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3 essential ways to improve the quality of your sleep

Sleep quality is very important to our overall health and well-being. Having a bad night's sleep can affect our mental health and make us irritable, anxious and unable to think clearly. In this blog we'll take a look at some methods and ideas you can employ to improve the quality of your sleep.

Keep to a consistent sleeping pattern.

Our internal body clock can easily be disrupted, so one of the most important things we can do to get a good night's sleep is to stick to a regular bedtime and waking time. Once our body gets used to a regular and consistent sleeping pattern, people will usually find that they get a much better night's sleep over all. Once your body is familiar with sleeping at the same time every night you will find you fall asleep much easier and may even awaken at the same time every day without needing an alarm.

As we get older this becomes far more important and a late night out, followed by having to get up early for work, can disrupt our sleep for many days after. Having irregular sleeping patterns can throw our body clock into confusion and we can find ourselves feeling tired and falling asleep when we need to be awake and alert. Of course the other side of that coin is awaking during the night and not being able to get back to sleep. It's a vicious circle that's quite easy to get trapped in and without a conscious effort to reset and get back to a regular pattern of sleeping, it can quickly spiral out of control.

If you don't have a healthy consistent sleep every night then it's highly recommended you make it a priority to try and get into a pattern that will suit you. Decide a bedtime and waking time that will work for you and aim towards making that a natural thing for your body to do every night. Most professionals recommend 7-9 hours sleep a night for an adult, but you should adjust that for your own needs, you may find that a little more or less is right for you. If you are struggling to get into a regular sleeping pattern then using some of the tips below should help!

Make your bedroom conducive to sleep.

It sounds obvious but your bedroom must be a place that encourages, and is compatible with, a good night's sleep. It must be a place you feel comfortable sleeping in. It might take some work but do whatever you can to make it so.

Darkness is very important so make sure the door shuts properly and your curtains or blinds block out as much light as possible. Make sure your mattress, pillow and bedding are comfortable and make you feel relaxed and ready for sleeping.

Some people prefer some quiet relaxing music or ambient sounds to help them drift off to sleep while others prefer complete silence. For some the sound of passing trains or road traffic is deeply annoying while others use the sounds of the outside world as a kind of meditation. Clearly loud or sudden noises aren't going to be a benefit to sleeping but there's room for experimentation when it comes to sound. If you prefer the silence then some people will use ear plugs to get an uninterrupted sleep and as long as they are comfortable they can be very effective.

We often end up using our bedrooms for storage, work spaces or as a second television room. None of these things make it an ideal space for sleeping in. Do whatever you need to do to make your bedroom your own personal palace, that invites you in and encourages you to sleep.

Prepare your body and mind for sleep

Before heading off to your dark and comfortable bedroom, we can do some things to prepare our mind and body for a high quality night's sleep.

Caffeine is a stimulant and you should not drink caffeinated tea or coffee before bedtime, what exact time you limit yourself to might take some trials to find out how affected you are. Some people will stop drinking coffee after dinner giving themselves the whole evening, while others stop drinking caffeinated drinks at midday only using them for a 'pick me up' in the morning. We would recommend cutting out caffeine 3 or 4 hours before bedtime as a minimum and seeing how you get on, stopping earlier if needed.

Meditation can help us relax and prepare ourselves for sleep. There are professional meditation courses and many books on the subject if you want to look into meditation further but there are some simple techniques we can all use to help us achieve a mentally clear and calm state before sleeping.

Trying to sleep while you have things on your mind is incredibly difficult. We all need to employ a level of 'switching off' to be able to fall asleep. If you have things you need to get done, either make sure you get them done so you no longer have to think about them- or accept the fact that they will have to wait until tomorrow and feel relaxed about that fact. There is far more to be gained by starting fresh tomorrow after a good night's sleep than lying in bed mulling things over and over. This is a key idea in meditation, the understanding that our thoughts are not an abstract force independent of us and we can take control of them.

Visualisation is a very old technique, it's likely where the phrase 'counting sheep' comes from, but imagining sheep jumping a gate over and over isn't the most relaxing thing for most people. You could try drifting off to sleep imagining yourself walking along a beach, listening to the waves and looking at all the different shells and creatures you come across. Another idea could be visualizing yourself walking through the quiet countryside, listening to a gentle breeze blowing through the trees. This technique can help you properly relax and prepare you mentally for a deep and peaceful sleep.

If you feel that nothing is working for you and you've exhausted the natural aids and techniques then you may need to visit your doctor. The NHS suggests that most sleep problems usually sort themselves out within a month, if you have a longer ongoing sleeping problem then you may need a professional diagnosis and treatment beyond the scope we can offer in this blog.

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