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If you’re having trouble sleeping, read this list and try to implement it before you hit the pillow. Alternatively, listen to the podcast (without light, either dim the phone light or turn it upside down so no light escapes; we want your Batcave to be as dark as possible to facilitate sleep); we’re sure you’ll be asleep by the time your reach tip fifteen…..I know; I wrote it and needed a nap before I reached the end.

So, before we enter the land of sweet dreams, let’s start with top tip number one.

  1. Maintain a consistent sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time daily. We’re creatures of habit whether we accept the fact or not. We’re biologically programmed to follow the sleep-wake cycle imposed on us by the circadian rhythm, so it’s time we started working with our biology rather than against it. Burning the candle at both ends is a crime against biology that we all commit. We subconsciously acknowledge this fact by making up for a sleep debt incurred during the week by having weekend lie-ins. This is probably the worst thing we could possibly do. It disrupts our normal circadian rhythm and keeps our biology out of sync with nature. Sticking to a regular sleep cycle is far better, especially on the weekends when there’s no work pressure. This is probably the most important tip, and if you apply this regularly in your life, it’ll provide an enormous return on investment.

    I’ve just realised I am beginning to sound like that old Carlsberg advert by constantly using the phrase “This is probably …” Generation X, you know what I am talking about—the time when TV adverts were actually entertaining. Sorry, millennials, you missed out.

    Go on, set a time, and stick to it. I’m betting if you do this one thing for a week, you’ll notice the difference, and if you do this consistently for three months, it’ll become an ingrained habit.
  2. So, it looks like I didn’t convince you with point one, eh? I won’t labour the point about sleep schedules too much because you’ve come to tip two for more advice. But, seriously, a consistent sleep schedule is the most important thing you can do for sleep health. But we’re here in the realm of tip two, so we’ll say farewell to tip one and move on to discover what pearls of sleep wisdom we can learn from this one.

    Tip two is about exercise and how you shouldn’t do it. Wait, before you stop reading and start celebrating, let me qualify that last statement. Exercise is the one thing we all need more of given our sedentary lifestyles; when I say stop exercising, I mean don’t exercise too late in the day. Aim for at least thirty minutes of exercise on most days, ensuring you finish no later than two to three hours before bedtime.
  3. It should be obvious that you shouldn’t drink a cup of coffee instead of a cup of warm milk before bed (unless, of course, you’re lactose intolerant). After all, it’s a stimulant, and the nature of stimulants is to er….stimulate? But when should you stop consuming any stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine? Caffeine-containing drinks remain in the system for up to eight hours after we consume them, so drinking that cup of coffee late in the afternoon can hinder your ability to fall asleep at night. Nicotine, found in cigarettes, is also a stimulant, leading smokers to experience light sleep.

    Moreover, nicotine withdrawal often causes smokers to wake up too early in the morning. Can’t win with cigarettes, can you? Wouldn’t it be better to quit?
  4. This is probably the tip you’ll like the least if you enjoy a nighttime tipple. Did you see what I did there? I used the phrase “This is probably” again, and for a good reason this time: If you enjoy your Carlsberg (do they still make that?), then make sure you don’t drink it at night.

