Updated: Apr 29
Sleep is vital for our mental and physical health. There are certain genes that only get switched on when we sleep and sleep allows our brain to rest and recharge. If we don’t get the right amount of sleep or the right quality of sleep this can inhibit our ability to concentrate, consolidate memory, problem solve, and function generally. Sleeping problems are often linked with physical and mental health problems.
It is recommended that you get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. However, the amount of sleep a person needs varies throughout their life and also varies based on their level of activity.
Here are some basic techniques and tips that may help to improve your sleep:
1. Breathing and relaxation techniques
If you are struggling to fall asleep this may be because you cannot stop thinking or worrying. It often seems like all of your thoughts pop into your head just as you want to go to sleep. To calm your mind, you could try breathing and relaxation techniques. This could be a guided meditation, muscle relaxation or a deep breathing exercise. There are lots of relaxation exercises available online for you to choose from and Three Little Birds will soon be releasing three mindfulness podcasts that you can follow, including a visualisation exercise, mindful breathing exercise, and body scan.
An hour before you would like to go to sleep, switch off your devices and start to wind down. Night-time blue light exposure suppresses the production of the hormone melatonin which you need to sleep. As a result, you may struggle to fall asleep, experience higher alertness before bed, and feel sleepier in the morning. Instead of watching the television or scrolling on your phone before bed, try to do other things to relax like reading a book. If you find it hard to turn off all your devices, there are other ways to reduce your exposure to blue light. You can dim your screen brightness, use red filters on your screen to block blue light or use night-time settings on your devices.
Having the right surroundings can help you get a good night’s sleep. Make sure your bedroom is a cool temperature (the ideal bedroom temperature is 18°C), dark, and quiet. If you can’t achieve this, you can try a sleep mask or earplugs.
4. Try not to worry
Whilst it is easier said than done, it is best to try not to worry about being unable to fall asleep. Avoid checking the time as this can cause anxiety. If you can’t sleep, don’t stay in bed and ruminate. Get up and do something you find relaxing until you feel able to sleep.
Your daily routine can have a big impact on your sleep. It is important to try and get up at the same time every day. If you exercise in the morning or afternoon this can facilitate good sleep. You can also try to practice relaxation techniques during the day so you are less tense at night.
6. Food and Drink
In general, good sleep has been associated with a diet high in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. A diet high in saturated fat and sugars can lead to less restful sleep. You should try and avoid caffeine within 3-4 hours of when you go to bed, as caffeine can reduce the quality of your sleep. Alcohol can also affect your quality of sleep, so it is best to avoid large quantities of alcohol before bed.
These basic tips may help you get a better night’s sleep and improve your mood. However, if you are experiencing consistent sleep problems that are not alleviated by basic techniques, talk to your GP as there may be underlying issues.
Written by Sarah (3LB Volunteer)
The Effects of Blue Light on Your Sleep: The Effects of Blue Light on Your Sleep | Sound Sleep Medical
How Food Affects Your Sleep: How Food Affects Your Sleep | American Sleep Association
NHS self-help guide for sleeping problems: Sleeping Problems.pdf (ntw.nhs.uk)