1 Be active
Research suggests that regular aerobic exercise like walking, cycling, dancing or swimming helps you fall asleep faster, enjoy deeper sleepand wake up less often during the night. There’s also some evidence that regular exercise can help to ease restless legs, a condition that causes an irresistible urge to move your legs and which often strikes during the night. But try not to exercise within two hours of your bedtime as this could make it harder to drop off, not easier.
2 Create a sleep haven
Your bedroom should be cool, dark and quiet and you should only use it for sleeping and sex. Thick curtains could help to reduce both light and sound, or think about installing double-glazing if noise from the street is a problem. Heavy rugs and carpets will help to absorb sound too, or you could consider wearing earplugs. Make sure your bedroom is cool, perhaps by opening the window an hour or two before bed. Removing all electrical equipment, such as computers, televisions and phones, will also help to cut down stimulation and create a peaceful sanctuary for sleep.
3 Stay regular
Your waking and sleeping hours is controlled by a built-in timer called the circadian cycle. The more you stay in sync with this cycle, the better you tend to feel (that’s why jet lag makes us feel so awful!). Research shows that people who have regular sleep and waking times are less likely to experience insomnia and also depression. To encourage good sleep, experts recommend you stick to the same sleep and waking times each day, even at weekends or if you have had a late night or a poor night’s sleep.
4 See the light
One of the main things that keeps your circadian cycle regular is the action of daylight on your brain via your eyes. Exposure to light during the day keeps you feeling alert and awake, while the darkness of night makes you feel sleepy. This effect is so powerful that, when researchers exposed volunteers to lights at different times of the day, their body clocks altered to fit the new light pattern. Making sure you get out into the daylight each day, and keeping lights low before bedtime will encourage a healthy night’s sleep. It’s also why keeping your bedroom dark at night is so important.
5 Get a little help from nature
While sleeping tablets are only effective in the short term, natural alternatives can offer safe, long-term support with sleep problems. You may like to try Melissa Dream™ (£7.99 for 20 tablets), which has been developed by New Nordic. Melissa Dream™ and includes a range of bioactive micronutrients and herbal extracts, including lemon balm and chamomile extracts to promote restful sleep, plus Vitamin B complex and magnesium to support the nervous system. Find out more at www.newnordic.co.uk
6 Get up and do something
If you tend to be wakeful at night, don’t just lie there – do something! Spending too much time lying awake in bed at night simply trains you to associate your bed with wakefulness, say sleep experts. Instead, if you are awake for more than 15 minutes, get up and do something relaxing, such as a reading or listening to music. If worries are keeping you awake at night, write them down – they’ll keep till the morning.
7 Nap wisely
In later life we tend to sleep more lightly and wake more often during the night. Daytime snoozes can be a useful way to make up for lost sleep, but there are a few simple rules to follow. If possible, try to nap at the same time every day, ideally just after lunch. People who nap later in the day tend to fall into a deeper sleep, which can disrupt nighttime sleep. For the same reason, it’s best not to sleep for more than an hour. Even 15-20 minutes of shut-eye can be enough to refresh you.