1. Don’t try too hard to get to sleep or look at the clock. This tends to cause anxiety around getting to sleep, which can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
2. If you can’t sleep, rather than lying awake worrying about how you’ll feel tomorrow or letting your mind chase unpaid bills, get up, go to another room, read, watch TV or listen to music until you feel sleepy – at which point you can go back to bed and try again.
3. Exercise in the morning, afternoon or early evening. Evening workouts can make it hard to wind down as endorphins put your system in go mode.
4. Limit stimulants including tea, coffee and caffeine drinks for at least three hours before sleep. Ideally avoid caffeine after lunchtime.
5. Even if you feel sleepy during the afternoon, resist the urge to nap as it will only mess up your cycle and make it harder to get to sleep at night.
6. Do something relaxing before bed – think meditating or a warm bath.
7. Rise at the same time each morning to establish a consistent sleep pattern. Your body loves routine and will do its best to stick to a schedule.
» Shower before bed. Some sleep experts say a pre-bed shower can kick-start the cooling process necessary for sleep. Normally, a drop in body temperature precedes sleep according to UniSA’s Centre for Sleep Research. While in healthy sleepers the reduction is automatic, if you’re struggling to reach the land of nod, try giving it a thermic hand.
8. Confine use of the bed to sleep and sex. Working, eating or reading in bed blurs the lines about what bed is for, diluting the brain’s association between being in bed and going to sleep.
9. Ban gadgets from the bedroom. Blue wavelengths from LED lights and screens are more deleterious to melatonin than standard white light according to a 2012 Harvard Health Letter. Even having a PC on standby can mess with shut-eye.
10. Immerse yourself in daylight, even if it’s overcast. This helps with the body’s melatonin production. Then, before bedtime, dim the lights to let the body adjust to night-time and start producing melatonin rather than going from a bright room to a darkened space. You’re more likely to drift into sleep.
11. Turn off hall and living room lights. Any light can inhibit the release of melatonin according to the National Sleep Foundation.