1. Set your bedroom temperature
Science fact: Your core temperature drops by a degree or two as you begin to fall asleep. Meaning, if your room is at a comfortably cool temp, it’s easier to make the transition from wakefulness to sleep. Temperatures around 20 C to 23 C are optimal for most people.
2. Have the right bedtime snacks
The amino acid tryptophan, found in milk, turkey, and peanuts, helps your brain produce serotonin, a chemical that makes you relax, so try a bedtime snack of toast with peanut butter, or a glass of milk, for instance.
3. Get more magnesium into your diet
Research has shown that magnesium plays a key role in our ability to sleep. This essential mineral helps with stress reduction and mood stabilisation, and induces relaxation. Besides taking a supplement, you can try eating more magnesium-rich foods such as nuts and seeds, spinach, Swiss chard and other green leafy vegetables, and whole grains like brown rice and oats.
READ MORE: 12 Fatigue-Busting Foods To Boost Your Energy Naturally
4. Put your feet up
Facing the wall, lie on your back with your behind about 45 cm away from a wall and rest your feet up against it for 15 minutes before bedtime.
The blood draining from your legs reduces blood pressure, which slows your heart rate and relaxes you.
5. Nix nightcaps
Alcohol makes you drowsy, but you’ll have broken sleep and wake up needing to visit the toilet. Caffeine, found in tea, coffee, colas, chocolate and painkillers (check labels), ups adrenaline production, making you edgy; so does nicotine.
6. Drink something soothing
There are many theories that the digestive is linked to the brain. Therefore, a “comfort drink” might actually help make you feel more relaxed and bring on sleep.
Try sipping on a small glass of warm milk, or a turmeric latte (which is said to be good for overall health, anyway). If you’re a tea person, drink some chamomile tea – the herbal drink can reduce anxiety, making it easier for you to fall asleep.
7. If you're not asleep in 10 minutes — get up
Go into another room and do something repetitive, like knitting. Once you feel sleepy again, go back to bed.
8. Skip the Sunday lie-in
When it comes to rest, a routine is best. Having a regular sleep-wake schedule sets your body’s internal clock, and actually enhances the quality of your sleep. To do this, get in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle (aka the circadian rhythm).
Figure out an optimal sleeping time for yourself – say, by 11pm at night, with your alarm set for blast-off at 7am. Regulating your sleeping and waking times, according to your own natural internal rhythms and what works best for you and your work schedule, will help you feel much more refreshed and energized when you’re awake.
9. Use your bed for sleeping and sex
Watching TV or using a laptop weakens the association between bed and sleep. Talking is okay — but save your whinge about work or concerns about kids for another time.
READ MORE: Long-Term Couples, Here’s How You Can Keep Sex Alive
11. Control your exposure to light
Exposure to bright light at night can trick your brain into thinking it is still daytime, keeping you awake and alert. Darkness signals the body to produce melatonin, the naturally occurring hormone that makes you feel sleepy.
When it’s bedtime, dim your lights and minimise exposure to mobile devices, like iPads and smartphones which emit “blue light” and which keep you awake. Download apps like f.lux to block blue light on screens. You can also get special glasses that are designed to block blue light.
Sleep specialists advise getting off any electronic devices a full two hours before your head hits the pillow. If you’re reading, use orange or yellow light to help with the wind-down process.
12. Get thee some lavender
Certain smells can affect your sleep quality. Exposing yourself to calming scents, such as lavender (long used for relaxation in aromatherapy), at night can actually help ease you into sleep.
Burn a lavender-scented candle in your bedroom or spray a little essential oil onto your pillow. It has been scientifically proven that lavender can decrease your heart rate and blood pressure, putting you in a calm, relaxed state.
READ MORE: Plants That Help You Get Healthier And Sleep Better
13. Say no to night-lights
An American study has found that children who sleep in a dimly-lit room are more likely to develop short-sightedness. Periods of darkness are important for eye development. If you do wake, don’t turn on the light: even 15 minutes of light can disrupt production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.
14. Leave the flowers in the lounge
During the day, flowers release oxygen into the air. However, at night they give off carbon dioxide which makes your bedroom stuffy.
16. Optimise your bedroom environment
Your bedroom environment is key in getting a good night’s sleep. Sometimes, even tiny changes to your resting space can hugely affect the quality of your sleep. This includes factors like noise and light, or even putting your headboard against the wall (Feng shui experts say this makes you feel more secure).
Create a relaxing environment by minimising external sounds, for instance. You don’t have to be as extreme as stuffing ear plugs into your skull. Just shutting the door and drawing the blinds may help cue sleep for you.
Photo: Sunday Bedding
17. Download a white noise app
White noise refers to sound signals that are used to mask other noises or disturbances. It can be used to drown out sounds that might prevent you from falling asleep or waking up while asleep. There are many white noise smartphone apps where you get a full range of sounds, from raindrops to ocean waves, whirring fans and static. There are even generators where you can “design” your own white noise.
Different sounds work for different people, so experiment and go with your instincts on what you find pleasant. Your selection should make you feel relaxed, and eventually drowsy.
18. Try ASMR
Also known as Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, this sensation is described as a euphoric, calming sensation that starts with a relaxing tingling in your scalp and neck, before travelling down to your arms and legs. As strange as it sounds, it does a pretty good job at putting some people to sleep.
To induce ASMR, plug into a video or guided meditation, like this. The result should have you happily snuggling into your bed, and falling into blissful slumber.
19. Prime your position
Lie in a way that supports the natural curves of your spine — for most of us, that’s on your side, with your head on a pillow. Avoid sleeping on your back — it interferes with breathing and causes snoring. Sleeping on your stomach cramps neck muscles. Here’s how to choose the best mattress for your sleeping style.
20. Get a grip
Write down everything that’s on your mind and promise yourself you will deal with it in the morning. Nightmares? Write down a new dream with a happier outcome and run it through your mind’s eye. When you go back to sleep, this should replace the nightmare.
21. Exercise during the day
Californian researchers have found that exercising 20 minutes every other afternoon halved the time insomniacs in sedentary jobs needed to fall asleep.
People who exercise regularly sleep better at night and feel more energised during the day. Regular exercise also improves the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea, and increases the amount of time you spend in the deep restorative stages of sleep.
A caveat — while exercise is essential for a good night’s sleep, exercising at night can cause problems for some people. Exercise raises the heart rate and core temperature, and excites the nervous and endocrine systems.
If you must work out after dark, keep your workout to the same time every night, and keep it short (no super sets or endurance training!) as the longer the session is, the harder it is to wind down after.
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Text: www.bauersyndication.com / Additional reporting: Cheryl Lim