We spend on average a third of our lives asleep. Sleep is often seen as a time where the body is inactive. Sleep is an active period in which we rest and our body is able to renew the energy used during the day. Just as many people need different size shoes, they may need different amounts of sleep.
Just like the characteristics you are born with, the amount of sleep you need to function best may be different for you than for someone who is of the same age and gender. It is important to pay attention to your own individual needs by thinking about how you feel on different amounts of sleep.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you experiencing sleep problems?
- Are you productive, healthy and happy on the amount of sleep you get?
- Do you depend on caffeine or sugary drinks to get through the day?
- Do you have health issues?
What you can do
Begin by assessing your own needs and habits.
Make sleep a priority - you must schedule sleep just like any other daily activity.
Listen to your body - you may need anything between 2 and 12 hours sleep. If you sleep that little (or much!) and feel fine, then that's the right amount for you. There is no evidence for the recommended 8 hours a night.
Establish consistent sleep and wake schedules - getting little sleep during the week and making up for it at the weekend can cause you to feel even more tired. Try to establish a regular sleep and wake time, even on weekends so your body has the opportunity to get into a routine.
Create a relaxing routine - try to listen to music or take a bath an hour before bed.
Finish eating 2 - 3 hours before bed - if you are still hungry try something light like a slice of toast.
Avoid Stimulants - caffeine increases your heart rate and will make you feel more awake.
Try to give up smoking - nicotine stimulates the mind and the body by inducing a release of adrenaline which will leave you feeling alert.
Avoid Alcohol - although alcohol can make you feel sleepy it has been to shown to result in poorer quality of sleep and awakening during the night.
Exercise regularly - exercise early in the day is better for people who want to improve sleep. It also improves your mood and removes feelings of anxiety.
Create a sleep friendly environment - the bedroom should be somewhere that we associate with sleep, you should be able to sleep without any distractions.
Use your bedroom for sleep and sex only - try not to watch tv, read or use a computer in bed.
Temperature - being too hot or too cold during the night will stimulate the brain, so try to regulate body temperature for a peaceful night's sleep.
Light - our bodies are programmed to awaken during the hours of natural light so to ensure a good nights sleep make sure your bedroom is dark. You may find that black out curtains or an eye mask can help to achieve this.
Learn to relax - relaxation techniques can help you to unwind and release tension. Mindfulness (a type of meditation) can be done both on your own or through an audio guide. Check the Library section for free audio downloads.
Don't stress yourself out thinking about sleep too much or trying to force yourself to sleep, it will only keep you awake.
If you're not tired, get up have a warm milky drink (no sugar or caffeine) and go back to bed when you feel a little sleepier.
5 Top tips for a good night's sleep
- Try not to nap
- If you're not tired, get up
- Review your lifestyle
- Don't worry about it
- Keep a sleep diary (see library for downloads)