Along with a healthy diet and plentiful exercise and activity, sleep is recognised as an essential element to both physical and mental health and wellbeing.
We spend around one-third of our life sleeping. Our body can’t function long term without it. Sleep restores, rejuvenates, and energizes the body and brain. When we sleep, the brain performs numerous physiological, neurological, and biochemical housekeeping tasks.
So why do so many of us find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep easily or regularly? Often, it is the result of poor sleep habits and sleep hygiene. By recognising what these bad habits are, making adjustments and introducing new ones, it is possible to improve your sleep.
Read our guide below on how to create some basic rules for a nightly sleep routine and how to prepare your mind, your body and your sleep environment to achieve a better night’s sleep.
Create some rules and routine:
Crafting relaxing and sustainable pre-bed routines will promote healthy and consistent sleep, allowing you to wake up feeling energised and refreshed, rather than hitting the snooze button. While changing your poor pre-bed habits can take some time and adjustment, the effort pays off as you cultivate a continuous cycle of positive reinforcement and relaxation. Creating a night-time routine that works for you can include:
- Consistency: As much as possible, try to follow set steps each night that will help to reinforce to your mind and body that bedtime is approaching.
- Prioritise Sleep:
- Listen to your Body Clock: Achieving quality sleep means working with your body rather than against it. Go to bed when your body tells you it is tired. On the flip side, don’t force yourself to bed when you don’t actually feel tired.
- Don’t Toss and Turn: Having a positive mental connection between being in bed and being asleep is vital. After 20 minutes if you are still awake, get out of bed and engage in a sleep-promoting activity, such as reading or meditation, before trying to sleep again.
Design your environment:
Turning your bedroom into a place of comfort and tranquillity can be an invitation to relax, wind down, and fall into a good night’s sleep. While it may seem obvious, it is often forgotten and becomes an underlying contributor to difficulties falling and staying asleep. When designing your environment, focus on maximising relaxation and minimising distractions by:
- Investing in Bedding: A quality mattress and pillow is essential for your body to be comfortable and to support your neck and spine. Your sheets are also important and can make your bed feel more inviting.
- Create a Dark and Quiet Environment: Use blinds, curtains, or an eye mask to block light. Reduce external noise where possible with earplugs, listening to calming music or white noise.
Prepare your body:
Let your body know it’s time to wind down by:
- Reducing Caffeine Intake: While the quick burst of energy from a coffee can help mask daytime drowsiness, it can be a barrier to falling asleep and reduce the quality of rest. Keep your caffeine consumption minimal, and in particular, avoid it later in the day.
- Exercise: Not only does daily exercise promote good quality sleep, it has a multitude of other health benefits too. Exercising in the early morning can help wake the body up and leave you feeling energised all day.
- Relax your Body: Release the tension and stress accumulated in your body throughout the day by practising yoga, doing some low-impact stretching, or taking a warm shower/bath.
Calm your mind:
- Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness encourages you to focus on the present moment, rather than on trying to fall asleep. Notice your breathing and how your body feels. When other thoughts come into your mind, acknowledge them and gently bring your awareness back to your breath.
- Relaxation Techniques: Relaxation methods can help ease you into sleep when you find you are more distracted than usual. Progressive muscle relaxation, controlled breathing or breathing exercises, and guided imagery are just a few examples.
- Unplug From Devices: Phones, laptops, and tablets can keep your mind busy and make it difficult to truly relax and wind down. Try to disconnect for 30-60 minutes before bed, and engage in other sleep-promoting activities.
For more sleep-related reading, check out these previous Diabetes WA blog posts: