Top 20 ways to get better sleep

 By Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep and energy expert at Nightingale Hospital

  1. Pay attention to your sleep environment. Keep your room free of clutter and junk. Turn off all lights, as bright lights may keep you awake. Make sure it is as quiet as possible to guarantee deep and undisturbed sleep, or use a white noise machine (or fan in summer) to cut out distracting noises.
  2. Avoid technology. Smart phones, laptops, and other electronic devices make our brains active. Distance yourself from technology at least 1 hour before bedtime.This gives our brain time to unwind from the distractions of technology.
  3. Have a pre-bedtime wind down routine, and stick to it every day. Human beings respond well to familiar rituals, therefore it is important to put aside some time to wind down before bed.
  4. Keep a diary. Keep a diary and write in it before bed to get things on paper and out of your head. This is especially helpful if you are being persistently kept awake or woken up in the night by anxieties and worries.
  5. Write lists. Write down a list of what needs to be done the next day, so that it is on paper rather than on your mind. Make sure to do this before leaving work, so that it does not play on your mind in the evening, preventing you from fully relaxing.
  6. Use deep, diaphragmatic breathing. This will help relax you, decreasing your heart rate. If you wake up in the night, this will help ease you back into sleep.
  7. Minimise stimulants.  Too much coffee and/or refined sugars in the day time or before bed may keep you up at night.
  8. Drink less alcohol. Alcohol can impair deep sleep quality, and when you wake up you may feel tired and fuzzy-headed, so avoid over-indulgence!
  9. Make sure to have regular breaks during the day. This is important to emptying your “working memory” and ensuring your brain isn’t overstimulated. An overstimulated brain may still be processing all of the information of the day, preventing sleep or making it very shallow and broken.
  10. Don’t clock-watch. If you keep looking at the time you will be more likely to start worrying about how little sleep you’re getting, which reduces your chances of getting to sleep even further.
  11. Try complementary therapies. Massage, homeopathy, acupuncture, or reflexology will reduce stress related problems and help rebalance the nervous system, therefore helping relaxation and sleep.
  12. Exercise. Regular exercise is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress hormone levels (mainly adrenaline), enabling you to sleep more deeply. Plus, this will help tire you out in the evening.
  13. Meditate. This is another great way to relax and clear your mind of stress and anxieties, calming you and ensuring a better night’s sleep.
  14. Eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up. This increases the production of neurotransmitters which in turn enhance levels of serotonin and melatonin, which help you feel better and sleep better.
  15. Be aware of your “persistent visitors”. These are repeated themes of worrying thoughts. Become aware of your top 5, name them and when they come up at day or during the night just observe that you are having that thought again. By doing this you are “becoming the observer” rather than immersing yourself in the thoughts and becoming overwhelmed.
  16. Understand your relationship with sleep. I often find it is often those with misconceptions about sleep who suffer the most. In actual fact, it is more important to have “deep sleep” rather than a prescriptive amount of hours: quality, not quantity!
  17. Boost melatonin and serotonin levels. These hormones help you sleep, and can be found in chicken, cheese, tofu, tuna, eggs, nuts, seeds and milk.
  18. Herbal nightcaps. Natural sleeping aids can be used, but only as a last resort. Valerian, passionflower and hops can all be used to aid sleep.
  19. Speak to a counsellor or GP. If you are being persistently kept awake by worries and anxiety speaking about problems and sharing your thoughts will help to take the load off your mind.
  20. Nap. Napping can be a useful way to recharge during the day. Naps should be short – around 15 minutes.

 Photocredit “WLA metmuseum Bronze statue of Eros sleeping 7” by Wikipedia Loves Art participant “shooting_brooklyn”


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