Getting to sleep can be a struggle, but blackout blinds and to-do lists can help – as can reserving the bedroom for sex and shut-eye
Amy Sedghi – The Guardian
An eye mask will block out light. Photograph: Santje09/Getty Images/iStockphoto
- Go to bed at regular times
Going to sleep and waking up at regular times – even on weekends – will strengthen your body clock, says Dr Lizzie Hill, a clinical sleep physiologist and a spokeswoman for the British Sleep Society. Regular mealtimes are also an important cue for your circadian rhythm. Avoid exercise too close to bedtime, as it can cause restlessness and an elevated body temperature, says Samantha Briscoe, a senior physiologist at the Sleep Centre at London Bridge hospital.
- Protect the bedroom
Preserve the bedroom as a place for sleep (and sex): there is evidence that the brain forms a strong association with sleep there. A temperature of 16-18C (60-64F) is thought to be ideal for most, according to the Sleep Council, an awareness and support organisation. Blackout blinds or an eye mask can help block out light, while keeping electronic devices out of the bedroom is highly recommended. If you struggle to fall asleep after more than 25 minutes, Matthew Walker – a sleep expert and a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley – suggests getting up and going to read under a dim light in another room. Once sleepy, you can return to bed.
- Get ahead on the next day
Your night-time routine is an opportunity to make mornings run a little smoother: choose your clothes for the next day when you reach for your pyjamas or pack your bag while brushing your teeth. Martin Hagger, a professor of health psychology at the University of California, Merced, has stressed how routines are linked to the formation of healthy habits.
- Wind down
Reading a book can help slow breathing and relax muscles, while yoga stretches or even a gentle walk can reduce anxiety, says Briscoe. A warm bath or shower can also help you relax: researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that bathing in water of 40-42.5C one to two hours before bedtime was associated with better sleep.
- Write down your worries
“If your mind is buzzing from the day, try keeping a journal or worry book,” suggests Hill. The NHS also recommends writing to-do lists for the next day in order to organise thoughts and clear the mind. “If you experience difficulty with sleep over the longer term, consider whether there may be an underlying medical condition,” says Hill. A sleep diary could help you identify any patterns.