Sleep can help us feel refreshed, re-energised, help with focus and concentration, and improve memory.
Getting the right amount of sleep is important for all these reasons plus it helps us manage how we feel and cope with stress more effectively. There are many things that can affect our sleep but there are lots of simple strategies that can help get us back on track.
Strategies often suggested:
A quick search of the internet will lead you to some of these evidence based strategies:
- Make your bedroom somewhere you feel sleepy
- Set a fixed wake up time – it’s one thing we can actually control
- Avoid napping during the day if you have trouble sleeping at night
- Do something relaxing for at least 30 minutes before bed
- Dim bedroom lights and switch off if you can for sleep
- Disconnect from devices – the blue light affects melatonin levels which makes it harder to fall asleep
- Get outside into the sun during the day
- Try to move your body or exercise during the day so you feel tired at night
- Cut back on caffeine
- Be mindful of your alcohol use – drinking alcohol often leads to a poor sleep
- Make bed for sleep or sex only. Take all other activities elsewhere
- If you can’t sleep, get up, do some relaxing activities for 30 minutes then try again
- Try some relaxation techniques like guided meditation or progressive muscle relaxation
- Listen to music or a sleepcast to help get you in the mind set to sleep
Below you will find three common blocks (barriers and misconceptions) that can have detrimental effects on our sleeping patterns.
I have too much study/work to do, I can’t go to bed early
Many of us are juggling lots of commitments and may struggle to find enough time in the day to meet all these demands. Some of us may feel the only time we have for study is late at night and therefore we can’t go to sleep early. This can impact on how well we function the next day as well as our study performance. Developing better time management and organisation skills may assist in having a more helpful routine that doesn’t mean endless late nights studying.
I’ve tried everything to help me sleep better - nothing works
There are many strategies we can try to get a better sleep and for some of us it feels like we have tried them all with no success. For habits to form (positive or negative) it takes time. We also need to be consistent in our approach to see the benefits. Are there some things you could try more regularly that would help you get a better nights sleep?
I’m just not tired at the time I’m meant to be
If you aren't tired when you are meant to be it is likely that you are also tired when you aren't meant to be, for example in the morning. In order to re-adjust your body clock you will need to go to bed when you are tired, which initially could be very late, but then you need to get up at a normal time. So you are likely to have had less sleep than required at first, but this will increase your sleep drive and so you will fall asleep earlier. The trick to falling asleep at the right time, is to get up 7-8 hours from the desired bed time - regardless of how much sleep you have had.
Below are three things you can do to boost success.
Make your bedroom conducive to sleep
Keep your bed for sleep only so your body associates bed with sleep. If you use bed as a place to watch TV, eat, read, work on your laptop, pay bills, and other things, your body will not make this connection. Removing distractions from your room so it is primarily used for sleep can assist in a more positive sleep routine. It is very important that your bed and bedroom are quiet and comfortable for sleeping. A cooler room with enough blankets to stay warm is best, and make sure you have curtains or an eye mask to block out early morning light and earplugs if there is noise outside your room.
Establish a good sleep routine
To help establish a good sleep routine, try the following: go to bed/wake up at the same time every day. No daytime napping for longer than 20 minutes or after 5 pm. Reduce/remove screens from your bedroom or at least stop watching screens at least 1 hour before going to bed. Exercise, eating right and avoiding caffeine and alcohol are also helpful strategies to improve your sleep.
Listen to something that works for you
From mindfulness meditations to sleepcasts and soothing music, there are lots of ways to tune in to a calming mindset that can help us fall asleep. Mindfulness techniques help to manage/minimise our thoughts and worries before going to bed or whilst in bed. If your mind is full it can be hard to go to sleep, even if you're feeling tired. Using mindfulness tools can assist you in getting to sleep. The mind’s tendency to get caught up in thoughts is perhaps strongest at bedtime, when we stop and are still. Meditation for sleep is a specific, guided experience that offers a natural sleep aid all on its own, allowing us to let go of the day, so that we can rest our mind and body.
If you prefer to listen to a sleepcast or soothing music, turn the volume down low and pick something that induces calming thoughts. Headspace have some great suggestions.
Need more info?
- Sleep hub
- Head to Health - sleep
- Centre for Clinical Interventions - sleep
- Headspace - sleep
- Melatonin information
Sleep training & apps