Tips on how to get a good night’s sleep
If you’ve reached that ultimate goal and finally managed to get your child into a good sleeping routine, it’s time to start thinking about yourself. Parents need sleep too – getting the right amount of sleep is important to your health and wellbeing.
You can now enjoy your evenings, but don’t forget to ensure that you get a good night’s sleep yourself. I have summarised below the top tips as set out in the National Library of Medicine and reprinted in ‘Why We Sleep’ by Matthew Walker.
- CONSISTENCY: Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This is the most important piece of advice and if you’re only going to follow one thing, this should be it.
- EXERCISE: Exercise helps promote good sleep but it is advisable not to exercise in the evening. Exercise outdoors if possible, for at least 30 mins a day but no later than 2-3 hours before your bedtime.
- AVOID STIMULANTS: Avoid caffeine and nicotine. Remember that caffeine has a “half-life”, which means that it takes an average of 5-7 hours to remove 50% of the substance’s concentration. For example, if you have a coffee at 3pm, you will still have 50% of the caffeine in your body by 9pm. Nicotine is a stimulant which is why smokers tend to sleep less deeply and wake up too early due to nicotine withdrawal.
- AVOID ALCOHOL: Avoid alcohol before bed as this keeps you in the lighter stages of sleep which prevents you from having good quality REM sleep.
- FOOD & DRINK: Avoid large meals and any type of drink, including non-alcoholic drinks, late at night. Stick to a light snack as a larger meal can cause indigestion and bloating which can interfere with your sleep. Drinking too much can cause you to wake in the night for a bathroom visit.
- MEDICINE: If possible, avoid medicines that can delay or disrupt your sleep or take them earlier in the day. However, do not change timings of when you take your medicine without medical advice or a consultation with a pharmacist.
- NAPS: Naps can be a great way to make up for lost night-time sleep, but don’t nap after 3pm as late afternoon naps make it harder to fall asleep at night.
- RELAX: Unwind and relax before bed – try not to overstimulate yourself and instead try a relaxing activity like reading. Perhaps even create your own calming bedtime routine.
- BATH/SHOWER: Take a hot bath or shower before bed as the drop in body temperature after getting out the bath can help you feel sleepy.
- BEDROOM ENVIRONMENT: A dark room assists sleep so make sure you have well-fitting blackout blinds or curtains. Also, the temperature of the room at night should remain cool, ideally at 18°C.
- AVOID SCREENS: Remove gadgets from your bedroom as they can be distracting and deprive you of the sleep you need. Give yourself a break from screens and bright lights if you can for an hour before bed.
- COMFORT: Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillow as these will make all the difference to a good night’s sleep.
- SUNLIGHT/DAYLIGHT: Spend at least 30 minutes and preferably 1 hour each day outdoors during the daytime to get the sunlight your body needs. Spending time outdoors in the morning is best.
- BRIGHT LIGHTS: If possible, either wake up with the sun by drawing your curtains first thing. Or, if it is dark outside, turn on bright lights.
- REDUCE ANXIETY: If you can’t fall asleep, try not to lie in bed awake. It creates a viscous cycle as the more you try to sleep the harder it becomes. If you find yourself struggling to fall asleep and getting anxious, it may be better to get up and do a relaxing activity until you start to feel sleepy (reading is one of the best). Some people find making a list can help declutter the mind.
 Walker, M. (2017) ‘Why We Sleep’