Things you should know:
- Over recent years we have come to understand how important good sleep is to our health and wellbeing.
- With good nutrition and exercise, sleep is now recognised as one of the pillars of good health.
- A lack of sleep can have a major impact on mood, concentration, memory and quality of life.
- In addition, medical sleep disorders such as Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) have been shown to contribute to other serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
1. Have a regular sleep pattern
Try to go to bed at around the same time every evening and get up at around the same time every morning. Improved sleep will not happen as soon as changes are made. But if good sleep habits are maintained, sleep will certainly get better. Find what time works for you and stick with it.
2. Spend the right amount of time in bed
Most adults need about 7 to 8 hours sleep every night. Some require more and some less. Many poor sleepers spend much more than 8 hours in bed and this makes fragmented sleep a habit. Except if you have lengthy sleep requirements, limit your time in bed to no more than 8.5 hours. If you often take hours to fall asleep, go to bed later. Remember that children need more sleep than adults.
3. Bed is for sleeping, not entertainment
Hand-held electronic devices (e.g., smartphones) and other distractions can interfere with your sleep. It is better not to sleep with your TV or other devices on. Your mind needs to be in the habit of knowing that if you are in bed, you are there to sleep. Don’t stay in bed if you are wide awake.
4. Winddown and relax before going to bed
Have a buffer zone before bedtime. Sort out any problems well before going to bed. This may mean setting aside a ‘worry time’ during the day. Use this time to go over the day's activities and work out a plan of action for the next day. Try to avoid using your computer or other electronic screens within one hour of bedtime. Exercise is fine, but not too late in the evening. Find a relaxation technique that works for you and practice it regularly, during your wind down period.
5. Make sure your bedroom is comfortable
You should have a quiet, dark room with comfortable bedding and good temperature control.
6. Alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes – to be avoided
7. Avoid daytime naps
Sleeping during the day will make it much more difficult to sleep well at night. If a nap is absolutely necessary, for example because of a late night, then limit this to about twenty minutes. Make sure that you are awake for at least 4 hours before going back to bed. Don’t allow yourself to fall asleep in front of the TV – not even for a minute.
8. Don’t lie awake watching the clock
Watching the time on a clock just makes you anxious about not being asleep. If possible, take the clock out of your bedroom. If you need the clock for the alarm, turn it around so that you cannot see the time. Resist the temptation to look at the time on your various electronic devices. These should ideally be charged outside of the bedroom overnight.
9. Avoid sleeping pills except in exceptional circumstances
They do not fix the cause of your sleeping problem.
10. You may need professional help
If you are still having trouble sleeping, if you have persistent problems with mood, if you have excessive daytime sleepiness, restlessness in bed, severe snoring or wakening unrefreshed despite what should be adequate length sleep, make sure that you go and see your doctor.