Do you struggle to fall (and stay) asleep at night? To help you beat insomnia, read eight ways you can get a better night’s sleep.
We all need a good night’s sleep. Not only does it make us less grouchy, but it helps us to store memories, rest our bodies, repair damage and rejuvenate cells. It’s also essential for good mental health (poor sleep is linked to both anxiety and depression).
Nine reasons why you need a good night’s sleep
In fact, according to WebMD there are nine good reasons why it’s worth getting a better night’s sleep:
- Better health.
- Better sex life.
- Less pain.
- Lower risk of injury.
- Better mood.
- Better weight control.
- Clearer thinking.
- Better memory.
Research proves the impact of insomnia
The longest anyone has gone without sleep was 264 hours (or just about 11 days) – a record set in 1965 by Randy Gardner, a 17-year-old high school student who performed the experiment as part of a high school project.
There have since been plenty of other scientific and psychological experiments that have been carried out to assess the impact of sleep deprivation, with research subjects remaining awake for periods of up to ten days in carefully-controlled experiments.
In the findings, none of these people had serious medical, neurological or psychological problems per se, but all of them experienced huge drops in concentration, motivation, perception and other ‘higher’ mental faculties as the experiments went on. And Randy Gardner was ‘awake’ but basically mentally incapacitated at the end of his experience.
All of the experimental subjects (and, presumably, Randy) recovered to full capacity with a couple of nights of recovery sleep.
There’s no good short-term fix for a poor night’s sleep
So if sleep is so essential to good mental and physical health, why is it so elusive for so any of us? One reason could be the pressures of modern life, exacerbated by poor lifestyle and sleep habits.
It’s also all too easy to fall back on short-term fixes for a poor night’s sleep – coffee, energy drinks, working later in the evenings (to make up for a slower start to the day), all of which only make a good night’s sleep THAT night all the more unlikely!
Instead, if we really want to look forward to a better night’s sleep every night, we need to go back to basics, and practise some simple but effective good sleep habits.
Eight ways to get a better night’s sleep
So here they are. Eight proven ways you can enjoy a better night’s sleep – if not every night (especially if you have young children!), at least MOST nights.
1) Avoid coffee, wine, energy drinks and chocolate
As tempting as it can be when you’re running low on energy, try not to rely on products like energy drinks and coffee to get you through the day, and steer clear of chocolate and wine on the evening too if you need a good night’s sleep – you’ll be much more alert and brighter in the morning and throughout the day.
2) Avoid over-stimulation
Getting exercise during the day is a great way to help tire yourself out, but in the evenings it can over-stimulate you and actually make it harder to fall asleep. Similarly, schedule at LEAST half an hour of device-free time before you hit the sack. Go retro and read a book instead!
3) Practise mindfulness
Practice mindfulness or meditation as a stress relief. This is a far more calming method for your brain and body than the usual tactic (pouring a large gin and tonic) and will provide longer-term benefits for your overall stress levels. Give it a go – you might be surprised with the results.
4) Keep your bedroom for sleep and sex
If you keep your bedroom for sleeping and sex, it will help your brain to switch into the right mode at night. So try to avoid eating, watching TV, working and checking your phone in bed, and encourage your mind to associate it with sleep and sex only – both good things!
5) Get the right temperature
To maximise your chances of a good night’s sleep, keep your bedroom at the best possible temperature for snoozing – an ambient 19-21 degrees Celsius. Make sure too that your blankets match the climate. In winter, switch to a thicker duvet, and in summer opt for a lighter one. Your bedroom also needs to be dark and quiet, so make sure your have black out curtains or blinds covering your window.
6) Stick to your circadian rhythm
Time your sleep with your circadian rhythm – a natural process in which sleep is induced by melatonin, a neurotransmitter released by the pineal gland when night falls. You can help to encourage this natural process by going outside in the evening, opening your curtains to enjoy the sunset, and avoiding coffee and checking your phone in the evenings, both of which, according to research, affect your body’s ability to produce melatonin.
7) Use lavender spray
In research conducted at Wesleyan University in the US, it was found that 31 men and women who sniffed lavender essential oil for four 2-minute periods just before bed slept more soundly and felt more energetic the next morning.
So try spraying your pillow with lavender spray to create a calming and soothing atmosphere, and put you in the mood for sleeping. Or light a scented candle as part of your pre-bedtime ritual (remember to blow it out before you sleep though!). Chamomile, Bergamot, Jasmine, Rose and Sandalwood are also said to help with relaxation and sleep.
8) Choose the right mattress
We spend (hopefully) at least eight hours out of every day in bed, so it’s worth investing in a good quality mattress and pillows. Your mattress should one comfortable and supportive, and has a lifespan of around 10 years. Replacing your mattress or entire bed may be a big outlay, but it’s worth it – according to the Sleep Council, an old bed can rob you of an hour’s sleep a night! (Buying a new mattress or bed? You can read a comprehensive guide to finding the right one here.)
Need more sleep tips?
You can find more advice related to sleep in these articles:
- How can I help my child to sleep through the night?
- Five sanity-saving things to do when your kids won’t sleep.
- The sleep-deprived mum’s guide to surviving at work.
Oz Mattress is a proud supplier of Australian-made mattresses. The team at Oz Mattress are committed to highlighting the importance of sleep and the dangers of sleep deprivation with quality advice that focuses on enhancing your health and wellbeing.Hubert Dwight