How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Updated: Dec 30, 2022
With so much to worry about at the moment, a lot of our clients have been talking about the impact this is having on their sleep. As sleep is so important for resilience, to be able to rest, recover and bounce back, we thought it might be useful to share a few tips about how to get a good night’s sleep.
What gets in the way of a good night’s sleep
We regularly hear messages about how important our sleep is for our mental and physical health.
Unfortunately, our sleep is all too easily disturbed by health problems, worries and concerns. So when we are feeling under pressure, stressed and worried about our health, our families or our livelihoods it is harder to settle into sleep.
And when our sleep is disturbed, whether we are struggling to get off to sleep, or waking during the night, this affects our stress levels.
Sometimes the health messages emphasising the importance of good quality sleep lead to increased pressure. As we lie awake, we can end up worrying about being unable to function properly the next day, and feeling cross at everyone else who seems to be sleeping just fine. The stress we feel is linked to the release of adrenaline and cortisol placing us in a state of high arousal, which makes it even harder to relax and get off to sleep.
And sometimes we just get into a pattern of waking at a certain time and then struggling to go back to sleep.
In this first part in our two-part series on sleep, we present some strategies aimed at helping you to get off to sleep. In part 2 we will look at managing nocturnal waking, with the hope that – combined – we can help everyone to get a good night’s sleep.
What you can do to improve your sleep
Work out how much sleep you actually need
The amount of sleep you need depends on your age, lifestyle, and health. As we get older we tend to need less sleep. But it is important to work out what is the right amount of sleep for you and not to put pressure on yourself to fit into prescribed ‘norms’.
Sleep in bed
It is important to ensure you do most of your sleeping in bed. Daytime naps of up to a maximum of 30 minutes can be helpful to re-energise and improve alertness. Longer than this will have a negative impact on your ability to sleep at night.
Limit caffeine & alcohol
Try to limit caffeine and alcohol before bed. Although many of us feel that alcohol calms us and helps us to drop off to sleep, as our bodies start to process the alcohol during the second half of the night the quality of sleep is affected and we often wake feeling tired.
Taking regular exercise can improve our ability to go to sleep and stay asleep. Just 10 minutes of aerobic exercise during the day will have a positive impact on your ability to sleep. Just remember not to exercise close to bedtime as your body is likely to be too stimulated to fall asleep. However, the impact of exercise on sleep varies from person to person and can differ depending on the form of exercise, so it is important to work out what works best for you.
Limit rich food before bed
Try to avoid eating rich, fatty or acidic food too close to bedtime as this can cause indigestion or heartburn and disrupt sleep.
Experience natural light
Pay attention to your light exposure. Ensuring you have adequate exposure to natural daylight during waking hours and darkness at bedtime helps to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
Take a break from screens before bed
Switch the television or other screens off an hour or so before you go to bed. The blue light in screens, whether phone, tablet, computer or tv is stimulating. It tricks the brain into thinking it is daytime and can make it harder for us to drift into sleep.
Shelve worries and concerns
Before you go to bed, see if you can let go of any worries or concerns that are troubling you. Try writing them in a list to deal with in the morning along with anything you need to remember to do tomorrow. Some light reading last thing at night can help to shift your attention away from worries or other preoccupations.
Adopt a healthy bedtime routine
Take a look at your bedtime routine. Adopting a regular routine involving a soothing activity such as reading or mindfulness meditation will help to stimulate parasympathetic nervous system arousal allowing you to relax. A warm milky drink, a hot shower or a bath will raise your body temperature, and as your body cools you will drift into sleep.
Stick to regular sleep times
Using the same routine every night is important. Sticking to regular sleep times, and keeping the bedroom just for sleep and sex, will train your mind and body to prepare for sleep at the right time.
Focus on comfort in your sleep environment
Make sure your sleep environment is comfortable and, if need be, use blackout curtains or eyeshades to prevent disturbance from ambient light. If you are troubled by noise, try using earplugs or a “white noise” machine. Pay attention to the temperature and air quality too and if necessary look into trying a dehumidifier or a fan.
Write down three good things
And finally, keep a notebook by your bed and before you switch your light off, think back over the day and write down three good things that have happened, or three funny things. This will lead to positive emotions and these are associated with feeling calm, safe and content. Just what we need before we settle for the night.
If you found this helpful and would like to find out more about coping in a crisis, check out some of the other blogs. Or get in touch to find out more about our workplace wellbeing and resilience solutions.