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10 easy ways to sleep better tonight

Sleep is the most important thing our bodies do, so if you're not getting enough it's time to take control. Start here

By Andrea Tim | Published: 8 Jan 2015

Get better sleep
Photo: Getty Images

Can't sleep? And feeling even worse about it because you know how important good sleep is, right? (In case you don't, click here for a little insight.) For starters, lose the sleeping pills and take the natural, no meds course. Then try these 10 things that are proven to not only help you get more sleep (and fast), but get better quality sleep too.

1. Keep to a regular time
It's the most obvious step, really, so why don't we pay attention to it? Dr. Suresh Kotagal, a paediatric neurologist and sleep medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota suggests maintaining a "relatively fixed morning wake-up time that does not change too much from the weekdays to the weekend." If you are getting enough sleep, your body will eventually develop a bio-clock and you won't need an alarm to wake up on time, feeling refreshed.

2. Practise a calming bedtime routine
You need to be relaxed to be able to fall asleep, so dedicate the last couple of hours before bedtime to relaxing activities. Take a warm shower, read a book and listen to soothing music. You can also go through your beauty routine then.

3. Put your troubles away
Relaxing also means not having to worry about things that keep you up at night. Keep a notepad on your bedside table to jot down to-do items, fears and worries so you rid yourself of them, at least for the time being. "Remember, it is better to worry before you get into bed rather than afterwards," Dr. Suresh tells us.

(Photo: Getty Images)

4. Ban electronic devices from the bedroom
This means no television, mobile phones, computers or tablets. British sleep expert Dr. Neil Stanley insists that such devices have no place in the bedroom because they stimulate your mind, thereby preventing you from falling asleep. "Light from these devices, particularly in the blue wavelengths, actually suppresses the release of melatonin which is the brain's natural signal for the initiation of sleep," he adds. If you'd like to watch TV or browse the Internet, be sure to stop about an hour before you sleep. And keep bedtime reading limited to real books, not e-readers.

5. Make some changes to your bedroom
The bedroom should be reserved for sleep and so it needs to be pleasant and comfortable. Dr. Neil points out four characteristics of an ideal bedroom; it should be dark (use heavy curtains or shades), quiet (if you can't help that your environment is noisy, use earplugs made for sleeping), not stuffy (the air should be fresh and cool), and your bed should be as large and comfortable as possible. If you find yourself debating about anything else pertaining to the nature of your bedroom, ask yourself if it helps you sleep. If it does (or doesn't bother you anyway) it can stay. If it doesn't, get rid of it.

6. Eat right
Avoid eating a heavy dinner too close to bedtime as discomfort from indigestion makes it hard to sleep. Avoid drinking too much liquid after 8pm to prevent frequent trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Nightcaps are a bad idea as alcohol causes a withdrawal symptom afterwards, which may wake you up or cause nightmares.

(Photo: Getty Images)

7. Evaluate your bedmates
Letting your pets sleep on the bed with you could disturb your sleep. Them moving around and/or triggering your allergies makes the decision to keep them off your bed an obvious one. A human bedmate is just as likely to interrupt your sleep with snoring and fidgeting. Whether you should sleep separately or not is arguable, but if you don't come to a compromise, you might both be making your sleep patterns worse.

8. Make up for lost sleep
Working adults with irregular hours can relate to having a jetlag-like situation. Depending on your schedule, you can make good use of your off days and weekends with well-timed sleep and rest. Don't sleep in for too long though; take naps during the afternoon instead, provided they don't make it difficult for you to fall asleep at night.

9. Keep a sleep diary
You may find yourself doing everything you can to induce a full night's sleep, but still wake up feeling groggy. Dr. Neil says that it could be useful to keep a sleep diary, taking note of the time you went to bed, the time you woke up in the morning, how long you slept, how well you feel you slept, when were you awake during the night (why and for how long?), what and when you ate and drank, what medications you took and what pains and stresses you've been having. These help you (and your doctor) identify factors that may be causing disturbed sleep.

10. Be more active during the day
"The more physically active one is during the day, the better is the quality of sleep at night," says Dr. Suresh. This is why you should try to be awake during the day and stay active (mentally and physically). However, if you are to exercise, don't do it too close to bedtime. Your body may be exhausted, but if your mind is still too energised from all that activity, falling and staying asleep will still be difficult.


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