Tips for Getting a Good Night's Sleep
Most, if not all of us, struggle to get to sleep at some point in our lives. For some, this can be short-lived, but for others, not being able to sleep may be a longer-lasting problem.
Whilst we are not medical professionals and so cannot offer any specific advice (nor do we claim that this advice is exhaustive, either!) - there are a few things that everyone can do to develop good sleeping habits.
The Sleep Geek, James Wilson, also shares his own top tips for getting a good night’s sleep.
Improve your sleeping environment
It's important to ensure your bedroom is set up ready for a good night's sleep. Follow our tips below to create a calm and distraction-free space to help lull you to sleep.
Mattress Online’s very own Sleep Geek, James Wilson, suggests that the key to a good sleeping environment is to be as consistent as possible.
The Sleep Geek says...
Falling asleep in an inconsistent environment can create disturbances that cause you to come out of your sleep cycle during the night.
For example, some people enjoy listening to relaxing music when going to sleep. However, if this music is timed to turn off at a certain point, a person with a history of poor sleeping may be woken by this change. Once their overactive brain kicks in, it will become difficult to fall back to sleep again.
Minimising triggers such as changes in light and noise levels helps us to enjoy a deeper, undisturbed sleep.
Reduce noise levels
If you are having trouble sleeping, think about reducing your noise levels. A calm, quiet bedroom helps some people to sleep well. However, consistency is the key - if you go to sleep with noise then try to maintain that noise all night long. Some people find that ‘white noise’ helps with this. Alternatively, if you need quiet, make sure you have quiet throughout the night. This can be hard to achieve if you live somewhere like an inner city or if you have a noisy sleeping partner.
One solution is to use foam earplugs to help block out unwanted noise for a more restful night.
Block out light
It is generally better to sleep in the dark. When it's dark, your body releases a hormone called melatonin. This helps you to drift off to sleep. However, not everyone likes to sleep without a light on, especially children. Some people find they need the emotional reassurance of a little light to fall asleep. Again, consistency is what’s important here. Turning off your child’s light later in the evening risks disrupting their sleeping pattern, causing them to stir.
If darkness is for you but you find it isn't dark enough in your bedroom, you could invest in black-out blinds or use an eye mask to help reduce light levels.
Keep your bedroom slightly cool
A room temperature of around 16-18°C is usually recommended for a good night's sleep. However, try modifying the temperature so it suits you perfectly. Try our tips on how to keep your bedroom and your mattress cool.
Mattress Online’s Sleep Geek suggests that for couples with different temperature comfort levels, separate duvets can be an excellent solution.
The Sleep Geek says...
Many couples will understand that where one person may feel perfectly cosy and warm, another might be clawing at their duvet in a fit of heat rage. Having separate duvets allows each partner to choose the tog that suits their specific sleep needs.
Reduce any distractions
Never before have we had so many devices, all demanding our attention. Whilst being connected to our loved ones can be wonderful, being able to switch off and wind down is an important part of being able to sleep.
Try to turn your room into a calm haven. Turn off your phone or, if possible, leave it in another room while you sleep. If you use your phone as an alarm, make sure you put it in sleep mode at bedtime. Learn to associate your bedroom with relaxation and sleep.
However, the Sleep Geek knows that, realistically, it’s not always easy for us to put our screens away at bedtime. Here he offers an alternative solution:
The Sleep Geek says...
"It is not so much the device that is the issue, but the choices we make around what we do on it. Steer clear of accessing work emails, consuming content that’s related to work or scrolling through social media to see what people have been up to. Certain hobbies, such as gaming, are not always the right thing to do just before bed. Although fun, they can put your brain in active mode, making it harder to wind down."
"We need a drop in heart rate to be relaxed enough to fall asleep and sustain sleep. So ask yourself: ‘is this thing I am doing before bed stimulating me or relaxing me?’"
Take a look at your lifestyle
Making changes to your sleeping environment isn't the only way to improve the quality of your sleep. It's important to consider making improvements to your daily routine and lifestyle, too. Take a look at our tips below.
Keep to a schedule
Try your best to go to bed and get up at roughly the same time everyday, even on weekends. This helps your body to learn when you should be tired, and allows you to feel ready for sleep at the right time. However, don’t feel too bad if you don’t achieve this. In reality, it’s almost impossible to force yourself to sleep at the same time each night. And worrying too much about achieving this can actually impact sleep. Use this as a rule of thumb. If you do feel awake when approaching your scheduled bedtime, don’t force yourself to bed, rather, stay up and continue to wind down until you feel sleepy.
A good way to achieve this is to understand your sleep type and use this knowledge to create a schedule that works for you, according to the Sleep Geek.
The Sleep Geek says...
"You may have heard some people describe themselves as either a lark or an owl. These terms relate to the time of the day when a person starts to feel sleepy and when they are prone to waking up. You can think of these categories as a person's ‘sleep type’. Understanding your sleep type helps you to better target the period in which you feel most comfortable sleeping. Think about sleep type as a timeline, with early types (larks) at the beginning and late types (owls) at the end. We all sit on this line somewhere, with most of us somewhere in the middle. Many have a slight preference one way or the other, while some are more extreme."
"This sleep type then gives us a window of opportunity for waking up and going to sleep. If you know how long you usually like to sleep, you can target your bedtime at the evening window and ensure you wake up in your morning window."
