We all have sleep stresses and are often left wondering how to sleep better. From struggling to nod off to waking up in the middle of the night and failing to get back to sleep, it can be a real struggle for something that should come naturally. The NHS says adults need six to eight hours of shut-eye to get a good night’s sleep. This gives the body time to repair itself and gives us enough energy for the day ahead, while also improving and regulating our brain function, immune system and even our bowel movements.
Knowing how to fall asleep by mastering your bedtime routine and practicing good sleep hygiene is the key to waking up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day. The good news is, we don't need to make huge lifestyle changes in order to sleep better. Starting with small adjustments can lead to better quality sleep. Here, we share nine simple and effective expert-approved tips that will have you snoozing in no time. You can thank us later...
How to sleep better and for longer, according to the experts
Making sleep a priority in your life, and working on nailing your sleep routine like you would your fitness regime or job, is the key to discovering how to sleep better Dr Guy Meadows, founder of The Sleep School tells us.
There are steps you can take from first thing in the morning right through to bedtime that will have you snoozing peacefully and waking up ready to take on the day.
1. Create a sleep sanctuary
If you’re struggling to sleep, the first thing you need to do is assess your sleep environment. If your bedroom isn’t dark enough, you’ll block the natural production of melatonin (aka the hormone that helps us sleep). If you find this to be the case, invest in some black-out blinds or try an eye mask at night.
Comfort is also important—a lumpy pillow or an old duvet won’t aid good sleep. Sleep expert for Emma Mattresses, Dr Verena Senn, says, “Your pillow should support your head and neck whilst keeping it in a neutral position while you sleep, otherwise it can lead to stress on the cervical vertebral structures—the seven vertebrae that make up your neck.” See our guide to the best pillows for top recommendations, and if you're suffering from neck pain check out our round-up of the best pillows for neck pain.
The temperature in your bedroom is also super important for creating the right sleep environment. “Maintaining a bedroom temperature of 18 degrees Celsius or lower will mimic the body’s hibernation state and help maintain a calmer state of mind,” says Hope Bastine, a resident sleep expert at Simba.
2. Write in a journal every day
Stress from the day can build up and keep us awake at night, which is why journalling at the end of every day is a great way to empty your mind. “As we get older, we have more mental and physical baggage so our thinking mind can sometimes keep us awake at night," says Dr Meadows.
“The organic compound adenosine, which helps us to naturally fall asleep, isn’t as present so we're more likely to be wide awake and worry about work or personal stresses.”
Having awareness of these stresses through journaling will help you to let them go. “Labelling what type of stress it is—work, relationship or something else is a great way of telling your brain that you know the stress exists, but it’s something you’re not able to deal with right now.”
3. Establish a good wind-down routine
When you say yes to one more episode of your favorite Netflix show or pick up your phone late at night, you’re affecting the quality of the sleep you'll get, says Dr Senn.
“Social interactions are keeping your brain busy when it's really craving to relax. Take some time away from bright screens to settle your mind.” Instead, Dr Senn suggests reading a book (opting for a physical copy over an e-reader), listening to relaxing music or having a bath.
Most importantly, eliminate technology from your wind-down routine. As well as keeping your mind busy, the blue light on your mobile phone can also be damaging to your sleep cycle. “Modern light sources contain a high level of blue light that disrupts melatonin production and throws off our natural circadian rhythms, keeping us awake when we should be sleeping,” reveals Bastine.
4. Try meditation
Meditation calms the body and mind, kickstarting our parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for the body's rest and digest function.
It can help us unwind and fall asleep quicker, whether that's a sleep guided meditation or a yoga nidra breathing practice. Recent research by the Director of Science for meditation app Calm found over 85% of participants who meditated with the app for 10 minutes daily reported better and longer sleep. As well as a range of meditation practices to try, the Calm app also has sleep stories to listen to as you doze off.
You could also try a bedtime yoga routine to get you ready for sleep.
