Getting a good night’s sleep is one of life’s simple pleasures. Not only does it leave you feeling refreshed, revitalised and ready to face the day, but it’s also important for so many aspects of your health and well-being.
But, for some people, sleeping soundly is but a pipe dream. If you toss and turn all night long, and wake up in the morning feeling like you’ve hardly slept, then read on for some tips to help you stay in the land of nod for longer.
Why sleep matters
A rare breed of human (Thomas Edison, we’re looking at you) can survive and thrive on about four hours of sleep. The rest of us? Adults need about 7-9 hours of shut-eye each night; children and teens, whose brains and bodies are growing at a remarkable rate, need more.
While we sleep, our bodies are busy repairing and rejuvenating muscles and tissues, as well as producing growth hormones and other goodies that our bodies need every day. Our brains need sleep, too. According to Harvard, scientists think that while we sleep, our bodies are busy clearing adenosine from the brain. Adenosine is a by-product that our brain cells produce during the day while they are busy being brainy and, as it builds up over the day, it makes us feel more tired.
Then there’s the growing body of evidence that connects a good night’s sleep to our ability to learn and create memories. Without enough sleep, our focus, attention and ability to concentrate are affected, making it harder for us to make good decisions, memorise tasks, and more.
Science aside, most would agree that a good night’s sleep sets you up for a day feeling more alert and in a better mood. Question is, how do you get a good night’s sleep?
Tips to help you sleep more soundly
If you’re finding it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep, try these simple strategies:
1. Avoid alcohol and caffeine
While a glass of wine in the evening might relax you and help you fall asleep, too much alcohol can disrupt your sleep during the night – leaving you feeling groggy in the morning. On the flip side, caffeine (tea, coffee, cola drinks) will keep you awake, making it hard to fall asleep in the first place. If you find it hard to fall asleep and have had tea, coffee or cola in the arvo or evening, try cutting out this beverage and see if it makes a difference.
2. Establish a bedtime routine
If you can, try to establish a sleep routine and stick to it – going to bed at around the same time each night, and waking up at around the same time each morning. If you’re aiming for about eight hours of sleep, for example, you might want to try lights’ out at about 10pm and alarm set for 6am. Everyone’s different – find a pattern that works for you.
3. Rituals before hitting the hay
What you do in the lead-up to bedtime can influence the quality of your sleep. Lying in bed scrolling through Instagram, for example, is probably not going to help you fall asleep. In the half-hour or hour before bedtime, instead of electronics, try reading a book or pursuing another relaxing activity (there are some great meditation apps you could try) to tell your body that it’s time to wind down.
4. Create a comfortable sleep zone
Invest in a good pillow, make sure that your bedding is warm but not too hot, and keep the room dark and quiet.
5. Get up if you can’t sleep
If you’re wide awake, then get up – lying in bed stressing about falling asleep is only going to make you feel more stressed. Instead, acknowledge to yourself that now is not the time to go to sleep. Get up, make a herbal tea, grab a good book or pull out a jigsaw puzzle, and sit quietly for a while until you feel drowsiness take hold again.
Still not sleeping?
Sometimes, there’s an underlying medical reason why you’re not sleeping well. If you’ve tried tactics like those listed above and you’re still struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep, then pop in to see one of our doctors. We may be able to help you work out what’s preventing you from falling asleep or, if we can’t, we’ll be able to refer you to someone who can.