Consistent ‘wake up’ times drive us to feel sleepy at a similar time every night. This helps to build a more consistent routine. Be aware that lie ins are not always helpful for consistency. If you do have one, try to keep it under an hour and a half from when you usually wake up.
Finally, do not go to bed if you are not sleepy. Continue to wind down and let sleepiness come. You want to avoid associating your bedroom with somewhere you toss and turn and ultimately fail to sleep. Better to stay up until you feel more ready to drift off.
Take time to wind down
Notice how we create bedtime routines for babies and children, but we often neglect ourselves? We can all benefit from a relaxing bedtime routine to help us wind down after a long day.
Try doing something calming a couple of hours before going to sleep. This could include taking a bath, listening to relaxing music or reading a book.
James Wilson, alter ego of the Sleep Geek, has a few of his own wind-down tips to help you relax in time for bed. He says to treat the hour before bed as a ‘golden hour’. Use this time to focus on lowering your heart rate (through relaxation) and dropping your core temperature.
The Sleep Geek says...
"You might not realise this, but a warm bath or shower actually helps lower your core temperature. The warm water on your skin stimulates blood circulation that can draw heat away from the core."
The body’s core temperature tends to be lower as you sleep than when you are awake. Slightly dropping the core temperature can help to prepare the body for sleep.
James says the secret is to then get ready for bed. This prevents you from waking yourself up and going through the rigmarole of getting brushed and dressed for bed just as you start to feel sleepy.
However, it is important to reiterate that you should not go to bed if you do not feel sleepy. It is far better to simply continue winding down until you feel sleepiness come over you.
Drinks such as coffee and tea (containing caffeine), or cigarettes (containing nicotine) are stimulants which prevent us from feeling sleepy. Caffeine can even cause problems with sleeping ten to twelve hours after you have consumed it!
Try to avoid stimulants after mid-afternoon or replace your usual drink with a non-caffeinated option. This will help you get a more restful night's sleep.
Limit alcohol intake
Despite making you feel sleepy, alcohol actually reduces sleep quality and can make you wake up in the night.
Try to limit alcohol for more restorative sleep. Not only will you enjoy better quality sleep, you'll also wake up feeling brighter and headache-free the morning after!
Avoid eating late
We know that sneaky evening snacks can be all too tempting sometimes! However, eating too close to bedtime, particularly spicy or fatty foods, can reduce sleep quality.
If you're really peckish, eating carbohydrate-based foods containing the amino acid tryptophan can actually promote sleep. Examples of foods high in tryptophan are bananas, peanuts, oats, milk and yoghurt. So, cereal with milk or peanut butter on toast can all help to release this sleepiness-inducing chemical.
Get regular exercise
With so many of us now working in sedentary jobs, it's never been more essential to take regular exercise.
There are literally hundreds of benefits that exercise offers. Aside from improving both our physical and mental health, regular exercise can improve sleep quality, too.
So long as you don't exercise too close to bedtime (which may wake you up rather than make you feel sleepy!) exercise is a great way to help you to drift off more easily.
Try to reduce stress
Our lives can be busy and stressful, and this can affect the quality of our sleep. When we're feeling stressed, we can find it difficult to wind down in the evenings, or we might find ourselves not able to fall asleep, despite being really tired.
The Sleep Geek explains that humans are designed to not fall asleep if they are stressed and anxious.
The Sleep Geek says...
It is during the night that we are in our most vulnerable state. And while we don’t really have predators anymore, worries can still trigger our body’s fight-or-flight instinct.
The effect is that we then have the stress hormone adrenaline pumped around our system, delaying sleep. The next day we can feel exhausted and certainly not at our best. It is much easier to get both the quality and quantity of sleep we need when we are relaxed at bedtime.
Some people may drink too many caffeinated drinks to help stay alert, or take a little nap after work. However, these serve only to make sleeping the following night even more of a struggle.
However, there are lots of ways we can reduce stress levels and feel better. Why not try spending a little bit of time each day doing something to relax to help reduce stress.
Here are a few suggestions that you could try.
- Spend time with a good friend
- Watch a comedy
- Go for a relaxing walk
- Read a relaxing book, nothing too engaging
- Listen to slow, more calming music
- Take a bath
It could be, however, that you need to take a closer look at the aspects of your life that cause you stress and sleeping difficulties.
If you are at all concerned with any difficulties you may have with stress or sleeping, it is always a good idea to seek professional help.
Consider getting a new bed and mattress
Are you getting a good night's sleep anywhere but your own bed? It might be time for a change.
The National Bed Federation recommend changing your bed and mattress every seven years.
However, the following can all be signs that you need to invest in a new bed and mattress sooner:
- A worn-out, lumpy mattress
- Waking up with a sore back
- Tossing and turning more than usual at night
If you need more information, visit our guide on when to upgrade your mattress.
What size do you need?
Maybe you're not getting a good night's sleep because your bed isn't big enough for your needs.
Did you know that a double bed only offers each person the same personal space as a cot-bed? You may want to consider a king-size bed if you have the space.
Check out our mattress and bed size guide for further advice and information.
What are your comfort and support needs?
Perhaps your mattress no longer offers you the right level of support.
Firmness preference is a highly personal choice. You might like to visit our mattress firmness guide for more help and advice.
We can help!
With options such as memory foam, pocket springs or even natural fillings, there's something for everyone. Why not take a look at our huge range and let us help you create the best night's sleep, night after night.
Seeking further help
Sleeping difficulties could have underlying causes. It may be helpful to get further advice and support from your doctor if you are concerned about this.