How to get a better night's sleep

View of the forest from below

There's plenty you can do to get a better night's sleep. Make small changes to your daily life, your bedtime routine, and your sleeping environment to help improve your sleep.

Try the tips that make sense for you for a couple of weeks. But if these don’t help, ask your GP for advice.

Improve your daily routine

Get up at the same time every day
It’s tempting to have a lie-in, but by getting up at the same time every day, even at weekends and even if you feel tired. Try to be strict about doing this for at least 10 days to get the full benefit.

Avoid daytime naps
When you’re tired, you are likely to want a nap, but dozing off during the day won't help you sleep better at night, in fact it might make it harder.

Take at least 30 minutes of exercise every day
Exercise can help you sleep better but make sure not to exercise in the hours before you go to bed.

TIP: When you’re tired, naps can be tempting, but it’s not a good idea to doze off during the day if you’re finding it hard to sleep at night.

Improve your bedtime routine

Avoid drinks containing caffeine
Do this for at least four hours before you go to bed. This includes coffee, tea, and some energy and soft drinks.

Cut out, or cut down on, alcohol
Alcohol won’t help you sleep. In fact, it does the opposite and will reduce the quality of whatever sleep you do get. If you want to cut down not cut out then try to avoid drinking for four hours before your bedtime.

Try to stop smoking
If you can’t manage this, try to avoid smoking for at least four hours before you go to bed. Nicotine, like caffeine, is a stimulant and it’ll interfere with your ability to get to sleep.

Don’t have a big dinner or supper
It’s harder to get to sleep when your stomach is too full.

Go to bed only when you’re tired
If you wake up, it’s better to get out of bed than toss and turn. Listen to soft music or a podcast, anything that distracts you from thinking about not sleeping. Go back to bed when you feel sleepy again.

Don't use your phone, laptop or tablet before you go to bed
The bright light makes it harder for your brain to know it’s time to sleep. 

TIP: Alcohol won’t help you sleep. In fact, it does the opposite. Avoid drinking for four hours before your bedtime.

Avoid bright lights for two hours before bedtime

This includes bright bathroom lights. Use dimmer, yellow lights if possible.

Create a relaxing bedtime routine

Reading a paper book with a dim light, listen to soft music, have a bath or get your things ready for the next day. Going through your routine signals to your brain that it’s time to go to sleep.

Write a to-do list for the next day

Do this as part of your bedtime routine, and include things you’re trying to figure out and some ideas for how you’ll try to sort them out. That might help you put them out of your mind until the next day.

Use relaxation techniques as part of your bedtime routine

Calm breathing, progressive deep muscle relaxation or meditation can help you feel ready for sleep.

Don't use over-the-counter sleeping tablets

They’re unlikely to be effective, and they won't help with your underlying problem. If you do want to try them, ask your pharmacist or GP for advice.

Don't look at the clock

This could just make you more anxious. 

TIP: If you wake up, get out of bed. Do something calming that distracts you from thinking about not sleeping. Only go back to bed when you're sleepy again.

Improve your sleeping environment

Ensure your bedroom's dark enough
Use blackout curtains or thick blinds or wear an eye mask.  

Make sure your bedroom isn’t too hot or too cold
It should be at a good temperature to sleep.

Try wearing earplugs 
These can be useful if you’re often woken up by noise.

Stick with sleeping 
Don’t eat, text, chat, work or talk on the phone in your bedroom.

Get comfy
Get a comfortable mattress and a pillow that’s at the right height for you.

Ensure your bedding's right for the season
You can get different duvets and blankets for summer and winter. Make sure you have the right ones for you.