Sleep is needed to boost our immune system, and to improve mental well-being, according to the NHS.
The average person needs around eight hours of sleep a night, but some may need more or could survive with less.
Changing our daily and night-time habits could improve our sleep quality, according to Naturalmats sleep expert, Christabel Majendie.
Here are Majendie’s top tips for improving sleep, separated into different parts of the day.
Exercising during the day could improve your sleep quality, said Majendie. By not keeping active, excess energy builds up in the body, which can keep us awake at night. Exercising also promise biochemicals which help to reduce stress and anxiety.
Getting out of the house during the day could also help, as sunlight promotes higher levels of melatonin – a hormone that is crucial for maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm.
Napping could disrupt your circadian rhythm – and therefore isn’t advised. But, if you feel obligated to have a quick snooze, it shouldn’t be any longer than a 20-minute power nap.
You should also stay out of the bedroom during the daytime, as you want your mind to associate the room with sleep. If you work from home, avoid working in the bedroom.
Majendie said: “Avoid caffeine for four to six hours before bed. Switch to a decaffeinated tea, such as chamomile or a warm, milky drink.
“If you are dependent on caffeine in the day to keep you alert and awake, consider going to bed earlier each night instead or address the factors that may be impacting on your sleep quality.”
The hours leading up to bedtime
“This is an important time,” said Majendie. “The body needs to wind down and get prepared for sleep.”
You should avoid eating big meals at least three hours before going to bed. The body needs to restore and repair after a long day, and digesting food could use some of that energy.
Deep and emotional conversations could fill your minds with all kinds of thoughts that will keep you awake, she said.
“Be disciplined. If a loved one is being insistent, politely remind them that this isn’t the best time.”
Establishing healthy bedtime rituals is key to preparing your body for sleep. The rituals should promote relaxation, including a warm bath at set times, mindfulness techniques, light reading, or gentle yoga.
“Many modern-day bedrooms are actually unsuitable for good, quality sleep,” said the sleep expert. “Research shows that improving your sleep environment can vastly improve our chances of getting a good night’s rest.”
The best sleep environments are quiet, dark and cool, she said.
If you live in a noisy, light-polluted area, try using thicker curtains, earplugs or an eye mask.
Going to bed naked could improve your sleep quality, too, Majendie revealed. It helps to regulate your body temperature, meaning your sleep won’t be disturbed by being too hot.
“We sleep better in temperatures between 16-18 degrees Celsius, so set the thermostat accordingly and regulate body temperature through the night with bedding, such as an extra blanket which you can add or remove.
“It may be worth wearing socks in bed if you suffer from cold feet as this can disturb your sleep.”
Trying to sleep
If you’re struggling to get to sleep, you can become increasingly frustrated. This actually makes it more difficult to drift off.
Try to avoid clock watching, as it will generate more anxiety, and make it harder to fall asleep.
Similarly, don’t try and force yourself to sleep. Think about pleasant scenes, while forgetting about falling asleep, Majendie said.
Worrying only makes the situation worse, so it’s best to just accept that it’s late, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Lifting that weight will help you to relax, she said.