There is no 'one-size-fits-all' remedy for improving sleep. Identifying the main problem with your sleep will help to guide you in what interventions to use - look under the headings relevant to you. It is normal to sleep badly from time to time, especially if you are stressed. Occasional lack of sleep is unlikely to permanently impair your performance or health.
Healthy sleep habits (sleep hygiene)
- Keep a consistent bed and wake time. This gives your body clock the best chance of achieving a regular rhythm. Use an alarm to assist you.
- Ensure the bedroom environment is a good temperature, comfortable, quiet, and dark - you can get block-out curtains, eye masks, ear plugs, blankets and heating/cooling or other equipment to assist if needed.
- Create a bed-time buffer zone - at least 60 minutes before you go to bed, only perform relaxing or soothing activities. This means do not study, work, exercise heavily, have upsetting emotional discussions or arguments, or perform other alerting activities in this period. Instead try a warm bath/shower, read a book, watch a movie/television, do some relaxation or anything else you find to be calming.
- Exercise regularly, at least 30 minutes a day. Avoid heavy exercise (e.g. running, weight-lifting, vacuuming the house) in the 1-2 hours prior to bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine within 5 hours of bedtime. Caffeine is a long-acting drug which keeps you awake and is contained within cola and energy drinks, chocolate, coffee and other products (check the label if in doubt).
- Minimise or avoid alcohol use prior to bedtime - although it may make you sleepy at the start of the night, as your body metabolises alcohol it causes sleep disruption, awakenings, and can contribute to nightmares and unrefreshing sleep.