind and do not over schedule your day so that you have time to relax before bed. Reading or listening to music for at least 30 minutes before going to sleep are good elements of a bedtime ritual.
Take a hot bath before bed as the drop in body temperature afterwards will help to make you feel sleepy. This is also a good way to unwind.
Dark bedroom, cool bedroom, gadget free bedroom and comfortable bed and pillow make for better sleep. No TVS, tablets, PCs, phones or anything else that might distract you . And turn the clock face out of view whilst trying to sleep.
Get enough exposure to daylight to help regulate your sleep pattern. At least 30 minutes of daily exposure to sunlight is recommended. If you struggle to sleep , obtain an hour of sunlight exposure in the morning and turn the lights down low in the evening.
Don’t lie in bed awake for too long. If after 20 minutes of lying in bed trying to sleep you are getting anxious or worried about sleeping, get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy.