How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep: 10 Tips to Sleep Well
Quality sleep is vital to our mental health, and how well we function physically. How much sleep we need varies for each individual, although most adults generally require between 7-8 hours a night.
Many of us have experienced periods in our life when our sleep was not as adequate as it could be.
According to a report commissioned by Sleep Health Foundation, almost 60 percent of people regularly experience at least one sleep symptom (like trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep), and 14.8 percent have symptoms which could result in a diagnosis of clinical insomnia.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that affects how easily you fall asleep, or whether your sleep is interrupted; waking up through the night or waking up early and unable to fall back asleep. Like many health issues, there are those that suffer the condition acutely, for days or weeks and those that endure insomnia chronically, for a month or more.
The Sleep Foundation calls short-term poor sleep ‘acute insomnia’. This can last from a night to a couple of weeks. If short-term insomnia is in response to a stressful situation it is called ‘situational insomnia’. Chronic insomnia is formally defined as when a person has insomnia at least three nights a week for three months or longer.
The effects of poor sleep
The lack of sufficient sleep doesn’t just make you feel bad, it can also have detrimental effects on how you function. You may feel tired and unrested when you wake, with low levels of energy. It can also affect your mood, your general health and the overall quality of your life. In some cases, lack of sleep can be dangerous as lack of sleep can impact how you perform your daily functions, including driving.
Insomnia and mental health
The links between insomnia and poor mental health are undeniable. Those of us with sleep problems are far more likely to develop significant mental illness, including depression and anxiety, than those who have do not have sleep problems.
According to The Sleep Foundation, research shows that between 60-90% of people suffering depression also have insomnia. The Harvard Mental Health Newsletter goes further, saying “Once viewed only as symptoms, sleep problems may actually contribute to psychiatric disorders”.
If you do suffer from chronic insomnia, or you find that your sleep – even over a short period, is impacting your wellbeing, speak to you doctor.
You don’t have to suffer in silence. Your doctor can work with you to identify the cause and to help set up a strategy to help you improve both the quantity and quality of your sleep.
10 tips to sleep well
- Create a Healthy Sleeping Routine
It sounds simplistic, but if you set a routine of what time you go to bed and what time you awake your sleep will improve greatly. Sleep won’t improve instantly, but it will over time.
- Relax Before Going to Bed
Before heading to bed try to relax. If possible, try not to go to bed angry or upset. Planning the next day in a productive way, such as making a list can put your mind at ease before retiring. A warm bath with magnesium salts before going to bed can also help you to relax and unwind.
- Ban the Electronic Devices
In recent years our sleep has been greatly impacted by the introduction of electronic devices in the bedroom. For many, our bedrooms have become offices, cinemas and game rooms. Try to practice ‘sleep hygiene’ by removing these devices – they really do impact sleep negatively.
- Don’t Spend More Time than Required in Bed
While some adults require more or less than the average 7-8 hours sleep a night, many poor sleepers spend more than 8 hours in bed. This is where setting a regular sleep schedule can benefit you.
- Ensure your bed and bedroom is comfortable
Your bedroom should be quiet, dark with good temperature control. Your bed should be comfortable and ideally, your bedding should be made of natural fibres such as cotton, wool, bamboo or silk.
- Avoid Alcohol, Caffeine and Cigarettes
Caffeine (tea, coffee, cola drinks) and nicotine in cigarettes are all stimulants that can keep you awake. While you may think alcohol helps you sleep, it only helps you to fall asleep, but it disrupts your sleep during the night.
- Avoid Napping in the Day
Sleeping during the day will make it much more difficult to sleep well at night. If a nap is absolutely necessary, then limit it to about twenty minutes. Avoid falling asleep in front of the television as that impacts your routine. It’s all about keeping sleep to a regular time and place.
- Don’t Lie Awake Counting Down the Clock
One of the worst things you can do when trying to fall asleep is to ‘clock-watch’. This sets up anxiety as you count down the minutes and hours. If you need an alarm in the bedroom, turn the clock away from you.
- Avoid Sleeping Pills
Sleeping pills do not address any underlying conditions or your overall habits and schedule and can become habit-forming. It is recommended you only use sleeping pills when absolutely necessary.
- If Concerned – Seek Professional Help
If you are still having trouble sleeping and it is impacting your overall wellbeing, or if you know your snoring is severe (this may be impacting the quality of your sleep), make an appointment to see your doctor.