Getting a good night’s sleep plays a crucial role in keeping our mind and body healthy. But it’s not always easy to switch off at the end of the day. For many of us snuggling into bed means binge-watching Netflix, scrolling through Instagram or talking to friends on social media. And while these things might seem like they’re helping you unwind after a big day, spending time on devices or in front of screens can get in the way of you getting the serious shut-eye you need.
“As the reality of Covid-19 steps up, people are rightly more vigilant with handwashing, social distancing and working from home if they can. But what they may not realise is how important sleep is to their overall health,” explains University of South Australia sleep and fatigue researcher, Dr Raymond Matthews.
“Sleep plays a vital role in the function of the body’s immune system. When people suffer from a lack of sleep, they’re reducing their body’s natural killer cells – the white blood cells that hunt down virally-infected cells – which means they may be compromising their immune system and increasing their risk of getting sick.
For those struggling to get a good night’s sleep, Dr Matthews says there are many things you can do.
“Having a bedtime routine to relax and wind down before bed, really helps. This could include turning the TV off earlier and settling down to read a good book in bed, but really, it’s whatever makes you feel calm and comfortable,” Dr Matthews says.
Here are some easy ways to overhaul your bedtime rituals so you wake up feeling rested and well each morning.
1. Unwind, Relax and Switch Off
While that late-night Netflix bingeing might seem like a great way to unwind, if you really want to maximise your sleep it’s best to turn off and shut down anything that stimulates your mind. Instead of trying to catch up on work emails, scrolling Instagram or chatting on social media try doing something that promotes relaxation. Take a bath, practise some meditation or read a book.
2. Create the right sleep environment
There’s a lot more to getting a great night’s sleep than just a comfy bed. To create the optimum environment for quality sleep you need to think about how dark your bedroom is, whether the temperature is right and whether it is quiet enough. Mess and clutter have also been found to contribute to stress – so if you really want to catch up on your beauty sleep it pays to keep your bedroom tidy and organised.
3. Rethink your pre-sleep eating and drinking habits
If you’re having trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep, it might be worth taking a closer look at how you’re fueling your body prior to hitting the pillow. If you’re a coffee-lover, cutting back on caffeine is one of the obvious places to start. Switch out your afternoon coffee for a caffeine-free, sleep-promoting herbal tea – try chamomille blends. Alcohol is another stimulant that can interfere with sleep and reducing your alcoholic consumption should help you get a more restful night’s sleep. Food can also play a role in how well you sleep. Avoiding heavy meals and rich food late in the evening is a good way to improve your sleep quality. Read more about eating your way to a better sleep here.
4. Try writing down your thoughts
If your mind is still racing when your head hits the pillow, writing down your thoughts and to-do lists can help you unwind and let these thoughts go. Instead of tossing and turning, keep a notebook or notepad by your bedside so you can jot down your worries and thoughts.
5. Stick to a schedule
Following the same pre-bedtime rituals every day could help you build better sleep habits. As well as sticking to the same routine each evening, going to be at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning can help too.