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20 Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

June 3, 2015

There’s nothing more frustrating than waking up tired. Life is busy, and when you finally manage to get yourself to bed, it can be hard to switch off. Luckily for everyone, a good night’s sleep isn’t unattainable. With the help of a little science, we’ve put together a list of surprisingly simple tips that will help you on your way to some decent night time rest. There’s a bunch of science below, but we’ve also wrapped it all up into a nice infographic. Check it out;

20 Tips For A Better Nights Sleep

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1. Avoid eating right before bed, unless…

You’ve probably heard that it’s best to avoid eating in the few hours before heading to bed and, generally, that’s good advice. But if you’re finding it difficult to get sleepy, there are certain foods that can actually help. The secret is that they’re high in the amino acid tryptophan, which encourages the body to release sleep-time hormones like melatonin – yay, science![1] Turkey is the classic example of a high-trytophan food. But if the thought of eating some poultry right before bed isn’t super appealing, then try a banana or a warm mug of milk. Yup, grandma was right. If you’re looking for a more long-term dietary option, a recent American study suggested that sleep can be improved by regularly drinking 2 glasses of tart cherry juice a day.[2] Easy peasy.

2. Make sure to see the sun

Human bodies are super responsive to sunshine. When there’s light around us, we know that it’s time to wake up. When there’s darkness, we know to get sleepy. But in order for this to work properly, it does help to see some actual light. Experts at the Sleep Foundation promise that when we get a lot of sun during the day, our brains thank us by releasing more melatonin at night.[3] But if it’s not really viable for you to fill your day with sunshine, there is an artificial solution. Sitting near a light therapy box each day can mimic the effect of natural light and get your body’s sleep-wake rhythm back in sync.

3. Ditch your smartphone

We’re not recommending you ditch it forever – don’t worry, we haven’t lost our minds. It’s just that staring at a bright blue screen right before bed time is (shock) not so great for you.[4] If you wake up briefly in the middle of the night, resist the urge to check your phone. Place it out of reach before you go to sleep or, better yet, turn it off and chuck it out the door. It’s a hard truth to swallow but science says the phone and bedtime do not mix, so do yourself a favour and give the smartphone a rest.

4. Pick a bed time and stick with it

There’s no “right” time to go to bed, but you’ll get more out of your sleep if you keep your bedtime regular. In other words, try not to fall asleep at 10pm one night and 2am the next. That said, the time you pick shouldn’t be totally arbitrary. And it’s hard attempt sleep at 9.30 if your mind’s still wide awake! When it comes to picking your bedtime, the principle is simple: the ideal time for you to sleep is the time when you usually feel most tired.[5] Not to sound like a clichéd yoga instructor but, you know, it doesn’t do any harm to listen to your body. If your eyes are drooping at 10 every night, that’s probably your bed time.

5. Clear the floor

Stripping clothes off and dumping them on the ground might help us to get into bed faster, but it won’t do wonders for slowing down the mind in the lead-up to sleep – especially if the floor’s still covered in clothes from the past 5 days. Ideally you’d strip off your clothes and then put them away or take them to the laundry. Realistically, though, we’re not always in that sort of mood. If, like us, you suffer from occasional “it’s-nearly-bed-time” laziness, consider investing in a sturdy storage basket. Then leave it aside for the specific task of holding your used clothes. That way your floor will be clear when you jump into bed, and you can deal with the clothes in the morning.

6. Colour

When it comes to sleep and bedrooms, we’re not ones to ignore the importance of colour. The right colours can equal the right bedroom vibe; and the wrong colours can leave you tossing and turning your way through nightmares. But which colours are “right” and which are “wrong”? A 2013 British study found that the best bedroom colour is blue and the worst colour is purple; people in blue rooms were found to be sleeping an average of around 8 hours per night, which purple bedroom dwellers were only sleeping for around 6 hours![6] Other sleep-enhancing colours included yellow and green, while other poor choice colours included grey, brown, and gold. If this is ringing some warning bells then you might want to look into colour-correcting your room with our doona covers (which happily seem to be in the perfect sleep time colours!).

7. Bedroom temperature

You probably don’t need to be told that sleeping in a room that’s either crazily hot or terrifyingly chilly is a recipe for bad sleep. But what you might not know is that it’s normally better to keep yourself a bit on the cooler side than it is to rug up and over-heat.[7] So if you’re sleeping in thermals, with 2 doonas and a hot water bottle, your initial bed comfort could actually be leading to a worse night’s sleep overall. The ideal air temperature for sleep is roughly between 18 and 23 degrees – depending on whether your body tends to run hot or cold.[8] It takes a bit of experimentation to find the right temperature for your body but, once you do, you’ll almost certainly notice the difference.

