Improving your sleep doesn’t require expensive sleep-tracking devices or luxury scented candles, but it can often feel difficult to know where to start. To help simplify the topic of how you can sleep better, we’ve got ten practical, simple habits that you can incorporate into your day-to-day to sleep better.
1. Prioritise sleep
If you’re looking to make any changes to improve your sleep, the single most important starting point is making sure you’re prioritising sleep. Setting the intention to aim to get your biological need for sleep each night, whether that be by committing to spend a little less time on your devices or creating a calming evening routine, is key to setting yourself up for success.
2. Stick with a daily routine
Going to sleep and getting up in the morning at a similar time most days of the week is a crucial step for improving your sleep as it keeps your body clock on time. Having a later night here or there is absolutely fine, but to get the true benefits of this habit, aim to keep the regularity as much as possible.
3. Be mindful of caffeine
Caffeine has a long duration of action; a half-life of 6 hours and a quarter-life of 12 hours, meaning that having a cup of coffee at lunch is the equivalent of getting into bed at midnight and swigging a quarter cup of coffee. As a rule of thumb, sleep expert Matthew Walker suggests we try to aim for a cut-off of 12-14 hours before bed, so coffee becomes just a breakfast ritual. Many of us feel we can still get a good night’s sleep with an afternoon or evening espresso, however, research reveals you won’t enjoy the same quality of restorative REM (rapid eye movement) sleep with it. REM sleep involves a lot of brain activity and is the part of the night where you dream, it’s essential for memory consolidation and our ability to process emotions.
4. Be mindful of alcohol
As with caffeine, the presence of alcohol in the body can reduce your REM sleep, so whilst it may feel like a sleep aid, studies link the consumption of alcohol, especially in excess, to poor sleep quality and duration.
5. Get outside
Getting enough exposure to natural light each day is fundamental to both our mood and our ability to fall asleep easily. Synchronising our body clock to the time zone you’re in depends on light, so getting out in natural light in the morning will set you up for a better night of sleep later that day.
6. Limit screens late at night
Any light late at night disrupts our body clock by reducing the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. As a result, being in front of light-emitting screens within 2 hours before going to sleep will delay the onset of sleep and may reduce sleep quality. If you do enjoy relaxing in the evening in front of a screen, be mindful to turn down the brightness, dim the lighting in the room that you’re in, and try to turn the screens off 2 hours before you’re planning on going to sleep.
7. Move your body
Aiming to get some form of movement each day is a simple daily habit that can have a hugely positive impact on your ability to fall asleep, the quality of your sleep, and your overall health and wellbeing. Specifically, exercise increases our metabolism and as a result one of your metabolism’s by-products is adenosine. Increased levels of adenosine help the body to wind down for sleep, and so improves your ability to fall asleep at night as it builds up throughout the day. Any exercise is better than none, so if you’re having a busy day, try to prioritise a quick 10-minute walk out in the daylight.
8. Eat dinner early
Eating around three hours before you go to bed (because eating late is a stressor on the body) and staying away from sugary meals or beverages is best. A light snack is okay right before bed, but a heavy meal can cause digestive issues that interfere with sleep.
9. Follow a night-time routine
In the same way that aiming to go to sleep at a similar time each day helps our body clock to recognise that it’s time to fall asleep, having a regular nighttime ritual, such as creating a calming bedroom environment with dim lighting, applying your favourite skincare products, and doing a relaxing meditation or stretching, will all contribute to signalling to our brain and body that you’re heading towards going to sleep.
10. Try a sleep meditation
Actively relaxing before bed has been shown to improve sleep patterns, reducing the time it takes to fall asleep and prompting deeper, longer sleep. Below you’ll find a collection of simple sleep meditations you can do to both unwind and drift off.