Five tips for getting a better night’s sleep

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. It can also mean the difference between a good day and a bad day.

Here are 5 tips for getting a better night’s sleep:

Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day

For children, have a set bedtime and a bedtime routine. Try to keep the same sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends. Limit the difference to no more than about an hour. Staying up late and sleeping in late on weekends can disrupt your body clock’s sleep-wake rhythm. (1)

Avoid heavy and/or large meals within a couple hours of bedtime

While having a light snack is okay, meals, alcohol and caffeine (including caffeinated drinks, coffee, tea, and chocolate) should be avoided before bed. Caffeine is stimulants, and both substances can interfere with sleep. The effects of caffeine can last as long as 8 hours. So, a cup of coffee in the late afternoon can make it hard for you to fall asleep at night. (2)

Spend time outside every day (when possible) and be physically active

The National Sleep Foundation conducted a study with 2,600 men and women, ages 18-85, and found that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week, which is the national guideline, provided a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality. People also said they felt less sleepy during the day, compared to those with less physical activity. However, although daily exercise is key for a good night’s sleep, working-out late in the day may also cause problems falling asleep for some people. (3)

Keep your bedroom quiet, cool, and dark (a dim night light is fine if needed)

There is a small part of the brain called the ‘circadian clock’, which monitors the amount of light you see, so in the evening, when the light starts to wane, your body clock notices and prompts a flood of a brain chemical called melatonin, which gives the body the signal to fall asleep. So it’s important to put your house lights on dim once it gets dark and a dim light in your bedroom as you’re going to bed. (4)

Use the hour before bed for quiet time

Take a hot bath or use relaxation techniques such as meditation, and avoid bright artificial light, such as from a TV or computer screen. When our bodies are exposed to artificial light from LEDs and screens, we are confusing it and your body’s circadian clock is disrupted. The body doesn’t know when it’s time to get ready for sleep and stays alert, so make sure to turn off or stop using all your devices at least one hour before you go to bed. If this isn’t possible, use ‘Nightshift’ if you have an iPhone and MacBook. This is a setting which makes the colours on your screen warm. Most smartphones have the night option – look for it under settings, and you can set a time for it to automatically switch on and off so you don’t have to always remember. Read more about the effects of blue light in our previous blog post.

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