8. Remove the clocks!

It’s rare to come across a person who’s never spent a night mentally screaming GO TO SLEEP while they watch the time tick by. If you’re lying awake with your thoughts racing, watching the clock will only make things worse. The Sleep Health Foundation recommends removing clocks from the bedroom, or at least covering them up.[9] If you use your phone as an alarm clock, then move it out of reach so that you won’t be tempted to check the time at 3 o’clock in the morning. If you’re awake at that point, you don’t need to know.

9. Plants

At some point, you’ve probably heard claims that plants purify the air.[10] But aside from any magic they’re doing with oxygen and CO2, a decent pot plant or a simple vase of flowers can do a lotto improve the feel of a room and turn it into a space for rest. This is especially true if your space lacks natural light. By bringing a little of the outdoors into the bedroom, you’re doing a little something to reduce your stress levels – and that can only be a good thing when it comes to sleep.[11]

10. The mattress

The benefits of a comfortable bed are hard to overstate. If you’re sleeping on a tired old mattress, comfort can sometimes be hard to achieve. When it comes to choosing the right mattress for your body, the UK-based Sleep Council has some useful recommendations, starting with the reminder that what’s comfortable for one person might be hellish for the next.[12] To work out what’s right for you, start by making a list of all of the things you like and dislike about your current bed. If it’s far too soft or far too firm, than you know to look for the opposite in your next mattress purchase. You’re aiming for something that keeps your spine supported but your body relaxed. According to the Sleep Council, a good way to test the firmness is to try sliding a hand under your back when you’re lying on the mattress. If the hand goes under easily, it’s probably too hard. If it’s nearly impossible to get your hand under, it’s too soft. But if your hand slides under with just a little bit of effort, you might be lying on the mattress that is just right.

 11. Fresh scent

A study by the USA-based National Sleep Foundation showed that people were far more excited to go to bed if their sheets had a fresh scent.[13] In other words, that slightly sweaty sheet smell is not doing you any favours. As well as changing your sheets regularly and giving them a decent wash, you might want to consider adding some natural fragrance. Even though it might make you feel like your grandma, lavender oil is a classic if you’re having trouble getting sleepy.[14] The secret is that it decreases your blood pressure and heart rate, helping you to feel more relaxed before you try to head off to sleep. If lavender’s not your thing, then you might be interested in an American study that suggests that the odour of jasmine leads to more restful sleep.[15]

12. Good quality sheets

Part of being comfortable in bed is about making sure you’re sleeping with comfortable materials – starting with soft, breathable sheets. If you’re a bit fussy about texture – i.e. you get too warm when you sleep on flannel or you dislike the slipperiness of silk – then 100% cotton sheets are your best bet. Aim for neutral tones and simple patterns to ensure that no matter what else is going on in the bedroom, you’re at least falling to sleep on a calming base.

13. Make sure you’re sleeping with the right pillows

Pillows are the sorts of things we sometimes hold onto for years, even when we suspect that they should be replaced more often. Because they’re prone to losing their shape over time – not to mention collecting dust mites and general grime – experts recommend replacing pillows at least every two years.[16] When you purchase new ones, be sure to consider your sleeping position and back needs.[17] Pillows come in a range of materials and shapes, each with benefits and pitfalls. As well as the type of pillow you’re using, the number of pillows you use can have an impact on the quality of your rest. In an American study, participants who used just one or two pillows reported having a better nights sleep than those who used three or more.[18] It all depends on what works for you but, in general, a tower of pillows beneath your head isn’t the best idea!

14. Enticing bed

It makes sense that you’re more likely to be drawn to bed and away from work/television if you’ve designed an appealing bed. Along with fresh sheets and a comfy mattress, it can help to go to a bit of effort with your bed-styling. Soft cushions, bedspreads, quilts and throws can all work to increase the comfort of the bedroom – even if you don’t actually sleep with everything that sits on the bed during the day. Just like with bedroom colours, bed-styling is all about enticing your eye and convincing your brain that the bed is a space for relaxation. When morning comes, you set the bed up again, telling your mind that there’s a clear break between the active day and the restive night. Though there is some pretty conflicting stuff out there about whether you should or shouldn’t make the bed, the consensus seems to be that making it is more likely to put you in the mood for a good night’s rest.

