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Most of us will be familiar with the effects of a poor night’s sleep – fatigue, irritability, problems with attention, memory, and trouble coping with the stresses of daily life. Everyone experiences bad nights now and then but getting caught in a cycle of poor sleep can be especially frustrating, particularly when you are under stress.


Stress influences your quality of sleep and a lack of sleep can aggravate levels of stress, causing you to become more tense, irritable, and anxious. And lack of sleep can affect you physically too, when you are deprived of deep sleep your immune system also tends to be suppressed.

It’s important to get the right amount of sleep

People vary in the amount of sleep they need.  Most adults require 7-8 hours of sleep, comprising 4-5 ninety-minute cycles. These cycles are important because our bodies rejuvenate themselves in the deep sleep phase of the cycles. 

Your body will tell you what's right for you; pay attention to how you feel in the morning, after more or less sleep, and then make an effort to get the amount of sleep that's right for you.

Improving sleeping habits

The way we sleep is a very habitual thing - that is, once you are used to sleeping a certain way that’s how you will continue. The good news is bad sleep habits can be broken just as easily as they are formed.

If you are having problems sleeping, try some of these sleep-improving activities:

Change what you eat or drink

  • Reduce your intake of coffee, other caffeinated drinks (including tea and most soft drinks), and alcohol. These substances tend to disrupt your sleep.

  • Avoid large quantities of fluid at night and avoid alcohol for 5 hours before bedtime.

  • Don’t go to bed hungry but avoid eating a heavy meal too late at night.

  • Consider magnesium and unsweetened tart cherry juice as dietary supplement

Plan your activities

  • Exercise regularly. Exercise three to six hours before going to bed.

  • Plan the next day's activities early in the evening well before you get into bed (so you don’t start ‘planning’ at lights out).

  • If you think of something you need to remember, get up and write it down. This will help to postpone thinking or worrying about it until the next day.

  • Avoid daytime naps. 

Make your bed a place of sleep

  • Associate your bed with sleep and make your sleeping environment as quiet and dark as possible. Don’t do anything in bed other than sleep, reading as long as it is not too stimulating and sex. So no watching TV, discussing finances with your spouse, etc. 

  • If noise bothers you, use earplugs or a source of white noise such as a fan.

  • Keep your body temperature cool. Don’t cover yourself too heavily.  Make sure your bedroom is not overheated in the winter.

Relax before you go to bed

  • Use relaxation techniques to help you to fall asleep, and to go back to sleep if you wake during the night.

  • Avoid bright light at least a few hours before going to sleep. Don’t work on the computer late into the evening. Sunlight early in the day helps set your body clock and produce melatonin that promotes sleep.

  • If you can't sleep, get out of bed and go to another room and do something soothing until you feel sleepy again. Don’t try too hard to go to sleep, try telling yourself statements like “If I don’t get a good nights sleep tonight I will tomorrow night”; this will free you up to relax and get to sleep.

Interactive learning

Wanting to learn more about sleep, how to improve your sleep, and make a change. Click on the image below to start an e-learning module. 

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