improve your sleepUntil recently my sleep has not been great. I get the hours, but I have been restless and wake up just as tired as I went to bed. Then I implemented these four simple tips that improved my sleep. If you are having trouble with your sleep and want to start waking up feeling rested and rejuvenated after a full night of sleep, try these tips out.

Time Your Coffee

I’m a writer, so I’m genetically hardwired to run on coffee. It is probable that I could exist for many weeks on caffeine alone, but I have found it just isn’t that great for me! I have never been one to pay much notice to the whole “caffeine keeps you awake” argument – I’ve drunk coffee since I was a teen and was convinced that I was immune to it’s effects. But recently, as an experiment, I stopped drinking coffee after midday. Caffeine has a half-life of 4-5 hours – it takes that long to eliminate half the drug from your system – which means you can still have caffein and its stimulant effects in your system at bedtime if you have a cuppa with lunch. So, I restricted myself to only drinking coffee before lunch, and do you know what happened? I found myself ready for bed at 10pm instead of midnight.

Reducing the amount of coffee has had another up-side, too.Since I was having less coffee (I am trying to stick to only one coffee a day!), I have given myself permission to indulge in a good quality cup of coffee instead of slurping down the half-dozen cups of pretty crappy instant coffee that I used to drink. I try to make an event of it (I hold off until midmorning instead of throwing down a cup while still half-asleep first thing in the morning) and am enjoying my coffee a lot more. That’s a win-win in my book!

Get Devices Out Of The Bedroom

I unplugged the iPad and other electronic devices from beside my bed. There is evidence that suggests the electromagnetic fields that our phones and other devices create can cause us to take longer to get to sleep and spend less time in deep sleep. The light emitted from our phones is also a big deal – have you ever been in complete darkness and looked at your phone? They are bright!

To be honest, this one was harder than reducing my coffee intake, which is saying something. I haven’t gone completely cold-turkey yet because I haven’t had a chance to buy a new alarm clock. I have unplugged everything else, moved my phone further away, and it now sits face-down so I can’t see it if it lights up with a notification. When I get a new alarm clock, it will go to a charging station downstairs where I have decided it belongs.

Go To Bed Early

Well, duh! I’m not saying you need to spend more hours in the act of sleep (though that might be helpful for some), but I have found that getting into bed before I am ready to shut my eyes and sleep has helped me. I now try to go to bed before I’m nodding off in front of the TV, as the act of getting out of the chair, brushing my teeth and generally getting ready for bed often wakes my up again and it takes even longer to get to sleep!

Our bodies are designed to sleep in cycles of 90 – 120 minutes, and you can feel more rested if you wake at the end of one of these cycles rather than mid-cycle. As I have to get up at 6am I try to count back and have my head on the pillow at around 11pm. Most nights this means I am sitting in bed by 10 or 10.30pm. I like to read for a while, though sometimes I will just lay quietly and consider the day. I find it is a good time to let the body unwind, for the brain to get the hint that it is rest time and generally settle down in preparation for sleep.

Turn Off The Lights

Of all the tips, this one has had the biggest effect on my sleep. I cannot sleep with a light on anyway, and I am sure it has driven Kirsty mad at times when she has wanted to read in bed and I have wanted to sleep. However, I didn’t realise until recently how little light it takes to disturb sleep. Our kids cannot get to sleep unless there is the soft glow of a light outside their bedrooms, and freak out if they wake in the middle of the night and it is pitch-black. As a consequence there is a light in the hall outside our room all night long. Now, I close the bedroom door and send our bedroom into complete darkness. It has been bliss.

Our body creates melatonin at night, when it’s dark. Melatonin is a hormone that not only helps to prevent disease but also regulates our sleep cycles. Our bodies (not just our eyes) can sense light so we need to help our brain produce this hormone by reducing the amount of light we are exposed to. Our house is on a quiet, dark street, but if yours is not, invest in some good block-out blinds. Turn your mobile phones face down (or get them out of the room completely), and if you have a laptop or other “glowy” stuff in your room turn them off / close them.

On a side-note, going outside and getting some sun when you first wake up is also a great idea because our bodies respond to the light and everything starts to wake up and “get going”.

improve your sleep infographicI hope you can see that getting a good night’s sleep is as simple as making some little changes to your routine. Try these tips to improve your sleep and let me know if it has helped. They are so simple, but have had a dramatic effect on my own rest and sleep patterns. Now all I need to do is work on my exercise regime! Do you have a bedtime routine or do anything that helps you rest?