A good night's sleep can boost your mood and increase your energy levels. And even more significantly, it might help prevent heart disease, diabetes, stress and anxiety, while it may also extend your life expectancy 1. But so many of us find it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
How much sleep do you need?
How much sleep you need depends on your age, sex and health, and varies between individuals. The average adult under 65 needs between 7 and 9 hours a night. Over 65s need on average slightly less (7-8 hours), while under 18s need more (8-9 hours for teens, up to 12-14 hours for infants and toddlers) 2.
How to fall asleep faster
What you do the day before can have a big impact on your sleep. To get a good night's sleep, try following these steps and see what works for you:
- Avoid caffeine
Caffeine found in coffee and some soft drinks is a stimulant that keeps your body awake. Even when drunk 6 hours before bed, it can reduce your total night's sleep by more than an hour 3.
- Eat a light dinner
Foods that can help you get to sleep include poultry, whole grains, white rice, kale and bananas 4. Eating fatty or spicy food, or too much food, could make you bloated and uncomfortable, making it harder to fall asleep.
- Don't drink alcohol
While alcohol can help you get to sleep, it disrupts your sleeping patterns throughout the night so that overall you get less rest 5. You're better off falling asleep naturally. Snooze over booze.
- Turn off tech
The temptation to check your phone before bed is strong. We’ve all been there, ready to sleep, yet finding ourselves scrolling through social media. But using your devices in the hour before you go to bed causes sleep disruption 6.
- Create complete darkness
Use blackout curtains or an eye mask for the ideal conditions to sleep through the night. If you have dimmer switches in your home, you might also want to turn them down low in the hours before bedtime.
How to improve your quality of sleep
Say ‘goodnight’ to bad sleep with these lifestyle changes:
- Eat well
Eating a healthy diet can prevent your energy levels from dipping in the day, so you sleep better at night. Two positive changes are eating less sugar 7 and fibre 8.
- Establish a routine
Waking up at the same time every day and going to bed at the same time each night tends to give you a higher quality of sleep over time. In fact, consistent timing of other daily activities, such as starting work and eating dinner, also improves sleep 9.
- Treat stress and anxiety
When you're anxious your brain activity and heart rate increase, making it difficult to fall asleep. Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation and reducing screen time in the evenings can all help, and it may take a few attempts to find out what works for you. If the issue is persistent or you’re at all worried, it’s a good idea to speak to your GP.