How to get a better night's sleep

Paper moon signifying insomnia

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.


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 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 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's 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.

Avoid your phone, laptop or tablet. Try not to use these 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. Do this 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. Calm breathing, progressive deep muscle relaxation or meditation can help you feel ready for sleep. Do this as part of your bedtime routine.

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 and only go back to bed when you're sleepy again.

Improve your sleeping environment

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

Check your bedroom temperature. Not 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.

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

 

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