Everyone knows they feel better after a good night's sleep. But for some, sleep does not come easily. Just over half of Kiwis say they never wake up feeling refreshed, while 25% report having ongoing sleep problems. The good news is that there are things you can do to improve your sleep.
- Poor sleep is a major cause of lost productivity and increases the risk of accidents and other illnesses like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and respiratory failure.
- Two of the most common sleeping problems are insomnia and obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome. Insomnia is a condition where you have trouble sleeping or staying asleep for long enough and obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome is a condition in which you stop breathing while you are asleep.
- If you think your poor sleep is due to a sleep disorder, see your doctor for advice. There are treatments available.
- If you are experiencing the effects of poor sleep, great improvements can be made by making a few changes to your daily routine and habits.
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So you can be more energetic and productive during your waking hours, here are 5 simple tips to help you sleep better at night.
1. Set your body clock
- Try to go bed and get up at the same time each day, including weekends, even if you have had a disturbed night's sleep.
- Your internal body clock and hormones that control sleepiness and wakefulness work best when you have a regular sleep routine.
- Keep your daytime routine the same, even if you’ve had a poor night’s sleep. Avoiding daytime activities because you are tired can reinforce your sleep problems.
- If you really need to catch up on sleep, it is better to go to bed earlier than normal and still get up at the same time as normal.
- Get out in bright light as soon as you wake up – light is the best regulator of your biological clock.
2. Wind down at bedtime
- Include an hour of quiet time before bed such as reading, having a bath or listening to music.
- At bedtime, make your bedroom dark, cool and quiet and ensure that your pillows, sleep surface and coverings are comfortable.
- Have a light snack before going to bed. Going to bed hungry can be distracting but avoid heavy meals within two hours of bedtime as this can interrupt sleep.
- Drinking a warm glass of milk before bed may be helpful – milk has tryptophan in it, which acts as a natural sleep inducer. Read more about how food and drink affect sleep.
3. Keep your evenings stimulant-free
- Don't smoke and avoid alcohol or caffeine-containing drinks late in the evening.
- Avoid using your computer, mobile phone and other electronic devices for at least 30 minutes before going to bed.
4. Go to bed when you're tired
- If you go to bed at the same time each night, you should start to feel sleepy at bedtime.
- Try not to ignore this sleepy feeling by staying up, as this is your window of opportunity for sleep.
- If you’re awake after 20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing in another room.
- If you have things on your mind, try scheduling worry time during the day – write worries down, then let them go.
- Read a long boring legal document – bet you don't get to the end of it!
5. Be active in the day
- Regular day-time exercise improves sleep.
- Morning walks are a great way to start the day feeling refreshed.
- Avoid strenuous exercise within 3 hours before going to bed.
6. Reduce blue light exposure in the evening
- Blue light has a short wavelength that affects levels of melatonin (a hormone that regulates the sleep–wake cycle) more than any other wavelength does.
- This disrupts your body clock, causing poor sleep.
- If you use your phone or computer in the evening, switch it to night-time setting or, better still, turn it off.
- Use dim red lights for night lights – red light is the least able to affect your melatonin and change your body clock.
- If you work a night shift or use a lot of electronic devices at night, consider wearing blue-blocking glasses or installing an app that filters the blue/green wavelength at night.
Apps to help with sleeping Health Navigator NZ
Why sleep matters Healthy Sleep, Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School
Children – sleep for kids National Sleep Foundation (NSF), Sleep For Kids
Tips for getting a good night's sleep Here to Help Canada
Good sleep habits Sleep Health Foundation, Austraila
Sleeping problems – an NHS self help guide NHS, UK
Te Hikuwai resources for wellbeing – sleep/moe Te Pou, NZ, 2022