How to get a better night's sleep

How to get a better night's sleep
Photo by Brett Jordan / Unsplash

Getting a better night's sleep is crucial for your overall health and well-being, especially in today's fast-paced world.


When we sleep, our brain and body go through several different stages that make up the sleep cycle. Think of it as going on a journey each night, where each part of the journey does something good for your body and mind. Here's a simple breakdown of these stages:

 1. Light Sleep

Stage 1: This is like dozing off. You're just starting to fall asleep, and it's easy to wake up. This stage is short, usually lasting only a few minutes.

Stage 2: You're in a slightly deeper sleep now. Your body starts to relax more, your heart rate slows down, and your body temperature drops. You spend a lot of your sleep time in this stage.

2. Deep Sleep

Stage 3: Now, you're in a deep sleep. It's harder to wake you up. This stage is super important because it's when your body does most of its healing and growing. It's also when your immune system gets a boost to fight off sickness.

3. REM Sleep (Rapid Eye Movement Sleep)

After deep sleep, you enter REM sleep. This is where dreams happen. Your brain is very active, almost like when you're awake, but your body is very relaxed. REM sleep is important for your brain to process and store memories, learn new things, and regulate your mood.

You go through these stages multiple times throughout the night, cycling between light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. Each cycle lasts about 90 minutes, and then it starts over again. As the night goes on, you spend more time in REM sleep and less time in deep sleep.

 Understanding these stages helps us see how each part of sleep is important for feeling rested and for our overall health. It's like putting together pieces of a puzzle where every piece is crucial for the complete picture of good health.

Here are practical tips designed to help you improve your sleep quality:


1. Establish a Regular Sleep Schedule

Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Consistency reinforces your body's sleep-wake cycle. It is also important to listen to your body. It is easier to fall asleep, and stay asleep if you go to bed when you first feel you are getting tired at the end of the day. This might be as early as 8pm for you but don't resist that first sign when your body tells you that it's time to wind down. Simply drop everything and notice how soon you'll fall asleep.

 2. Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

Engage in calming activities before bedtime, like reading a book, taking a warm bath, meditation, praying, journaling and reflection, or practicing relaxation exercises. Avoid stimulating activities that can make it harder to fall asleep.

 3. Optimize Your Sleep Environment

Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature. Consider using blackout curtains, eye masks, earplugs, or white noise machines to create an ideal sleeping environment.

 4. Watch Your Diet

Avoid heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime. Also, be cautious with nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol, as they can disrupt sleep.

 5. Limit Naps

If you choose to nap during the day, limit yourself to about 20-30 minutes. Longer naps can interfere with night time sleep.

 6. Exercise Regularly

Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep. However, avoid being active too close to bedtime as it might leave you too energized to fall asleep.

 7. Manage Worries and Stress

Try to resolve your worries or concerns before bedtime. Jotting down what's on your mind can be a good way to transfer your thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Try to reduce stress and the things that make you feel stressed. Taking time out for a break or holiday can help to manage stress.

 8. Limit Exposure to Screens

The blue light emitted by phones, tablets, and computers can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Try to avoid these screens for at least an hour before bed.

Sleep is a vital, often neglected, component of every person's overall health and well-being. It enables the body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up. Healthy sleep also helps the body remain healthy and stave off diseases. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly, affecting your cognition, concentration, productivity, and performance.

Here’s why improving sleep is crucial.

 Restores and Heals the Body: During sleep, your body repairs muscles, organs, and other cells. The immune system also gets a boost, helping you fight off diseases.

 Enhances Brain Function: Sleep is critical for cognitive processes. It helps consolidate memories, making it easier to learn and retain information. Adequate sleep improves focus, creativity, and problem-solving skills.

 Maintains Emotional Balance: Good sleep can improve mood and reduce the risk of emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety. It helps regulate emotions and enhances overall well-being.

 Supports Physical Health: Sleep plays a role in the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. It is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.

 Helps with Weight Management: Proper sleep affects the hormones that control appetite. Lack of sleep is linked to an increase in hunger and appetite, often leading to obesity.

 Boosts Immunity: Adequate sleep can improve your immune function, reducing your risk of common infections.

Given the critical role sleep plays in every aspect of our health, improving sleep quality and quantity should be a priority for everyone. Simple changes in your daily habits can have a profound effect on your sleep quality, such as sticking to a regular sleep schedule, creating a restful environment, limiting screen time before bed, and managing stress. By prioritising sleep, you're investing in your long-term health and quality of life.

Are you ready to embrace a healthier, more vibrant life through better sleep? Start tonight! Make sleep a non-negotiable part of your daily routine, just like eating and breathing. To summarise, here are some tips for better sleep:

 Set a Sleep Schedule

 Create a Bedtime Ritual

 Optimise Your Bedroom Environment

Limit Screen Time

 Address Stress

Seek Help if Needed: If sleep remains elusive despite your best efforts, consider reaching out to a healthcare professional for guidance.

Useful Resources

Every Mind Matters has good information on how to improve your sleep.

In his Radio 4 podcast series, Sleep Well, Dr Michael Mosley shares scientifically proven techniques to help you drift off.

Dr Matthew Walker's sleep hacks

Listen t0 this deep dive by Dr Matthew Walker, the world's no. 1 sleep expert on the 6 sleep hacks you need.

Remember, improving your sleep can transform your health, mood, and overall quality of life. Don't wait for a better night's sleep to come to you—take the first step tonight. Your body (and mind) will thank you!

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