How to Sleep Better: Tips, Advice & Guidance
Tired of feeling tired? You’re not alone.
It’s believed that 1 in 3 of us will struggle with some form of insomnia during our lifetimes1. This isn’t just a problem that affects us at night, it has a major knock-on effect for much of our waking lives too. From a lack of productivity at work, to increased feelings of stress, a drop in mood and even physical health problems2.
Sleep deprivation can be a waking hell for many3, but we’re here to help get you back on track. If you’re struggling, our advice and guidance on how to sleep better is intended to help give you the best chance of a good night’s sleep.
Remember, sleep aids are helpful to get your head down and settle your circadian rhythm, but there’s plenty of other factors that need to be addressed if you’re going to really find yourself sleeping better on a more permanent basis.
Rule out chronic sleep conditions
The first step to getting enough sleep at night is to understand what the issue is. Are you suffering from a temporary bout of sleeplessness or is this part of a bigger issue?
Sleep aids are not a resolution for chronic sleep conditions, it’s important to seek the advice of your GP if you think you’re suffering from a long term health issue. Below we outline some of the most common chronic sleep conditions.
Insomnia: symptoms & treatment
Insomnia is a serious condition where an individual suffers from chronic sleeplessness. This can go on for months or even years and be extremely debilitating for the sufferer. The inability to sleep at night can make it difficult to be productive at work or even undertake routine daily tasks like driving a vehicle1.
The symptoms of insomnia include:
- Lying awake for extended periods of time at night, incapable of sleeping
- Waking up regularly throughout the night
- Not being able to get back to sleep once awake
- Not feeling refreshed when awake
- Unable to nap, despite feeling tired
- General feelings of tiredness and irritability
- Inability to concentrate
It’s possible to suffer from mild or acute bouts of insomnia which come and go without the need for treatment. These can usually be traced back to external factors like stress, lifestyle or life events such as moving home, getting married or changing jobs1.
Chronic insomnia can be worsened or triggered by external factors but presents a problem over a significant period of time for the sufferer. The inability to experience regular healthy sleep is an issue which should be brought to the attention of your GP.
There are a number of treatments for insomnia though these usually involve changing the sleeping environment4, working on your sleep routine4 and keeping a sleep diary5. GPs usually avoid recommending the use of a sleeping aid for chronic insomnia1 as these can mask the issue for the sufferer. Sleeping aids are only recommended for short-term or temporary sleeplessness.
Sleep apnoea: symptoms & treatments
Sleep apnoea is a condition where an individual’s breathing is regularly interrupted during the night6. The most common is named obstructive sleep apnoea and occurs when the throat muscles and soft tissue relax and collapses obstructing the airways7. There are other rarer forms of sleep apnoea which have different causes for interrupted breathing, such as central sleep apnoea where the brain doesn’t send breathing signals to the relevant muscles during sleep7.
This regular stopping and starting of breathing during sleep can interrupt an individual’s sleep and increase the risk of developing other serious health conditions7.
The symptoms of sleep apnoea include6:
- Interrupted breathing during the night
- Snorting, choking or gasping noises during the night
- Noisy or laboured breathing
- Loud snoring
- Waking frequently
- Feeling tired
- Difficult concentrating
- Mood swings
- Headaches when waking up
The lack of oxygen can lead your brain to pull your body out of deep sleep into lighter sleep or wakefulness to ensure your airways open up again. This can make you feel very tired, though the patient will often have no memory of this happening in the morning7.
Sleep apnoea is a serious condition and you should see your GP for treatment if you believe you suffer from this condition.
Review your sleep habits
So, you’ve ruled out a chronic sleep condition. It may not seem like it now, but that’s good news for you. Your sleep problems could be helped with a combination of treatment and aids, as well as environment / habit changes.
So, are you holding onto any poor sleep habits?
Here’s what to avoid close to bedtime8:
- Watching TV, playing on your phone or using electronic devices
- Exposing yourself to bright light
- Listening to upbeat or energetic music
- Eating big meals
- Worrying yourself with concerns which don’t need immediate resolutions
- Working in bed
Improve your sleep hygiene
Sleep hygiene may sound complicated, but it’s a rather simple and effective analogy that’s important to remember.
Every day, we undertake activities like brushing our teeth, washing and basic personal grooming that ensure we possess good hygiene. Sleep hygiene is not too dissimilar. This involves the simple things that we should do and ensure are in place to improve our sleep experience. This includes a variety of aspects, such as the environment you sleep in, the temperature of your room and your bedtime routine8.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, these simple tips should help:
Go to sleep & wake up at regular times
Consistency is key.
