How to sleep well - 5 steps to a better night’s sleep

A woman sleeping on a pillow

Sleep problems can affect people of all ages and have a serious impact on your health - not to mention your mood! Practicing good sleep hygiene is one way to combat sleep issues and help you sleep better. Here’s how it works.

What is sleep hygiene and how can it help me? 

Sleep hygiene is a set of recommendations to promote healthy sleep, ranging from changes to your environment to your lifestyle and diet. Sleep hygiene can help you to sleep more soundly at night, as well as helping you to fall asleep faster and reduce the number of times you wake up.

Here are 5 ways to practice good sleep hygiene and sleep better. 

Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine

As most people know, caffeine boosts your alertness but it can also disrupt sleep. The amount of caffeine in your bloodstream peaks 30 minutes after drinking and a single dose of caffeine can hang around in the body for between 3-7 hours. 

Drinking caffeine close to bedtime disrupts sleep and the effects are exaggerated depending on how caffeine-sensitive you are. If you’re trying to sleep better, it’s a good idea to avoid drinking caffeine in the afternoon and the evening.

Nicotine and alcohol can also disrupt sleep, whether they’re a regular part of your life or just an occasional feature. If you struggle to fall asleep or find yourself waking up during the night, you might want to try giving them up to solve your sleep problems!

Exercise regularly

Regular exercise can also help to improve sleep thanks to its antidepressant and anxiety reducing effects. Generally, exercising between 8-4 hours before bedtime is thought to be most beneficial.

However, exercising close to bedtime could also improve sleep problems thanks to its body-heating effects. As sleep onset is typically linked to a rapid decline in body temperature, exercise can help to increase this drop by initially raising the core body temperature. This means that evening exercising could be beneficial for sleep. Try switching out your morning workout for a nighttime session and see which you prefer!

Manage stress

Stress has been linked to poor sleep thanks to its extreme impact on the body. High levels of stress can increase worry and anxiousness before bedtime as well as causing physiological changes in the body such as increased heart rate and blood pressure. Studies have found that mindfulness practices and relaxation techniques aimed at reducing stress can help to promote better sleep.

Reduce bedroom noise

As well as the impact of your lifestyle choices on your sleep quality, your environment can also make a big difference. To help you get a better night’s sleep, it’s a good idea to try and reduce the noise in your bedroom as much as possible. 

While you might not be able to control the sound of noisy neighbours or traffic outside your window, you could use interventions to minimise the impact that noise has on your sleep cycle. Try using ear plugs or white noise for instance to help you sleep more soundly.

Sleep at regular times

Sleep hygiene experts recommend trying to keep a regular sleep/wake schedule as a way to improve sleep problems. Creating a regular sleep schedule can help you to maximise the effects of your natural circadian rhythm and your physiological sleep drive, enabling you to have a more stable routine of sleep and wakefulness. This is especially important in older adults, who are more likely to suffer from insomnia.

You could also find it easier to sleep at night if you avoid using technology before bed. Large amounts of time spent on social media and watching TV in bed have both been linked to sleep problems in adults. Technology can also disrupt your sleep schedule by forcing you to go to bed later.

Try introducing these daily habits into your life and turn sleep into a treat rather than a chore!

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**At Free Soul, your well-being is our priority, and although we pride ourselves on our expertise in women's health and wellbeing, it is important to acknowledge the individuality of each person. Features published by Free Soul are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease, or replace the advice of your GP. We always recommend consulting with a healthcare provider if you encounter any health concerns, and we’ll always be here to support you so you’re never alone on your journey.