Skip to main content
Home » Sleep » The four secrets of good sleep, every night
Sleep Health Q1 2023

The four secrets of good sleep, every night

iStock / Getty Images Plus / Pikovit44

Dr Allie Hare

Consultant in Sleep Medicine, Royal Brompton Hospital, Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and Secretary, British Sleep Society

We increasingly recognise that sleep is essential for both our physical and mental health, but almost one in five people in the UK are not getting enough sleep.

The American Heart Association recently released ‘Life’s Essential 8’ which lists getting healthy sleep as one of the three key health behaviours which can improve cardiovascular health. Sleep is also intrinsically linked to our mood and mental wellbeing and has demonstrated links to depression and anxiety.

Why can’t we sleep?

The real challenge today is the fact that we can access everything we could possibly want, 24 hours a day, with rolling news cycles, boxsets to ‘binge watch’ and social media to scroll. In addition, our work now often intrudes into our evenings. However, there are four simple ways to promote good sleep.

Create a routine

Setting a constant routine is one of the most powerful tools we have for ensuring quality sleep. Plan a regular bedtime and stick to it at least five nights a week, and get some bright light as soon as possible after you wake — light is one of the strongest drivers of our circadian sleep rhythm.

Switch off

Aim to switch off devices at least an hour before bedtime. This allows you to start to switch off from work or social media, contributing to an electronic as well as a natural sundown. Consider setting an alarm to remind you to shut screens off before bed.

Light is one of the strongest drivers
of our circadian sleep rhythm.

Wind down

There are many relaxation techniques that can help you calm your mind and improve sleep. Mindfulness meditation, yoga and breathing exercises can help you achieve calm. Consider a warm shower, listening to music or reading a book to quiet your mind.

Create the right environment

Your bedroom should be a place of rest and relaxation. The room should be cool, dark and quiet, and your bedding should allow your temperature to be regulated effectively throughout the night. Avoid caffeine from around 2 pm and cut down on alcohol.

Follow the tips

These tips should all help you gain restful sleep if you stick to them regularly. However, avoiding excessive focus on ‘the perfect night’s sleep’ is also important and, if you have been struggling with your sleep for three or more nights per week, especially over several months, do make an appointment to see your GP for more formal help.

Next article