6 steps to a better night's sleep

Having trouble notching up enough hours of sleep every night? You’re not alone. It’s a widespread issue that affects most of us at some point in our lives. Thankfully there are steps you can take to head back into sleep credit. Here are six to get you started.

1.    Create a bedtime ritual

There’s no need to involve candles (unless that’s what you’re into), but it is helpful to have consistency. It could be as simple having a warm shower or writing a to-do list for the next day to clear your mind. If you’re super keen to get into relaxation mode, rub lavender oil on your pillow to help take you away to the land of slumber. The point is to train your brain to recognise the signs that it’s time to wind down.

2.    De-clutter your sleep space

Your bedroom should not be grand central – remove children, pets, phones, computers, food, lights and noisy or bright clocks and limit excess bed linen to avoid overheating. And try not to engage in stimulating activities, like TV or computer games, an hour before bed. Same goes for work – shut off that domain early in the night.

3.    Reduce caffeine intake

Caffeine stimulates the production of stress hormones and inhibits absorption of a hormone that gives us a sense of calmness. So avoid coffee or drinks such as black tea or energy drinks after 2 pm. Instead, drink teas such as chamomile or valerian.

4.    Up your magnesium intake

Magnesium is considered the anti-stress nutrient as it calms and supports the nervous system. You’ll find it in tofu, legumes, seeds, nuts, whole grains (oats, barley, quinoa), wheat bran and green leafy vegetables. Or take 500 mg as a daily supplement.

5.    Reduce alcohol

A few wines may help you fall sleep at the beginning of the night, but having alcohol in your system will interrupt your most restful, deepest REM sleep cycle. It's also thought that people who consume alcohol regularly have lower levels of natural melatonin in their body, which can contribute to sleeping difficulties.

6.    Exercise regularly

Engaging in exercise during the day can make it easier to fall asleep at night – and stay asleep. It can also increase the amount of time you spend in the deepest stage of sleep. Some people find exercising too late in the day too stimulating, so stick to exercising before dinner.

If all else fails, don’t let frustration get the better of you. Stick to the “20-minute rule” – after 20 minutes of tossing and turning, get up and do something relaxing in another room until you feel sleepy again. Try to leave your worries at the bedroom door and take in with you a sense of gratitude for all the good things you have in your life.

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