Ten tips for a good night’s sleep

Need some help with getting a good night of sleep? Read our top ten sleep tips...

We talk a lot about how babies disrupt your sleep in the early days (and years) of motherhood. But what if your children are finally sleeping through and you're still staring at the ceiling for hours in bed, unable to nod off?

Sleep is so precious when you're a parent, and there's nothing more frustrating than not being able to sleep when you're tired. There are many factors that may affect your night-time, from your environment to stress and food.

So what can you do to help you happily drift off? From The Sleep Coach Max Kirsten, here's top 10 tips for achieving a great night's sleep.

  1. Make sure you develop a good sleep routine. Ideally try and go to bed at the same time every night when you can (obviously there will be times when you break your routine, such as a late night, or travel). It's useful to begin to wind down from life-admin like work and family-related emails many hours before bed. Have a hot bath or hot shower before bed as this has been shown to improve the speed at which you relax.
  1. Reduce caffeine. We all know that caffeine can keep you awake and it stays in your body much longer than you would think. I recommend reducing your caffeine about eight hours before bedtime as this will help you fall asleep easier. You will find caffeine not only in coffee and tea, green tea and many carbonated soft drinks. Also be careful of eating too much chocolate which contains cacao (which acts very similarly caffeine as it's in the same family). If you've already had too much caffeine, try eating carbohydrates like bread or biscuits to help reduce the effect.
  2. Drink alcohol...only in moderation. Although alcohol may help you to fall asleep, it can also cause symptoms like dehydration, nightmares, headaches and sweats. If you must drink alcohol before bed, I recommend that you also drink water, but be careful not to drink too much water because that alone will have you waking in the night. Alcohol can interfere with your sleep architecture.
  3. Drink less water in the evening. A big glass of water right before bed may cause you to wake in the night disrupting deep sleep. Only sip water minimally as needed in bed.
  4. Get tired during the day. It's important to use up energy throughout the day. We have a 21st-century sedentary lifestyle where most of our time is spent sitting which can lead to a feeling of unfulfilled energy. Being active, and going, or doing something that pushes your physical body regularly to the limit means that in the evenings when you climb into bed you are ready to relax and let go. Get out and about with your children. Learn how to relax.
  5. Control your sleep environment. Ideally your bedroom should be dark, comfortable and quiet. Optimise and control your sleep environment. Evaluate your bed, and of course the mattress upon which a third of your life is being spent. If your bed is uncomfortable - too soft, to hard, or just unsupportive –invest in a better bed. If you haven't changed your mattress for between 5 to 8 years look into replacing it with something like perhaps an Eve mattress. Also the temperature of your bedroom for sleep should ideally become lower by a few degrees which has been shown to improve deep and restful sleep. The bedroom for sleep should be as dark as possible, ideally switch off electronic devices. Ideally keep the TV out of the bedroom.
  6. Reduce late-night exposure to blue LED light. Sleep research has shown that bluelight from smart phones, tablets, and computer screens reduces the production of the sleep hormone melatonin that is produced in the pineal gland in your brain. Blue light through the optic nerve tells your brain that it is still daytime. Either switch off all devices a few hours before bedtime. Television however is still fine, as the screen is far enough away so as not to cause this problem (you can read about a good solution to blue LED light in our latest Night Feed Nine)
  7. Work out your pre-sleep routine. Poor sleep preparation can lead to having poor sleep. Research shows that taking a hot bath, is helpful. Feeling clean, with a hot body that cools slowly in bed with a wonderful feeling. Find some comfortable bedclothes.
  8. Avoid large heavy meals and alcohol late at night. Digesting a rich heavy meal makes it harder to fall asleep. Eat light and clean. Vegetables like tomatoes, fruit, even a bowl of cereal is better than going to sleep on an empty stomach which can also keep you up. Although alcohol in small doses can be helpful for sleep, the downside is that it also can interfere with your sleep architecture. Meaning that you will probably be waking feeling dehydrated in the middle of the night.
  9. Clear your mind before sleep. If there is a lot on your mind get into the practice of writing things down so they are there to deal with in the morning. Then when you turn out the light, learn techniques that help you to relax physically and then mentally so that you can begin to drift off. I recommend you take three deep slow breaths and after each breath relax your body and mind just before going to sleep.

Do you have any tips for a good night of sleep? Make sure you also read our quick health hacks for tired mums and dads too.

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