5. Cut down on your caffeine intake
If you’re tired, you’ll no doubt be reaching for the caffeine as soon you wake up and to keep you going throughout the day. But, too much caffeine can negatively impact our ability to nod off.
“Caffeine increases vigilance and mental performance. The most common side effect of caffeine is blocking off processes in the brain that allow the body to sense tiredness, thereby making it harder to fall asleep," Dr Senn explains.
"Aim to drink no more than two or three caffeinated beverages per day and switch to herbal or decaf alternatives after midday," advises Dr Meadows. If you can't resist a warm drink in the evening, try a sleep tea instead.
6. Invest in sleep supplements
If used right, natural supplements for sleep can help us relax as we settle down for the evening. There are so many supplements out there, from melatonin to valerian root, and they come in a range of forms such as pills, capsules, oils and teas.
CBD supplements for sleep have become really popular over the last couple of years. For example, CBD oils like Puresport’s oil can be dropped into the mouth before bed, helping you relax and get ready for sleep.
Wicked Gummy Co’s Peaceful Zzzzz passion-fruit flavored gummies can also help with sleep as they’re made of 5-HTP, an amino acid your body uses to produce serotonin and that contributes to wellbeing. If you’re really struggling to nod off, Kalms Night One-A-Night, a traditional herbal supplement containing valerian, can be used to temporarily relieve sleep disturbances.
Always consult your doctor before taking any sleep supplements, as if you're pregnant, breastfeeding or taking any other medication they may not be suitable.
7. Experiment with sleep aids
If sleep supplements aren’t for you, there are other sleep aids you can incorporate into your bedtime routine to reduce stress and help you relax. Start by running yourself a bath with Epsom bath salts and add a few drops of calming essential oils.
Once you have your duvet and pillows in the right position, spray a calming sleep spray such as This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray that’s said to induce a restful night’s sleep. Invest in a cozy pair of cashmere socks to wear to bed and lower your core body temperature. Not only did researchers at Seoul National University find wearing socks to bed helped participants fall asleep faster, but they stayed snoozing for longer too.
8. Exercise and stay active daily
"Keeping an active lifestyle where possible is great for muscles and bones, mood and fitness levels. Plus, it can also really help with sleep," Rosie Stockley, Women’s Fitness Specialist & Founder of MAMAWELL tells us.
But, it's best to avoid high-intensity workouts too late at night, according to Rosie. Stick to doing HIIT treadmill workouts early in the day, and opt for slow and restorative practices like yoga later in the evening to kickstart the body's rest and digest system (see our guide to yoga for beginners to start your journey).
Dr Meadows advises leaving at least two hours between your workout and bedtime to allow your core body temperate to cool.
9. Avoid eating too late
"Make your evening meal the healthiest and smallest of the day and aim to leave between two and four hours between eating and sleeping," advises Dr Meadows.
This ensures your body has plenty of time to properly digest your food before your head hits the bellow, James Nguyen of Zoma Sleep tells us. Finding that sweet spot between mealtime and bedtime is key. "Eating too early before bed can mean going to bed hungry and if the body lacks the calories it needs to recharge, it will hold on to carbs and fats instead of using them as fuel," Nguyen adds.
We know fitting in mealtimes two to four hours before bed with busy family life can be tricky. If you do need to eat close to bedtime, stick to light meals like soup.
w&h thanks Dr Verena Senn sleep expert at Emma Mattresses, Hope Bastine resident sleep expert at Simba, Dr Guy Meadows founder of the Sleep School, Rosie Stockley Women’s Fitness Specialist & Founder of MAMAWELL and James Nguyen, an expert at Zoma Sleep for their time and expertise.
Sarah is a freelance writer - writing across titles including Woman & Home, Fit & Well, Tech Radar and the BBC. Covering a variety of subjects, including the royals, celebrities and trends in beauty, fashion and wellness - her biggest passions are travel and fitness. She can normally be found trying out the latest fitness class or on a plane to an exotic destination (pandemic allowing) - or writing about either of them.
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