5 ways to sleep well tonight

Getting a good night's sleep can be elusive for many of us, which may have serious consequences to our health. Our five tips will help you get to and stay asleep.

Around one in every three Australians suffer from "gentle insomnia", which is when it's difficult to fall asleep, or you regularly wake in the night. According to the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health (AISH), missing out on sleep or having a sleep disorder that robs you of good quality sleep can have serious short-term health consequences, like day-time sleepiness, poor concentration and accidents. Even one night of insufficient sleep can affect your emotions. Long-term, chronic sleep deprivation may contribute to a host of health problems including obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The good news is that there are some simple lifestyle changes, called "sleep hygiene" habits, which you can make to help ensure you achieve the sleep of your dreams.

1. Set the scene

According to AISH, a dark, quiet, cool bedroom can help encourage a good night's rest. Lower the volume of outside noise with earplugs or a white noise appliance. Use heavy curtains, blackout shades, or an eye mask to block light. Keep the temperature comfortably cool and keep the room well ventilated. And make sure your bedroom is equipped with a comfortable mattress and pillows. 

2. Set your body clock

We tend to follow a set bedtime routine for our children, but drop this as we get older. According to the Australian Health Sleep Foundation, the body has an internal clock and hormones that control sleepiness and wakefulness, which works best if there is a regular sleep routine. "Follow a relaxing sleep routine around an hour before going to bed," says the Sleep Health Foundation's Prof David Hillman. "This may include a warm bath, reading quietly or a warm milk drink and empty your bladder before going to bed."

3. Cut caffine and alcohol

Naturopath Lisa Guy says you may think that having a few glasses of wine at night helps you relax and get off to sleep easier, but it can actually cause sleep problems.

"Drinking too much alcohol at night can interrupt your REM sleep cycle, which is your deepest most restful stage of sleep,” she says. “Regular alcohol consumption may also lower your natural melatonin levels, which will cause sleeping problems."

And drink coffee sparingly. "Having too much caffeine in the diet can over-stimulate the nervous system and affect your ability to fall asleep," says Guy. "Caffeine is found in coffee, black and green tea, some soft drinks, energy drinks and chocolate." Stick to your morning coffee if you like, but avoid drinking it at least six hours before you go to bed as it can reduce your sleep quality by up to two hours. Sip on some soothing herbal teas like chamomile, valerian, lavender, passionflower and lemon balm, as these may help to calm the nervous system. 

4. Step up your exercise

There’s nothing quite like a good dose of exercise to wear you out during the day to prepare you for a good night’s sleep. Research shows regular aerobic exercise can help you not only fall asleep, but it can help improve the quality of your sleep. There’s also the added bonus of boosting your cardiovascular health, and of course the release of those feel good hormones endorphins. But be careful not to exercise too close to bedtime as many people find it can take some time to wind down after a workout.

5. Turn off the lights

Increasingly, we’re watching TV, reading or playing games on our computers or hand-held devices in the bedroom. According to research, LED-lit digital devices emit blue light – a short wavelength, high-energy light that naturally suppresses the body’s natural sleep hormone melatonin which in turn boosts your alertness, memory and feelings of wellbeing. While this is a good thing during the day, it’s not ideal when you’re trying to get a good night sleep. Blue light can disturb your body clock, or natural circadian rhythm, throwing your sleep patterns out of whack. If you don't want to remove electronic devices from your bedroom, Sleep Well Glasses may be the answer. They filter blue light, to help you cut down on the amount your eyes absorb at night. Your body will then produce your natural sleeping hormone, melatonin, so you’ll feel sleepy at your usual time.

 

By cutting down on caffeine and alcohol, stepping up your exercise, creating a calming environment and following a regular, set bedtime routine, sleep should start to become much easier, and be more restful to you, night after night. 
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