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How to get quality sleep

23 April 2024

4 mins

Pink, purple and orange illustration of a bed with a lamp, journal, pen, headphones, phone glass and alarm clock beside it and clouds with 'zzz' floating above the bed.

A good night’s sleep is one of the most valuable investments we can make in our overall health and happiness, with almost every major disease in the developed world – Alzheimer’s, cancer, obesity and diabetes – being linked to poor sleep.

Sleep is a vital process that refreshes the body and mind, impacting our physical health, cognitive function, emotional stability, and general quality of life. The Mental Health Foundation states that: “Sleeping helps to repair and restore our brains, not just our bodies. During sleep we can process information, consolidate memories, and undergo a number of maintenance processes that help us to function during the daytime.”

Dr Iuliana Hartescu, of Loughborough University’s Clinical Sleep Research Unit, has studied the benefits of a restful night and the relationship between sleep, exercise, and diet, which, she says, operate as a ‘health trinity’. She noted: “When you’re more rested you’re more likely to be physically active, more likely to eat at the right times of the day, and you’re more likely not to let fatigue interfere with your motivation to stick to your diet.”

Challenge yourself to sleep for at least seven hours per night

Here are some strategies you can use to enhance your sleep quality:

  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule: Establishing a regular sleep cycle helps regulate your body’s internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up naturally. Aim for consistent bedtimes and wake-up times, even on weekends. A sunrise alarm clock can help with this.
  • Create a restful sleep environment: In your bedroom, minimise noise, light, and distractions. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows, and ensure your bedroom is cool and well-ventilated. Consider using white noise or earplugs to block out disturbances.
  • Practice relaxation techniques: Engage in relaxation before bedtime to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down. Activities such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, gentle stretching, or taking a warm bath, can help alleviate stress and tension.
  • Write down your worries: If you lie awake worrying about tomorrow, make a note of what’s on your mind before you try to sleep, this can help to put your mind at rest.
  • Limit screen time before bed: The blue light emitted by electronic devices can interfere with the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates your sleep cycle. Avoid screens at least an hour before bedtime or use blue light filters to minimise the impact on your sleep quality.
  • Use a sleep diary: Record information about your sleep habits to help you understand what could be affecting your sleep and help you to explain any problems to a doctor. The Sleep Charity has a sleep diary template which you can download and try.
  • Watch your diet and lifestyle: Avoid consuming stimulants like caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime. Additionally, try to limit your alcohol intake, as it can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to poor sleep quality. Regular exercise can promote better sleep but avoid vigorous workouts too close to bedtime.
  • If you can’t sleep, don’t worry about it: Don’t lie awake worrying, get up and do something relaxing like listening to a podcast or reading until you feel tired enough to sleep.

Apps to help you sleep more easily and soundly

  • Headspace – Includes ‘sleepcasts’ which are like adult bedtime stories that help you visualise calming experiences, such as a slow-moving train or a walk through a garden.
  • Noisli – Lets you choose from different sounds such as thunder, wind and white noise to create your ideal sleep soundtrack.
  • Calm – Sleep stories for kids and adults, read aloud by people with soothing voices, including celebrities like Harry Styles.
  • Sleepful – A sleep-improvement app based on cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia, created by Loughborough University in collaboration with the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine.

More helpful resources

If you’re having trouble coping with sleep problems, visit Mind for practical suggestions and information about where to get support, or visit your GP.

Health and Wellbeing

Wellbeing means being in a positive physical, social and mental state. Wellbeing is important to us as happy, healthy people who achieve harmony in their work / life mix are more creative, productive and help to create a great place to work.

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