Your 4-step bedtime routine for a great sleep

Struggling with your shuteye? Give these easy tips a try…

Hands up if you’re finding it difficult to get consistently good sleep? You’re not alone. A staggering one in five UK adults have trouble falling asleep every single night of the week[1] whilst 36% of UK adults struggle to get sleep on a weekly basis[2].

In fact, research has found that 16 million UK adults are a victim of sleepless nights[3].

With sleep being vital for good health[4], it’s time to up our sleep game.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that most adults sleep for between seven to nine hours each night, with some research claiming that the sleep ‘sweet spot’ is between seven and seven and a half hours[5].

Too little sleep, over a prolonged period of time, can potentially lead to problems such as diabetes, heart attack, stroke, obesity and depression[6].

So, what can be done to make the most of bedtime? We’ve rounded up four simple ways that could help you get the sleep you’ve been dreaming of (literally!) so you can wind down, fall asleep and most importantly, stay asleep, till the morning. Sounds blissful, right?

Enjoy a sleepy dinner

Certain foods can help or hinder sleep.

Research has found that milk products, fish, fruit (in particular, kiwi fruits and tart cherries) and vegetables show sleep-promoting effects[7].

Foods that contain the amino acid tryptophan – such as milk – have been found to improve sleep time and efficiency[8] and those containing higher levels of the hormones serotonin and melatonin- such as kiwi and cherries, also helping to improve sleep quality[9]. Other foods high in tryptophan includes chicken, turkey, tofu, eggs and oatmeal[10] whilst other foods high in melatonin include eggs, fish, grapes, tomatoes, pistachio nuts11].

As for the foods to avoid before bed, caffeine is a big no-go[12], however it’s not just coffee you’re best avoiding as caffeine can also be found in dark chocolate, some medications, ice cream and certain soft drinks[13].

Avoiding sugar too, which is a stimulant can also help improve sleep14]. If you’re a dessert lover, why not satisfy your sweet tooth after lunch instead?

Prepare for the next day

Do you find yourself going to bed worrying about your morning meeting? Or perhaps you go to bed thinking about everything you need to do the next day and then wake up in a panic, trying to gather everything together whilst getting ready in a rush?

Stress is a key reason why many people suffer from sleepless nights[15], so it’s important that we try to swerve stress before bed to help us drift off calmly.

Prepare anything you need for the following day, before going to bed. This could be packing your gym bag, gathering the items you need for a meeting, making breakfast and lunch or even laying out the outfit you’ll be wearing. Having these things done before bed gives your mind less to think about, allowing it to switch off instead and sleep.

If you have time, you could even get started on the next day; perhaps there’s a tricky email you need to send? Try writing out a rough outline in the evening, so that some of the burden is removed from your mind.

Switch off technology

This can be a tricky one for many of us, with social media, messaging and emails keeping us entertained in the evening, however the blue light from our phones and screens is detrimental to sleep[16]. This blue light essentially suppresses the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, which is naturally made by our body in the evening before bed[17].

Try to switch off technology at least 30 minutes before bed and if possible, switch your phone to a sleep mode, which stops notifications and alerts from appearing on the phone screen at night, reducing the chance of it waking you up.

Enjoy a sleep-inducing activity

Rather than keeping your mind overly engaged in say, a complicated work email, try to find something that allows your mind to settle and wind down. Reading could be a good choice, with research finding that those who opted for a book before bed enjoyed better sleep[18]. Another sleepy activity is meditation with evidence suggesting that it can help improve sleep quality[19] as it helps you to focus on the present, rather than the past or the future. Try just five minutes of gentle, focused breathing to start, and try to increase this over time.

You could even try listening to music before bed. One study found that 68% of people find that music helps them to fall asleep[20].

Still struggling to sleep? If implementing certain lifestyle changes doesn’t seem to be having much of an impact, book an appointment with your GP, to rule out any other underlying issues.