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A good night's sleep

Top tips to improve your sleep

  • Exercise during the day, preferably in the late afternoon before you eat. Aerobic exercise which gets your heart beating fast for 20 minutes or more is best, but brisk walking will also help.
  • Go to bed and get up at regular times, even if you're tired in the morning. Find a time to go to bed that suits you and don't vary this or the time you get up. However, if you have persistent sleep problems, try getting up half an hour earlier in the morning than your usual time; it may help you get to sleep that night.
  • Don't try to make yourself sleep. If you're unable to fall asleep after 20-30 minutes in bed, leave your bed, and do something different and relaxing (such as reading something light, sitting in a chair and listening to a relaxation tape or having a cup of herbal tea).  Don’t go back to bed until you feel sleepy. Write down any worries you may have in a notebook.
  • Avoid heavy meals before bedtime but also avoid going to bed hungry. A very small snack about an hour before bedtime may be helpful.
  • Try not to smoke or drink (or use other substances) during the evening and avoid moderate-to-heavy use during the day. If you continue to have problems, you may have to stop altogether.
  • Reduce caffeine and nicotine consumption as much as possible. If you must have coffee, drink it only in the morning and have no more than two cups.
  • Develop a sleep ritual before bedtime. This is a relaxing routine that you do every night in the same order at about the same time before you get into bed. Avoid vigorous physical or mental activity and emotional upsets. A warm shower or bath may help you relax.
  • Try and avoid work type activities in bed (such as studying or writing on your computer) in order to strengthen the association between your bed and sleeping. Reading a book may form part of your routine and be helpful.
  • Avoid napping during the day if possible – if you must have a sleep limit this to a 20 minute power nap before the afternoon.
  • Reduce noise if needed by using ear plugs or listening to soothing music. Similarly, cut out light with thick curtains or eye masks.
  • Keep your room temperature between 60 and 70 degrees if possible.  Try using a hot water bottle in winter to keep warm.

If you can't sleep, try not to get too upset; try not to fight, resist or fear sleeplessness. This will make it harder to fall asleep. Tell yourself that you are resting and that even if you feel tired the next day you will still be able to do what you need to do.

Useful links

  • NHS - tips for better sleep
  • Mind - tips for coping with sleep problems