5 tips for better sleep habits

Ideally, you should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night. If you're getting by on less, it's only a matter of time until the cracks start to show.


Here are 5 tips to make sure you get enough Zs to navigate your week with ease.

Your roomie growled at you this morning when you asked him if he wanted some coffee. Too much Call of Duty, you thought. Nope, too little sleep. Prolonged lack of sleep won’t just make you grumpy, it can also lead to more serious conditions, such as memory loss, poor concentration and an overall deterioration of your health.

On average we need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. But when your mind is spinning and your thoughts are racing, it’s hard to settle down. Ever wonder what you might be doing wrong?

Here’s a list of handy hints to help you bed down for the night. Sleep tight!


No screen time before lights out

Shock. Horror. But yes, you read right. No more endless scrolls through Instagram and you’ll have to stop binge-watching Netflix, too. Why? Because there’s a tiny gland in the middle of our brain called the pineal gland, which produces a hormone called melatonin.

Melatonin lets your body know when it’s time to sleep, and when it’s time to wake up. Your body produces the most melatonin at night, ensuring a good night’s sleep. But because we’re pretty basic human beings, if there are a lot of lights (overhead lighting, lamps, computer/TV/phone screens) around, our body doesn’t know its nighttime. This messes with the production of melatonin and can make it harder for you to fall asleep. Remember when your mom used to say, “lights out”? Well, she meant all of them.


Cut back on caffeine

You probably start your day with a cup of coffee, but should you end it with one too? Absolutely not. While caffeine can give you a much-needed boost in the early hours, consumed even 6 hours before bedtime, it can have a disruptive effect on sleep. Caffeine affects the body’s circadian rhythm (the 24-hour internal clock otherwise known as your sleep/wake cycle) by inhibiting the production of melatonin (the same way light does).

Worse still, in extreme cases caffeine can trick your body into jet-lag by setting your body clock back an hour or longer. Now read carefully: this rule applies to caffeine, not just coffee, so avoid energy drinks and sodas too. And those hot toddies you think might help? Study the ingredients on the packaging before you boil the kettle. Caffeine is found naturally in cocoa beans, so some hot chocolate powders may contain caffeine. Green tea does too. If you want a cuppa before bed, stick to soothing chamomile.


No swotting before bed

Late-night, last-minute cramming will make your brain overactive, which will make it hard to stay calm and nearly impossible to sleep. Focus on more soothing activities before bed. If you’re going to read, stick to fiction (a paperback, not a Kindle you know, because of the screen thing).

If your mind is still racing, consider offloading your thoughts in a journal or doing a simple breath-counting sleep meditation. Lie in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and begin counting your breaths. Breathe in for the count of 1, breathe out for 2, breath in for 3, and so on, up to 10. If you find your mind starts to wander, bring your focus back to your breathing again so you can drift off to sleep.


Invest in some sleep gear

Two words: silicone earplugs. Okay, two more words: eye mask. If you’re serious about getting some sleep, then a few key accessories can make all the difference. Ear plugs are great for loud res’s or noisy neighbours, and will drown out sound like a dream (pun intended). If you don’t have blockout curtains, buy a decent eye mask. It’s cheaper, for one, and you’ll be able to settle into a natural sleep pattern more easily. 


Get into a sleep routine

Sure you can function on less than 8 hours sleep. But are you the best version of yourself? Probably not. Light and melatonin both have a huge impact on your sleep/wake cycle, but so does time. Try and stick to a similar sleeping pattern throughout the week by going to bed around the same time, and set an alarm on weekends so you can wake up at the same time every day. A regular sleep cycle will have a positive impact on your energy levels and on your health in general. 


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