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Expert Tips for a Good Night's Sleep

Consultant Respiratory and Sleep Disorder Physician Dr Glenn Rice-McDonald (MBBS, PhD, FRACP) shares his tips for a successful night's sleep.

Getting a good night's sleep can be easier than you think, if you just keep in mind some of these helpful tips. Remember, sleep is supposed to be relaxing and helps to renew your body every night. Do not make sleep a competition or skimp for too long (longer than a few days) on getting a good night's sleep of at least 7 - 8 hours per day. Everybody has trouble sleeping from time to time, so don't worry if you're having a stretch of having trouble sleeping. Try these following tips to help return to a restful, natural sleep.

Set a schedule and keep a regular sleep schedule

Go to bed at a set time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Disrupting this schedule may lead to insomnia. "Sleeping in" on weekends also makes it harder to wake up early on Monday morning because it resets your sleep cycles for a later awakening. Do not nap close to bedtime. 

Exercise

Try to exercise 30 (or more) minutes a day. Daily exercise often helps people sleep, although a workout soon before bedtime may interfere with sleep. For maximum benefit, try to complete your exercise at least 3 hours before going to bed. Do not exercise within 2 hours of bedtime. 

Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol

Avoid drinks that contain caffeine, which acts as a stimulant and keeps people awake. Sources of caffeine include coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, non-herbal teas, diet drugs, and some pain relievers. Smokers tend to sleep very lightly and often wake up in the early morning due to nicotine withdrawal. Alcohol robs people of deep and REM sleep and keeps them in the lighter stages of sleep. Avoid all of these things in the 3 hours before bedtime if you want a good night's sleep. Also, try to avoid eating any kind of large meal within 2 hours of bedtime. 

Have a relaxing bedtime ritual

A warm bath, reading, or another relaxing routine can make it easier to fall asleep. You can train yourself to associate certain restful activities with sleep and make them part of your bedtime ritual. 

Sleep until sunlight

If possible, wake up with the sun, or use very bright lights in the morning. Sunlight helps the body's internal biological clock reset itself each day. 

Don't lie in bed awake

If you can't get to sleep, don't just lie in bed. Do something else, like reading, watching television, or listening to music, until you feel tired. The anxiety of being unable to fall asleep can actually contribute to insomnia. Return to bed when you begin feeling sleepy, and try to avoid sleeping in locations other than your bed. 

Control your room environment and temperature

Maintain a comfortable temperature in the bedroom. Extreme temperatures may disrupt sleep and prevent you from falling asleep. Ensure a dark, quiet environment whenever possible. Try to avoid going to sleep with the television or radio on, becuase it can be a bad habit that leads to the need to have the TV or radio on every time you try to sleep.