It's fairly obvious that glugging down a few cups of coffee before you head to bed will make it difficult to drop off, but caffeine is such a powerful stimulant that your overall intake throughout the day can have a negative impact on your sleep. One study found that caffeine can delay the timing of your body clock, and this can reduce your total sleep time and the amount of deep sleep that you enjoy. Another study found that consuming caffeine 6 hours before bedtime reduced total sleep time by 1 hour. Cutting down your lattes, even in the morning, can make a huge difference to the quality of your sleep - but generally, avoiding stimulants after midday is a good rule of thumb.
It is easier said than done, but switching off all screens for an hour before bed will have a huge positive impact on your sleep quality. Powering down your phone can help power down your brain, which doesn't need more stimulation through entertainment and information just before trying to switch off. The blue light from your phone is also an artificial colour that mimics daylight, great during the day (because it can make you feel more alert), but just the opposite of what you need at night when you’re winding down - in fact, research has found a correlation between suppressed levels of melatonin and exposure to blue light. Melatonin is a hormone responsible for controlling your sleep-wake cycle, so when your body runs low on it, you can experience insomnia, tiredness during the day and irritability. Most smart phones now have an option to impose down-time after a certain time of night, which might be something worth considering if you find it hard to put the screen away when it's time for bed.
Dark, quiet and clean are good rules for creating your perfect sleep environment, but also think carefully about the bed sheets and duvet you choose - the less synthetic the better - and how often you wash them. There is nothing better than slipping into freshly washed, high-quality bed sheets, and it can have a real impact on your quality of sleep. The Telegraph has a great list of the best bedding sets if you need some inspiration.
We realise that we just told you to turn off your electronics before bed (and that definitely applies to WhatsApp, emails and television), but there are a few exceptions that could enhance your sleep. There are a huge range of apps that offer sleep sounds, as well as sound machines that are designed to play white noise or relaxing music to help you drift off. One of our favourites is the Calm app, which offers adult bedtime stories, ASMR sounds and sleep music - you can even have Stephen Fry's dulcet tones read you lullabies!
Many people find that stress and anxiety are keeping them up at night. A massage offers a period of peace and quiet, where you can forget about your worries and escape from the daily grind. Book one in for the evening to carry the calm over to bedtime, and make sure you have regular sessions to keep your stress levels at a manageable level. People suffering from insomnia often show a deficiency in serotonin levels, which is often referred to as the “happiness hormone” and is also a precursor to melatonin - a natural chemical which causes sleepiness. Massage is proven to boost serotonin levels (and therefore, melatonin production), so can be an excellent way get back to healthy sleep patterns.
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