    Tip four, as you probably guessed, is about alcohol. So, try to avoid consuming alcoholic drinks before bedtime. While a nightcap or alcoholic beverage might initially induce relaxation, excessive consumption can disrupt REM sleep, keeping you in lighter sleep stages and making you miss out on those weird and wonderful dreams since dreaming occurs in REM sleep. Heavy alcohol intake may also lead to breathing difficulties during sleep and increase the likelihood of waking up in the middle of the night as the alcohol’s effects diminish….also you might need to interrupt your sleep with the need for a pee.
  5. Avoid large meals and beverages late at night. While a light snack is OK, consuming a heavy three-course meal can lead to indigestion, disrupting sleep. Similarly, excessive fluid intake at night can result in having to get up regularly to urinate.
  6. Avoid medications that delay or disturb your sleep whenever possible. You may be prescribed some medicines for a long-term condition that can interfere with your sleep. Certain commonly prescribed drugs for heart conditions, blood pressure, or asthma, as well as some over-the-counter and herbal remedies for coughs, colds, or allergies, can interfere with sleep patterns. If you think this is the case, speak to your pharmacist or GP to see if changing the time you take the medicine can help. If this doesn’t solve the sleep issues, then you can explore alternatives.
  7. Avoid taking naps after 3 pm. While naps can compensate for sleep deficits, those taken in the late afternoon can interfere with falling asleep at night.
  8. Prioritise relaxation before bedtime. Ensure your day isn’t overscheduled, leaving no time for unwinding. Incorporate a calming activity, such as reading or listening to music (or our amazing podcast), into your bedtime routine.
  9. Indulge in a warm bath before bedtime. The science behind why this actually works is that when we leave the warm bath, our body temperature falls. This drop in temperature signals to our body that we’re ready for sleep. While decreasing body temperature after stepping out of the bath may induce that sleepy sensation, the bath itself can promote relaxation, helping you wind down and prepare for sleep.
  10. Create a conducive sleep environment by ensuring your bedroom, or Batcave is dark, calm, and gadgets-free. So, don’t park the Batmobile in your bedroom – Sorry, I have this constant need to make references to pop culture. To make sure that you keep the bedroom as dark as possible, invest in some thick blackout curtains to give the body the perfect dark environment to allow your pineal gland to pump out that sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. Eliminate other potential sleep distractions, such as noise, uncomfortable bedding, or high temperatures. Maintaining a more relaxed room temperature can enhance sleep quality. Avoid having electronic devices like TVs, cell phones, or computers in the bedroom, as they can disrupt sleep. So, take down that massive wall-mounted super HD widescreen and put it downstairs; you’ll only end up watching QVC at night and, even worse, potentially buying something from the channel! Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillow to support a restful night’s sleep. Remember, “comfortable” doesn’t mean the most expensive mattress. It means the one that’s right for you. We’ll be producing a guide to help you choose your mattress, so stay tuned. If you can’t sleep, what’s the one thing we all do? We look at the time to calculate how much sleep we can cram in before work. But we shouldn’t be fixated on the clock; it’ll only make us more anxious. So, consider positioning any clocks out of view to prevent unnecessary time-watching while trying to fall asleep.
  11. Ensure optimal exposure to sunlight. Daylight plays a crucial role in regulating daily sleep cycles. Aim to spend at least 30 minutes outdoors in natural sunlight each day. If possible, synchronise your waking time with the sunrise or use bright lights in the morning. Sleep experts advise individuals having difficulty falling asleep to seek an hour of morning sunlight exposure and dim the lights before bedtime.
  12. Avoid staying awake in bed. If you’re awake after twenty minutes or if anxiety and worry start to set in, engage in a relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. The stress associated with being unable to sleep can further impede falling asleep. Remember the golden rule: the bedroom should be restricted to only two activities, one of which is sleeping; you can guess the other one.
  13. OK, let’s try to reel back your mind from that last tip; we’re trying to focus on sleeping. Tip thirteen: unlucky for some but lucky for you because this is where we apply our sleep science to help you get better sleep, and it’s about cycles. No, not that type of cycle, but sleep cycles. This is the time it takes for you to complete a full sleep cycle, which involves going through different stages of sleep, such as NREM and REM (if you’ve read our other articles or watched our videos on social media, you’ll know what these terms mean, so if you don’t know, log onto to our TikTok, YouTube, Instagram or Facebook pages to find out…oh and while you’re there please subscribe). Try to sleep in ninety-minute cycles so you don’t wake up mid-cycle. This ensures you go through the full range of NREM and REM sleep and wake up refreshed. The average cycle length is 90 minutes, so try to count the number of cycles rather than hours. So instead of 7 hours, try sleeping for five cycles, which works to 7.5 hours.
  14. Use some lavender oils to help you nod off. Research has suggested that a subtle hint of the smell of lavender can help with sleep quality. You can sprinkle lavender on pillows or bedclothes or have a diffuser waft the soothing scents of lavender into the bedroom….feeling sleepy already.
  15. Yawn. You are what you feel. So, do this right now: smile. How did you feel? Now frown. OK, you get where I am going with this, but we can influence our moods and feelings by how we behave physically. So, it’s time for some hypnosis. You’re feeling very sleepy; your eyelids are drooping, and your arms are heavy…… zzzz.

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