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9 tips for a better sleep

The perfect night's sleep, for something so natural and necessary, can sometimes seem fairly elusive. We know it's a non-negotiable for a healthy body and brain – yet our last 2018 Sleep Census revealed that 1 in 5 Australians are getting less than eight hours sleep at night.

In light of that, let's look at some ways (set out in no particular order) to help set the stage for a good night's rest.

1. Ditch the devices

The colour blue is synonymous with peace. Not so with blue light. Blue light is emitted from electrical devices (think your smartphone, computer, TV and tablets) and appears to wreak havoc with our melatonin levels. What does that mean? Melatonin is a hormone that helps our internal biological clock regulate our circadian rhythms. If this gets disrupted, our bodies don’t get the memo that we should be winding down for sleep.

2. Create a pre-sleep routine

An action movie or perusing your social media feed are not great precursors to nigh-night’s time. Give yourself a buffer between wakefulness and sleep. A warm bath/shower, meditation or calming breathing techniques are good ways to start winding down. If you want to add another layer of bliss to your routine, you could get some soothing (think lavender and/or chamomile) diffuser reeds for your bedroom.

3. Ensure you have a good quality mattress and pillows

Discomfort is a sure way to send the Sandman fleeing. The fact is, you may have the most peaceful bedroom ever, but if your mattress is old or not right for your needs, you may find your sleep is more disrupted than it should be. Make sure your mattress and pillow are correct for your sleeping position and offer the right amount of support. Our mattress selector tool can get you started on figuring out which options are better suited to you and your lifestyle.

4. Make exercise part of your daily routine

Not only does exercise release endorphins (chemicals that help relieve us of stress or pain), research has shown it can help strengthen our circadian rhythms. This means it helps us stay alert during the day and feel sleepier as night approaches. By incorporating exercise into your daily schedule, you can boost your mood and your sleep quality. The jury is still out on whether exercising close to bedtime is a no-no (some people find it hard to sleep after a vigorous late-night session), so work out the best times for you and your body.

5. Create a dark, cool and quiet environment

An optimal sleeping environment should be dark, cool (roughly 15—20 degrees Celsius) and quiet. If your room feels brighter than a Christmas tree, it’s time to either chill out with dimmer, indirect atmospheric lighting or invest in some block-out curtains.
When it comes to temperature, keeping it cool (as opposed to ice-cold), is ideal. Here are some tips on how to keep cool in bed.
Quiet is another matter. We can generally control light and temperature, but noise can come from external sources that we have far less control over.
If your room is invaded by inconsistent outside noise, you may want to look at investing in a sound machine. There are plenty of small, inexpensive options made for bubs that work well for adults too. Or, test out ear plugs that are okay to wear during sleep.

6. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and stimulants before bed

While you may think that cocktail or glass of red wine is making you wonderfully drowsy and bed-ready, alcohol actually disturbs our normal sleep rhythms. So it may help you pass out, but it’s not great for a restorative sleep.
One option is to switch to water from alcohol a few hours before bedtime so you’re hydrated and naturally drowsy before you hit the hay.
We all know caffeine is the enemy of sleep (for most, anyway), so try to have your last hit of caffeine in the early afternoon at the latest and then sub it out with herbal teas or water, if you can.

7. Avoid eating heavy meals just before bed

You want to give your body time to digest your food, so try not to eat anything too heavy or rich too close to bedtime. Having said that, going to bed hungry isn’t advised either, as this can lead to you waking up (or not even nodding off!).
If you eat earlier in the evening and are starting to feel peckish, grab a banana or apple with perhaps a tablespoon of peanut butter an hour or so before bedtime. A small portion of plain Greek yogurt with a few berries or a small handful of granola sprinkled on top can also tide you over and prevent late-night stomach grumbles.

8. Keep a regular bedtime

Help your circadian rhythm out by trying to keep standard sleeping hours. Yes, that includes weekends. The idea is that if you train your body to know when to expect sleep and wakefulness, it will prepare itself. If your sleep times are a little haphazard, your body doesn’t know what’s required of it so doesn’t lay the foundation for sleep. Those pre-sleep rituals discussed above can help you get started. For example, you know what time you want to be asleep by, so start preparing your body for it, rather than just launching yourself into bed and willing sleep.

9. Don't stress about not being able to sleep

If you find yourself staring at the ceiling, blinking your bright, alert eyes, don’t fight it. Stress and worry can be an endless spiral. Just take yourself to another room (if you can) and do something relaxing. If you’re in a studio, either pick up a book and keep reading, or pop out of bed and do something you consider peaceful.

Tip: You can also try this quick meditation while lying down: tense your feet (curl your toes, flex your feet) intensely while silently, slowly counting to three then relax for a count of three. Next, tense both your feet and your legs below your knees (calves and shins as well as your feet), again counting to three then relaxing for a count of three. Continue upwards, tensing more of your body each time until you have reached your head, then relax again. Sometimes, just focusing intensely in the moment can help ease anxiety and nudge your mind and body into a ready-to-relax state.

If you suspect that your sleep problems are of a medical nature, check in with your GP or specialist on possible methods to manage it.

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