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  • Dr Andrew Smy

How to ensure you get all your essential Zzzzz's!


Last week I wrote a blog about why it’s so important to be getting a full 7-8 hours of sleep every night, but we still see people in the clinic every day that struggle to achieve this! So this week, I’m going to share 5 excellent tips to help you take back control of your sleeping habits so you wake up feeling recharged and refreshed each morning!



1. Set a sleep schedule.

One of the most common reasons people struggle getting to sleep is that they don’t have a regular sleeping schedule. Our body follows a natural 24-hour cycle called the circadian rhythm, which involves physical, mental, and behavioural changes that are primarily driven by changes in light levels. Light exposure during the day causes our internal body clock to send certain signals and release hormones to keep up awake and alert. At night when the natural light has faded, the circadian rhythm causes your body to produce melatonin, to make you sleepy. By creating a regular sleep schedule, it helps your internal body clock to predict when to start melatonin production, and therefore helps you get to sleep at the same time each night.


2. Avoid napping!

As tempting as it can be to curl up on the sofa after a long day at work, having a nap can actually make it harder to fall asleep at night! Napping during the day, especially for longer than two hours, can disrupt the body's natural circadian rhythm. With the body clock thrown off, melatonin may not be produced when needed, or may be produced when it isn’t, meaning you're not tired at night, or you’re really tired during the day. It isn't all bad news though, some experts suggest that a quick power nap of no more than 30 minutes can be beneficial to some people, and as long as you’re not napping late in the afternoon, then it shouldn’t affect your circadian rhythm. Of course this advice doesn’t apply to young children, who need a lot more sleep than us adults, and naps are the best way for them to achieve that goal.


3. Read a book.

Reading can be very relaxing, and can be an excellent way to prevent anxious thought patterns that may make it difficult for some to get to sleep normally. Finding a book that you’re happy to read, but isn’t going to produce a strong emotional response is the best way to go. E-books can be fantastic for giving you access to a wide range of genres at a more affordable price compared to buying multiple individual books, however be cautious that the back-lit screen may affect your ability to get to sleep. Early research has shown that those who read ebooks take longer to fall asleep compared to those who read physical copies, but more needs to be done before any firm conclusions can be made. However, if you are someone who reads an e-book before bed and still struggles falling asleep, it may be worth switching to a physical book to see if it helps make a difference!


4. Have a warm bath before bed.

Taking a warm bath or shower 1-2 hours before you get into bed can help to relax you and prepare your body for sleep. This trick works differently from how you might think. The heat from the water makes you feel nice and relaxed, but it’s actually the cooling down afterwards that helps you sleep. As you cool down your body temperature dips, which tricks your body into thinking it’s night time. The natural circadian rhythm your body goes through causes your core body temperature to drop slightly before you sleep, so having a bath or shower 1-2 hours before you normally go to bed just aids this process.


5. Avoid caffeine in the evenings.

This should be an obvious one, but I’m sure lots of us are guilty of relaxing with a nice cup of tea in the evening. Caffeine is a stimulant, so its purpose is to help keep you awake and alert. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine and so should avoid it altogether when possible. For others, a small level of caffeine throughout the day isn't a bad thing, but switching to decaf roughly 4 hours before going to bed can make a big difference, and help you nod off that little bit easier.


If you’re someone who struggles getting to sleep at night, give these tips a try and hopefully they'll make a huge difference! If not, why not book in for a free discovery session with us and one of our clinicians can help find out if there’s another reason you’re struggling to get a full night's sleep.



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