Your body likes to stay regulated. This means that going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day will help your body clock stay in sync8.
Keep to a regular bedtime routine
It helps your body if you take a run-up to sleep. A regular routine of activities before bed will help your body to feel tired and ready for rest8. Conditioning your body with a routine like this can be a powerful tool in your arsenal for regular nightly rest.
Avoid sleeping during the day
Napping might sound like a great idea if you’re feeling exhausted during the day, though anything longer than 30 minutes is likely to cause problems getting your head down in the evening. Try your best to get through the day and head to sleep in the evening at a reasonable time.
Create a restful sleeping environment
Creating the perfect sleeping environment relies on getting all of the external factors right when you climb into bed. Think about the following:
- Make sure the temperature of your room isn’t too hot and not too cold9
- Keep your room nice and dark during the night10
- Update your mattress regularly to be sure it’s giving you the support your body needs
- Fresh sheets always make the most comfortable night’s sleep
- Maintain a quiet house when trying to sleep
- Add some white noise if it makes you sleep better
- Put your tech on ‘do not disturb’ settings
Tips to help you sleep better
Getting better sleep in the long term isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight. This involves routine and lifestyle changes which start positioning sleep as a priority for you. The advice and tips below aren’t quick wins which are guaranteed to help you nod off, instead they’re tips which combined together give you the best possible chance of improving the amount you sleep each night.
Here’s how to sleep better…
Put your tech away before bed
The bright lights given off from TV, phones and tablets are designed to keep you awake and alert . This is counterintuitive when trying to sleep. Stop replying to that late night text.
Put your tech away within the hour before bed.
Keep your bed for just sleep
Ideally, your bed should be used just for sleep. If you’re going to catch up on work emails in the evening, do it away from the bedroom if you can. Try not to lie in bed watching TV before bedtime either, it will make switching off harder when you try to get to sleep.
Try reading before bed
Reading is a great activity for winding down shortly before bed. The peace and quiet is ideal for keeping your mind clear and it also helps to keep you away from the bright lights of your TV or phone.
Watch your caffeine and alcohol intake
That relaxing cup of tea you’re drinking a few hours before bed is doing more to stimulate your body than you think12. When struggling with not getting enough rest, it’s important to cut out caffeine after lunch time. Don’t panic, your morning coffee can stay.
Alcohol is another drink to avoid when you can. It might help you drift off but it reduces the quality of the sleep you get and you won’t get the rest your body is really craving12.
Keep a sleep diary
Track the amount of sleep you get each night, record what’s keeping you up at night and track progress. It sounds simple enough but you’ll be surprised how actually writing this down will help you to notice the trends which are hampering your efforts5.
Practice meditation and mindfulness
A quiet mind is essential to getting enough sleep at night. Meditation and mindfulness are great ways of helping us to unwind and relax in the evening13 – especially if you live a fast-paced and busy lifestyle.
Meditation can be difficult when you start but with a little practice, you’ll be amazed by how peaceful you can feel. Clearing your mind and focusing on your breathing offers a lot of benefits to our bodies and mental health.
Don't obsess over getting 8 hours
As with everything in life, everyone is different. Don’t obsess over the amount of sleep you get. 8 really isn’t the magic number of hours you should be getting. Above all of this, you should be listening to your body, understanding how you feel and getting more rest if you think you need it.
Don't force it
You can’t sleep, so you lie awake in bed getting worked up about the thought of needing to sleep. This feeling of anxiety is all you can think about and makes you even more alert. It’s a vicious cycle.
Don’t force it. Get up, have a glass of water and try again when you’ve calmed down a little.
Give your body clock a helping hand
If you’re struggling from a temporary bout of sleeplessness, it can be helpful to give your body clock a little nudge back into a routine with the help of Nytol. Our sleep aids are clinically proven to help you get a good night’s sleep.
Browse our range of Nytol products here to get a feel for which is best suited to you.
Nytol One-A-Night Tablets contain diphenhydramine. An aid to the relief of temporary sleep disturbance. Always read the leaflet.
- Insomnia- NHS
- The effects of sleep deprivation – Johns Hopkins Medicine
- What to know about sleep deprivation – Medical News Today
- Insomnia: Self-help tips – NHS Inform
- How to get to sleep – NHS
- Sleep apnoea – NHS
- Obstructive sleep apnoea – NHS Inform
- Sleep hygiene – Headspace
- Perfect sleep environment – The Sleep Council
- Lights out for a good night’s sleep – Sleep Foundation
- Light, sleep, and circadian rhythms: Together again – Derk-Jan Dijk, Simon N. Archer
- Sleep hygiene: An information guide – NHS
- Meditation for sleep – Headspace