While having some restless nights is common, a continuous lack of sleep can have a negative impact on your body. Sleep is intrinsically linked to good health and wellbeing, so not getting enough sleep can take a toll on your daytime energy, productivity and emotional balance. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly, which can impair your abilities to concentrate, think clearly and process information.
Research on insomnia in the UK has revealed that 36% of adults have at least one night where they struggle to sleep every week, while nearly half have trouble falling asleep at least once a month. A good night’s sleep can sometimes feel impossible, but we have more control over our sleep than you probably think. The cure for sleep difficulties can often be found in your daily routine and incorporating some of these tips can help significantly.
Five tips to help you sleep better
1. Keep a regular sleep routine
The NHS recommends adults get between 6 and 9 hours of sleep every night and that a regular sleep routine can help you achieve this. A regular wake up time will help your body to produce sleep-regulating melatonin more consistently. This happens because you have an internal mechanism that counts down to sleep to send signals to your body that it’s time for bed.
It can be difficult to resist a lie-in, but they can disrupt this mechanism and lead to you wanting to sleep later even if you don’t need to. If you struggle waking up with a traditional alarm, try a daylight alarm clock. These gradually introduce light into your room and wake you up gently the same way the sun would, rather than having your sleep disrupted by a sudden loud noise.
2. Go to bed when you feel sleepy
Unlike other health inputs like nutrition and exercise, sleep can’t be forced. Often the harder you try to go to sleep, the more difficult it becomes. A great way to combat this is to only go to bed when you’re sleepy, not just tired. Sleepy is the feeling you get when you’re about to drop off, and once you're at the stage it can be a lot easier to fall asleep.
As your wake up time becomes more regular from having a sleep routine, you will get sleepy at an appropriate time. When your body is adjusted to your routine you'll find that you get sleepy at a similar time each day and that it correlates with your wake up time to give you the amount of sleep you need.
3. Give yourself time to unwind before bed
Working too close to bedtime prevents your body effectively transitioning into rest mode, spoiling the quality of your sleep during the night ahead. Try to leave at least an hour and a half between finishing work and going to bed.
There are also a few other things you can do to help you feel ready for bed. Warm baths and showers help you to relax and unwind, letting your body know that it’s time for sleep. Other ways to unwind include reading a book, doing some bedtime yoga or drinking something calming such as warm milk or chamomile tea.
4. Reduce your time on blue screen devices
Phones, tablets and laptops all emit blue light, which mimics the sun and disrupts our melatonin (the hormone that helps us sleep) production. In a perfect world, these shouldn’t be used at all before bed, but we know it can be difficult to completely cut them out of your routine in modern life.
If you can’t resist, try a blue light reducing screen protector to limit emissions. You could also opt to use them in a more productive way for sleep, such as using mindfulness apps or podcasts designed to lull you into sleep.
5. Try the 4-7-8 technique
The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a breathing pattern developed by Dr Andrew Weil. It’s based on a technique originally developed through yoga called pranayama, known to help people gain control over their own breathing.
It’s quite simple to do, and can be achieved by following these five simple steps:
- Exhale completely through your mouth
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose for a count of four
- Hold your breath for a count of seven
- Exhale completely through your mouth for a count of eight
- Repeat the cycle three more times
The most important part of this process is holding your breath for seven seconds. Keeping the breath in for this long will allow oxygen to fill your lungs and then circulate throughout your body, helping you to relax.
Improving your overall wellbeing
Improving your sleep can help you to live a more well-rounded, healthier life. There are other ways to help with your overall wellbeing, and we have a range of useful wellbeing resources available to help you improve both your mental and physical health.