Sleep is both an incredibly important and time consuming part of our daily lives, and is vital in our health. Poor sleep can cause significant health problems in the short and long term, and if left unattended, some of these can even be irreversible!
So it’s only natural for us to have the best night sleep possible, in both length and quality.
After an ideal night’s sleep, you wake up refreshed, energised and ready for the day, and there are a few things we can do to help make this happen.
A good night’s sleep actually takes a little bit of effort and preparation to achieve, but the payoff is absolutely worth it.
Ideally, you sleep until you feel rested, which is about 7-9 hours every day. There are rare people who can function normally with sleep quantities outside of these parameters, but most people fall comfortably in there somewhere. Find out what is good for you; too little is no good, and too much is also no good.
On waking in the morning, get out of bed. It’s important to keep a regular wake-up time and to stick to it. Getting out of bed as soon as waking create an important psychological association between bed and sleep, and so it’s important to not use the bed for other activities, such as playing on your mobile, reading, eating (although sex is okay too).
Limiting some chemicals in your life will also help improve sleep. Limiting (preferably avoiding) caffeine after lunchtime, avoiding alcohol close to sleep, and avoiding smoking close to sleep (better yet quit smoking altogether!) helps these drugs not interfere with a good night’s sleep. Not eating close to sleep will help avoid issues like reflux keeping you up at night as well.
Avoiding napping, especially close to sleep will help too. Ideal sleep is a long, uninterrupted stretch of sleep. Although the afternoon siesta is probably not going to do you any harm, it is not a substitute for a good night’s sleep (and naps shouldn’t exceed more than 20-30 mins if you must).
Some regular exercise helps too (and is great for your overall health). About 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five times a week is a great place to start, although try to do it a few hours before sleeping.
It’s also important to maintain a good environment to help facilitate sleep. Keeping dim lights before sleeping, limiting screen time before sleeping (with that evil blue light), and avoiding any activity that’s too stimulating; listening to something chill, reading to a relaxing book or listening to a relaxing podcast are great ideas.
And finally, don’t force sleep. Anxiety around sleep, such as worrying about insufficient sleep and how it will affect your day, can also negatively impact sleep. Try to sort out anything you’re stressed about before sleeping.
If you have trouble getting to sleep (ideally, falling asleep takes about 20-30 minutes), don’t’ stay in bed and stress. Get out of bed, read that relaxing book again, and try again when you feel more sleepy.
If you’re still having problems, or find that you’re not getting a good night’s sleep, it’s possible that there’s something else going on. Although poor sleep hygiene and lifestyle factors are usually the biggest culprit, there are a few things to keep an eye or ear out for:
-waking multiple times at night or difficulty falling asleep could be due to mental health issues
-feeling exhausted despite a good length of sleep could be due to a poor sleep quality, and allergies could be one of many causes for this
-snoring or stopping breathing at night are both medical problems, so ask any family or friends if this applies to you
If you’re having issues getting a good night’s sleep, book in to see one of our friendly doctors. Before that, however, check out a sleep diary (such as https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/inline-files/SleepDiaryv6.pdf) and fill one in to give your doctor as much information as possible.
Dr Ravi Raju, 19th of December 2019