Sometimes, getting to sleep can be a struggle, but to-do lists and blackout blinds can help. As can reserving the bedroom for shut-eye and… other things…
- Go to bed at regular times
Going to sleep and waking up at regular times, even at weekends, will bolster your body clock. Eating at regular times is also an important marker for your circadian rhythm. Avoid exercise too close to bedtime, as it could cause restlessness and a raised body temperature.
- Protect the bedroom
Keep your bedroom as a place for sleep (and sex): there is evidence that the brain forms a strong association with sleep there. A temperature of 16-18C (60-64F) is thought to be ideal for most. An eye mask or blinds can help block out light, and keeping electronic devices out of the bedroom is recommended. If you struggle to fall asleep after more than 20 to 25 minutes, a good idea is to get up and read a book under a dim light in another room. Once you are sleepy, you can return to bed.
- Get ahead on the next day
Your night-time routine is an opportunity to make mornings run a little smoother: choose your clothes for the next day when you reach for your pyjamas or pack your bag while brushing your teeth. Recent research has stressed how routines can be an effective way to create healthy habits, because it decreases the effort that comes with decision-making.
- Wind down
Reading a book can help slow your breathing and relax muscles, while yoga stretches or even a gentle walk have been seen to reduce anxiety. A warm bath or shower can also help you relax: bathing in water of 40-42.5c one to two hours before bedtime is associated with better sleep. There are chemicals present in certain parts of the brain which are responsible for causing sleepiness. These are mainly found in the hypothalamus. A certain temperature of water on your skin causes neurones to become stimulated in a certain way, causing them to send a signal to the brain. This signal causes the ‘sleep activator’ chemicals to be released and sent around the body. It causes muscles to relax more and slows your heart rate.
- Write down your worries
If your mind is buzzing from the day, try keeping a journal or worry book; writing to-do lists for the next day can help to organise thoughts and clear the mind. If you experience difficulty with sleep over the longer term, consider whether there may be an underlying medical condition. A sleep diary could help you identify any patterns.