Improve your sleep

Jo Baker is a psychotherapist, tutor and psycho-education co-ordinator at the University of Derby

Sleep can help us to manage negative thoughts and emotions and provide us with the energy to tackle the problems we face.

Tips to improve your sleep

  1. Caffeine has a half-life of 8 hours, so try not to have caffeine during the few hours before bed. If you find it very difficult to get to sleep, try to cut out all caffeine after mid-day.
  2. Make your bedroom comfortable and make your bed a place that your brain associates with rest and sleep. Try not to work on your bed, if possible. You may find that laundering your sheets more regularly helps you to sleep better.
  3. Try to get some natural daylight during the day – 20 to 30 minutes in sunlight will help your brain calibrate daytime and night-time, making it easier to sleep at night.
  4. Regular exercise can help to improve your sleep, by tiring out your body and helping you to reduce anxiety and stress. 
  5. Try to have the bedroom at around 18°C, as this is suggested to be the best temperature for a restful night. 
  6. Try to get a routine of waking up and going to bed at the same time every day, including weekends. 
  7. Try to not use any screen-based devices for at least an hour before bedtime. This includes phones, iPads, laptops, PCs, Kindles and TVs. Try to reduce your exposure to these devices during the evening. Set a time when you will stop checking or answering emails or messages.
  8. Put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ or remove it from the bedroom altogether, so that you don’t continue to monitor it for incoming messages or alerts.
  9. Establish a restful pre-sleep routine that you can follow every night. This may involve reading, listening to music, preparing yourself for bed (taking make-up off, changing), releasing nice smells into your bedroom, breathing exercises, preparing for the next day etc. Going through the same routine will prompt your brain to prepare for sleep. 
  10. Warm baths and showers can help your body to relax and by encouraging your body temperature to drop can induce feelings of sleepiness.
  11. Avoid, or try to limit, your alcohol intake before bed – alcohol doesn’t help us sleep well, in fact, as it metabolizes out of your body it can wake you up.
  12. To help you relax in bed, practice breathing exercises.
  13. Don’t fight thoughts that appear as you are trying to go to sleep. Tell yourself that you will think about them the following morning, then either write them down or imagine locking them in a box for now.