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Top tips for a good night’s sleep

1. Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. As creatures of habit, people have a hard time adjusting to changes in sleep pattern. Sleeping later on weekends will not make up for lack of sleep during the week and it will make it harder to wake up early on Monday morning. Set an alarm for bedtime. Often, we set an alarm for when it’s time to wake up but when we go to sleep is really important. This is the most important tip!

2. Exercise is great, but not too late in the day. Try to exercise at least 30 minutes on most days but not later than 2-3 hours before your bedtime.

3. Avoid caffeine and nicotine. Coffee, cola, energy drinks, certain teas and chocolate contain the stimulant caffeine and its effect can take as long as 8 hours to fully wear off. Therefore, a cup of coffee late in the day can make it hard to fall asleep and cause you to sleep more lightly.

4. Don’t watch TV, use your phone or use your computer just before bed: the artificial light interferes with the brain’s rhythms and makes the mind active, making it difficult to sleep. Checking texts or emails is thought to be equivalent to drinking a double espresso coffee. Use blue block glasses if you are on a screen after dark.

5. Avoid big meals before sleep (late night pizza feasts etc.) as large amounts of protein in the gut interfere with sleep. A light snack is OK, but a large meal can cause indigestion, which interferes with sleep. Drinking too many fluids might mean you wake up to go to the loo.

6. If possible, avoid medicines, that delay or disrupt your sleep. Some asthma medication, over the counter and herbal remedies for coughs and colds or allergies can disrupt sleep patterns. Talk to your pharmacist about this

7. Don’t take naps after 3pm. Naps can help make up for lost sleep, but late afternoon naps can make it harder to full asleep at night.

8. Don’t study or work right up to bedtime: Relax before bed, you need at least 45 minutes clear break from work to allow your mind to be ready for sleep. A relaxing activity such as reading or listening to music should be part of your bedtime routine.

9. Deal with stress: if you are under a lot of pressure and you lie awake worrying about it, write down what is worrying you and what you are going to do about it. If it persists, ask someone for help.

10. Take a hot bath before bed. The drop in body temperature after getting out of a bath may help you feel sleepy, and the bath can help you relax and slow down so you are more ready for sleep. Adding some calming oils like lavender can heling too.

11. Dark bedroom, cool bedroom, gadget-free bedroom. Get rid of anything in your bedroom that might distract you from sleep such as noises, bright lights, uncomfortable bed, or warm temperatures. Turn your clock face out of view so you don’t worry about the time when falling asleep.

12. Have the right sunlight exposure. Daylight is key to regulating sleep patterns. Try to get outside in natural light for at least 30 minutes each morning. If possible, wake up with the sun or use very bright lights in the morning. Sleep experts recommend that, if you have problems falling asleep, you should get an hour of exposure to morning sunlight and turn down the lights before bedtime. Use blue block glasses if you are on a screen after dark.

13. Don’t lie in bed awake. If you find yourself still awake after staying in bed for more than 20 minutes or if you are starting to feel anxious or worried get up and do some relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. The anxiety of not being able to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep

14. Notice- ‘3 Good things’ humans are naturally wired to see the negative, it’s a survival strategy but one that doesn’t serve us well in the modern world. Focusing on the positive, even just small things can help rewire your brain and help you feel more positive and sleep better. As you get into bed write down in a notebook three good things that happened today.

15. Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed. Alcohol can help you relax but more than one unit can rob you of the REM sleep needed for learning and restoration.

Relaxation technique for getting to sleep.

  • Slow your breathing down and try using the muscle tensing and relaxing technique you have learned: both of these things tell the mind and body to relax.

  • Take a long, slow, deep breath in, hold it for 1 or 2 seconds, then let it out slowly. Try to inhale for 5 seconds and exhale for 5 seconds.

  • As you breathe in, clench your right fist. As you breathe out, relax it. Do these three times. Then move to the muscles in your forearm and do the same thing.

  • Slowly move round the muscle groups in your body, including your face, tensing as you breathe in and relaxing as you breathe out.

  • Guided meditations are available for download on the internet e.g. Amazon.

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