A good night’s sleep improves our quality of life, boosting us mentally as well as physically. However, a countless number of us struggle to get enough sleep each and every night. This is why as part of Sleeptember, an annual event run by The Sleep Council, we’ve been in touch with Silentnight’s resident sleep expert Dr Nerina for her top tips on how you can achieve a better night’s sleep.
With over 25 years’ experience as a physiologist, author, consultant and sleep therapist, as well as multiple press, TV and radio appearances addressing fatigue management and other related issues, Dr Nerina’s knowledge on sleep is deep and wide ranging. So if you, like many of us, struggle with getting enough zzz’s then read on for six of her expert tips and learn the secret to a good night’s sleep.
1. Set the right temperature
Find yourself tossing and turning constantly in the summer heat? Overheating and humidity can really affect our sleep negatively. Ideally, our sleep environment needs to be cool (around 19C) so that brain temperature is a fraction of a degree cooler than the rest of the body. To help achieve a cooler environment, try the following:
- Cool the bedroom down with a fan. Try placing a tray of ice cubes in front of it for around 20 minutes before getting into bed to create your own mini air-conditioning system
- Use a thin cotton sheet instead of a duvet
- Keep curtains closed from mid-afternoon onwards to help minimise the room heating up
- Have your feet outside of the sheets in warm weather to keep them cooler
- Try putting your sheets in a bag in the freezer, taking them out for bedtime to facilitate a cool sleep
2. Minimise caffeine
Have a tendency to fuel your energy with caffeine then wonder why you’re wide awake come bedtime? Caffeine has a big impact on reducing sleep quality, especially when drinking it later on in the day. When you have a cup of tea or coffee, it can take up to ten hours for the caffeine from one drink to be completely removed from your body. Ideally, minimise caffeine after 3pm and consider replacing your afternoon coffee with herbal tea or decaffeinated variants of tea and coffee.
3. Sleep well next to someone
If you find it hard to sleep when sharing your room or bed with a partner or someone else, there are a few things you can try. First of all, make sure you’re sleeping in the biggest bed you can possibly fit into your bedroom, especially if you are very sensitive to noise or movement. Secondly, if snoring is an issue try introducing white noise into the room, such as from a fan, to help minimise the intrusion. And remember… you can always lovingly negotiate sleeping separately if you have an important event the next day and really need to get a good night’s sleep!
4. Set a pre-sleep routine
We sleep better when we feel safe and relaxed. So, when preparing to go to bed the routines and rituals that we follow can help us to establish a sense of inner safety and calm that can help us to let go of the day. This might include writing a list of what needs to be done the next day, reflecting on the day just gone, talking to a trusted friend or writing in a journal. Gratitude and meditation practices can also help us to find peace and calm, not only aiding in an improved sleep, but also ensuring a better waking mentality for the morning.
5. Sleeping when away
As we get older we have a tendency to become more fixed in our routines and rituals which can be disrupted when in an unfamiliar environment, making it harder for us to sleep. Physical changes in the body such as menopause or joint pains can also make us more dependent on our own sleep space and less adaptable when we’re away from home. Try sticking to some of your usual routines and habits when away, such as a pre-sleep routine, to help you settle into the new environment. Practicing five minutes of a gentle bedtime yoga routine or relaxing deep breathing can also help to settle the mind and body.
6. Create a restful space
Have you noticed how our pets love to sleep in their favourite places, on a favourite rug, or even on your clothing because it smells of you? As animals we too are very sensitive to our sleep environment, especially if you’re a sensitive sleeper. Senses play a huge part in our ability to let go and relax, which is why it’s important to make your bedroom feel like an oasis of tranquillity, paying close attention to sights, sounds and smells. Simple steps like changing to a more relaxing colour scheme, using essential oils on the pillow or wearing soft fabrics to bed can make a big difference.
Make sleep a top priority and incorporate these top tips into your routine this month and beyond.