15. Sleep clothes

Maybe this sounds familiar: you get home after a long day at work, change into some comfy clothes, and then later try to head to bed in them. It might not sound like a big deal, but if you’re also having some trouble drifting off to sleep, it might be because you haven’t sent your brain the right pre-sleep messages. By changing into clothes that are specifically meant for sleeping in (or by taking off your clothes altogether), you’re sending a signal to your body that it’s time for sleep.

16. Try not to work in bed

Though it’s sometimes tempting to work from bed, it’s important to remember that it’s not an office. Covering your doona in papers makes the space more of a desk than a bed. And there are few worse things you can do there than spend the night responding to work emails. The combination of bright blue screens and workplace stress will undo any relaxation that was happening before you decided to send one last email to your boss.[19] If you have to do work during the night, keep it to the office, the kitchen table, or even the couch – just anywhere but your sleep space!

17. Keep the space quiet

Even if the noises you hear during the night don’t always wake you up, they can still affect the quality of your sleep.[20] If you’re bothered by noise from a nearby road or an inconsiderate neighbour, you might want to consider filling your room with white noise, to block out the annoying sounds. It might sound a little counterintuitive, but fans, sound conditioners, and other devices that produce constant, soothing noise can all help you to get a better night’s rest.[21]

18. Pillows aren’t only for your head

If you find it hard to get comfy in the bed, you might need more support in specific areas. According to the experts at Spine Health, wedging pillows under your knees can dramatically improve your sleep by relieving pressure on your lower back. And if you sleep on your side, putting them between your knees can relieve hip pain.[22] Who knew?! Little painful niggles can do a lot to disturb our sleep, making us restless throughout the night. That’s a bummer, so if you’re waking up tired and sore, it’s probably worth a trip to the physio or GP. But in the mean time, some strategic pillow placement might help.

19. Fresh air

A stuffy bedroom doesn’t do wonders for the brain while you sleep. And it’s not just because you’re being starved of oxygen. A lack of air flow traps in smelly, warm breath, making the room uncomfortably warm and basically just a bit unpleasant. One simple way to improve your sleeping space is to open a window or at least to leave the door ajar. As one sleep expert points out, it makes the environment feel more like a positive, natural space and less like a shoebox.[23] We don’t need to tell you why that is a good thing!

20. Keep the room dark

Just as it’s important to get enough sun during the day, it’s also important to make sure your bedroom is properly dark when it comes time to sleep. According to a recent study by neurologists in Korea and the USA, being exposed to light while you’re sleeping can cause the sleep to be shallow and restless, which has a long-term impact on your health.[24] In order to get the best night’s sleep possible, try to limit the light that comes through your door or windows. Pairing lighter curtains with black-out blinds is an excellent idea, as you can pull the blinds down during the night, to avoid exposure to on-street lighting, and then use the curtains during the day, when you’re after a bit of privacy but don’t want to sit in complete darkness.

 

[1] https://sleep.org/articles/foods-for-sleep/

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3133468/

[3] http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/melatonin-and-sleep

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20030543

[5]http://time.com/3183183/you-asked-whats-the-ideal-time-to-go-to-sleep/

[6]http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2325476/Want-good-nights-sleep-Find-colours-use-bedroom-avoid-decent-kip.html

[7]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18603220?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

[8]http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/cant-sleep-adjust-the-temperature

[9]http://sleephealthfoundation.org.au/pdfs/Good%20Sleep%20Habits.pdf

[10] http://www.sfgate.com/homeandgarden/article/Add-greenery-to-bedroom-Houseplants-will-2886735.php

[11] http://www.aarp.org/politics-society/advocacy/info-07-2012/health-benefits-of-nature.html

[12] http://www.sleepcouncil.org.uk/pdf-downloads/bed_buyers_guide.pdf

[13]http://sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/bedroompoll/NSF_Bedroom_Poll_Report.pdf

[14]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22612017

[15] http://www.wju.edu/about/adm_news_story.asp?iNewsID=539&strBack=/about/adm_news_archive.asp

[16] http://sleepfoundation.org/bedroom/touch.php

[17] http://www.arrohome.com/blog/pillow-perfection/

[18]http://sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/bedroompoll/NSF_Bedroom_Poll_Report.pdf

[19] http://www.npr.org/2011/03/11/134459354/TV-And-Smart-Phones-May-Hamper-A-Good-Nights-Sleep

[20] http://www.amsciepub.com/doi/abs/10.2466/pms.1966.22.3.927

[21] http://sleepfoundation.org/bedroom/hear.php

[22] http://www.spine-health.com/wellness/sleep/different-types-pillows

[23] http://edition.cnn.com/2015/04/07/health/sleep-better-fresh-air/

[24] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24210607