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  • Writer's pictureIan Thornley

5 tips for better sleep

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

Sleep is hugely important to our health and well being. Good sleep can make the difference. Memory, productivity, stress and your immune system are all influenced by sleep or lack of sleep. Why not have a look at my previous blog about how lack of sleep affects us.

But given that - how do we get a good nights sleep. All too often I hear patients talk of struggling to get to sleep or stay asleep and getting poor quality sleep so here are 5 simple tips to help you get a good, quality nights sleep

1) Avoid coffee or caffeine containing drinks for at least 6 hours before bedtime.

Ideally don't drink these drinks in the afternoon. Caffeine is a stimulant which can keep you awake and although the peak effect happens approximately an hour after you drink it, its effects last for considerably longer. It is estimated that the amount of caffeine remaining in the body drops by half every 3-5 hours. This means that 10 hours after drinking that double espresso you still have a quarter of the caffeine left in your system - and if you top that up after your evening meal you can see that will really affect your sleep.

2) Create a good sleep environment in your bedroom

Not that many generations ago our ancestors, without the convenience of electricity, would have gone to bed when it got dark and got up as it got light, without all the distractions that we have now. Creating a space that is conducive to sleep is important. Use blackout blinds to keep it dark. Use ear plugs if there is too much noise and keep the room cool and well ventilated.

Electronics can also affect sleep and the light from screens is though to stimulate the brain and reduce the likelihood of quality sleep. So buy an alarm clock and keep the phone in another room.

3) Follow a bedtime routine

Make sure your body knows it's time for sleep by following a routine each night when you go to bed. Have a set bedtime and try to limit stimulating activities for the hour before bed, stop work, put the phone down and do a passive activity such as watching TV, reading a book or taking a bath (not too hot!) to allow yourself to wind down before you go to bed.

If you have things on your mind try writing them down, empty your mind, but know that you won't forget your thoughts in the morning. This can be a good way to remove some of those distracting thoughts.

4) Don't exercise too late

Like many of the other things discussed here exercise, although massively beneficial for you,

will also make it more difficult to get to sleep. By all means have a gentle walk late in the evening - that may be beneficial - but avoid vigorous exercise.

Instead try exercising earlier in the day and try to leave about 3 hours after finishing exercising and bedtime.

5) Eat lighter meals in the evening

Heavy evening meals take longer and more energy to digest. That may make it more difficult to fall asleep. Instead try to eat a lighter meal in the evening, maybe taking your main meal at lunchtime if possible.

A meal higher in vegetables portions and a lower meat proportion tends to be easier to digest and might therefore help you get off to sleep.

Try these tips for a couple of weeks consistently and see how it affects your sleep. Why not comment and let me know how you get on!

It does need to be said that if you are unable to sleep because of pain then it is important to check that there are no other issues underlying the sleep problem. Please do see a health professional in this situation. We will be able to give you an assessment and suggest the most appropriate course of action for you.

Sleep well!

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