Good sleep improves our concentration, decision making, memory and mood.
Most people require 7 – 9 hours of sleep a night to feel alert the next day.
Below are some strategies that can assist you in improving your sleep and can lead to developing a stronger mindset and sense of wellbeing. Know that what may work for one person may not work for another, so give them a go and see what works for you.
Fact: Light limits our brain’s production of the hormone called melatonin which makes us feel sleepy.
Action: Limit your exposure to bright light 30 minutes before going to bed and make sure that your bedroom is dark.
Try: Rather than going straight to bed after watching TV or using your phone or computer, spend some time reading a book or getting rid of tension.
If you do need to use your devices, use a blue light filter (learn how to turn this feature on for Apple or for Samsung). You can also download blue light filter apps from the App Store or Google Play.
Fact: Substances such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine disrupt sleep.
Bonus Fact: Some find that alcohol makes it easier to get to sleep however research shows that it reduces sleep quality. When alcohol is being processed by the body it interferes with the systems in our brain that trigger deep sleep.
Action: Limit or avoid drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea, energy drinks etc.) up to 7 hours before you go to bed and limit or avoid alcohol and cigarettes.
Try: Swap coffee for a cup of decaf, herbal tea or hot chocolate after 3pm. If you need an energy boost in the afternoon, go for a quick walk or do a short exercise routine.
Replace the drink or cigarette with a distraction like calling a family member or friend, doing some exercise or watching one episode of a TV series. It may not be realistic to go cold-turkey but trying to drink and smoke less before bed is a positive step. If you do want to quit but are concerned about the impacts or don’t know where to start – try calling the NSW Quitline on 137 848 or seeing a GP for info and support.
Fact: Exercise, or more specifically ‘moderate aerobic exercise’ has been shown to improve sleep.
Bonus Fact: It was previously thought that exercising close to bedtime disrupts sleep but current evidence does not support this.
Action: Go for a walk or something else that gets your heart rate up and removes excess tension. Try different types of exercise and different times of day to see what works best for you.
Try: Joining in with this 5 minutes exercise routine, heading out for a short walk, tidying up around the house or yard, or paying with the kids. Read more tips on how to get started with being active here.
Fact: Irregular sleeping patterns throw off our natural circadian rhythms.
Action: While a regular bedtime is not always possible, a regular wakeup time can reduce sleepiness during the day.
Try: Creating a morning routine and practicing it as often as you can. Your routine could be to wake up, open the blinds, use the bathroom and then have breakfast. Think about what works for you and add that into to your routine. It could be listening to your favourite song, feeding your animals or having a tea or coffee to get the day started.
What is a good night’s sleep?
Researchers agree that a good night’s sleep is when you fall asleep within 30 minutes of going to bed and wake up once during the night for no longer than 20 minutes. This may seem hard to achieve but the strategies above can help you to improve your sleep.
If you’re still struggling to get a good night’s sleep, talking to a GP can help.
What can I do if I wake up in the middle of the night?
If a particular matter has woken you, tell yourself “Ok, I’ll do that in the morning but now is time to sleep”. If the matter is a real concern, write it down so that you’ll remember to sort it out in the morning.
What can I do if I just lay in bed for hours and can’t get to sleep?
If you are awake for more than 30 minutes, get out of bed and do something calming or boring, such as having a cup of herbal tea or reading a book in dim lighting. Once you start to feel sleepy, go back to bed and try again. Repeat this as often as necessary until you fall asleep.
While this strategy might seem counter intuitive, it helps reinforce the association that bed is for sleeping and will also induce tiredness.
What if I don’t need 7-9 hours sleep? Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but some might need slightly more or less. Only about 1 in 10 000 people need significantly less sleep than recommend. Making small changes to your routine can have a positive effect on your productivity, alertness and concentration throughout the day.
Some of these things can take a couple of weeks before you feel the difference so stick with it. If none of these tips seem to be right for you, it might be time to see a professional for some more detailed info for you and your situation.