Health and well-being

Ten tips for a better night’s sleep

28/12/2023
4 min

The best way to start the day is with a good night's sleep! Unfortunately, many of us suffer from sleep problems, insomnia or simply reduce our hours of sleep when we feel we're running out of time to get everything done while awake. That being said, in addition to feeling tired, there are major health risks associated with a lack of sleep.

As 2024 rolls around, why not adopt some good sleep habits!

Did you know that sleep is something you prepare for during the day? Both daytime and night-time behaviour have a direct impact on the quality of our sleep.

Here are 10 simple tips to help you sleep better at night!

1. Maintain a regular sleep schedule

Maintaining a fixed bedtime and wake-up time ( give or take 30 to 45 minutes), even over the weekend, helps to synchronise your biological sleep clock. Although it may seem difficult, it's especially important to keep the same morning wake-up time, even after a bad night's sleep, since staying in bed in the morning can have a negative impact on the following night. The best sleep schedule is one that suits your needs according to your age, your chronotype (early bird or night owl), the type of sleeper you are (short, medium, long) and the external demands you have to meet (for example, work or school schedules).

2. Create a pre-sleep routine

Setting aside 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime to do a pre-sleep routine can help prepare your brain and body for sleep. A regular routine looks different for different people, but can include a series of relaxing activities such as getting into pyjamas, brushing your teeth, reading a book, listening to soothing music and so on. Whatever your night-time routine looks like, try to limit exposure to light (including from electronic devices) and try to stay out of the bedroom until you're ready to sleep.

3. Turn your bedroom into a peaceful haven

An ideal sleeping environment is dark, quiet and cool (around 18 degrees Celsius). For example, thick curtains, eye masks, earplugs or white noise can help to create this ideal sleeping environment. Comfortable bedding, mattresses and pillows are also key.

4. Create a positive association between bed and sleep

If you spend your time in bed eating, reading, watching TV, working or even thinking, your brain will associate the bed - and the bedroom - with being awake. The idea is to create a new, positive association between the bed and sleep (and not the state of being awake). To achieve this, the bedroom must be reserved ONLY for sleep and privacy.

A few more basic rules can help:

a) Only go to bed when you are really tired.

b) If you are not asleep after about 20 minutes ( this is subjectively assessed), leave the room, do a non-stimulating activity in a dimly lit area and return to bed only when you are sleepy. Repeat this step as many times as necessary.

c) Don't look at the clock, it only adds unnecessary pressure and anxiety.

5. Avoid all exposure to bright light at night

Being exposed to daylight is essential to help your internal clock stay on time, so get plenty of exposure in the morning and during the day. On the other hand, bright light during the evening interrupts the production of melatonin and can actually delay your sleep. Instead, use subdued light at night. Blue light, such as that produced by smartphones, tablets and computers, is especially harmful to sleep. Blue light filters can partially reduce exposure to blue light; however, it's best to completely avoid using electronic devices at least 60 minutes before bedtime.

6. Watch what you eat before going to bed

Generally speaking, it's best to keep to a regular meal schedule and avoid eating a meal less than 2 hours before bed. For dinner, eat a source of complex carbohydrates (pasta, bread, rice or potatoes) along with a source of tryptophan-rich protein (meat, fish, legumes, nuts, eggs, dairy products) and, of course, plenty of vegetables. Tryptophan is an amino acid that enables the brain to produce serotonin, which is vital for the secretion of melatonin (a hormone that promotes sleep).

7. Control your intake of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol

Consuming stimulants such as coffee, tea, energy drinks and nicotine can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. While alcohol can make you fall asleep more quickly, it generally leads to a shorter, lighter sleep. It would be best for your sleep to avoid these substances altogether, or at least reduce your intake of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, especially in the afternoon and evening.

8. Essayez de faire de l'exercice régulièrement

Doing 30 minutes of physical activity a day is one of the best ways to stay healthy and sleep better. It's best to exercise during the day and to finish exercising at least 2 hours before bedtime.

9. Stay awake during the day

Short 10-20 minute naps can give you a boost of energy without having a significant impact on sleep. But be warned: longer naps can make you feel drowsy during the day and make the following night difficult. If you must take a nap, try to keep it short (no more than 20 minutes) and preferably take it in the early afternoon between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

10. Take time to relax

Stress, anxiety and over-stimulation can deeply affect your sleep. Practising relaxation techniques every day, such as deep breathing, mindfulness, yoga, guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation, can be an excellent way to unwind! Set aside time during the day (not near bedtime) to reflect and write down your thoughts, worries and tasks; this is an excellent way of freeing your mind in time for a good night's sleep.

Just because behaviour can be changed doesn't mean it's easy for everyone! You certainly don't have to change all your habits at once. You can gradually start experimenting to see what works and what doesn't for you. If you're still worried about your sleep, talk to your health and sleep professionals.

Have a good night's sleep!

Check out the other articles in Mag-santé: The Bonjour-santé magazine for plenty of health-related tips! Remember that with the Bonjour-santé membership, members have unlimited access to our team of physical and mental health nurses by  e-consult to discuss, and receive information and advice about health concerns. Login to your account to take advantage of this service and many other health services, or become a member.

Source: Canadian public health campaign on sleep

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