Sleep gives us energy, makes doing stuff easier, gives us a break from daily stress and struggles, helps our body repair itself and enables us to remember stuff.
However sometimes it can be a struggle to fall asleep at night. Thinking about school, people or events can leave us feeling restless. Even our diet or routine can affect our sleep. But there are things we can try to help improve our sleep.
Please note if these ideas don't help or you think your issues are more serious please speak to the school nurse or your GP.
Below are some useful things to think about for improving your sleep:
How much sleep do I need?
We are all pretty guilty of thinking we actually don’t need that much to function. The thing is, the NHS says that one in three of us suffers from poor sleep. It might not seem like too much of a big deal if you’re in the habit of doing it, but not sleeping enough can lead to poor memory, lack of concentration and anxiety. So maybe have a think about how you’ve been feeling lately and make some changes. See below for a useful sleep planner and tracker that you can print out and plan your sleep
Set up your room to be good for sleep
Your bedroom is your haven. But if you use it all day for working, playing video games, or other stuff, the chances are it’s a bit of a mess by the end of the day. Take ten minutes to make it cosy. Make your bed, tidy up the floor and surfaces. If you can keep your bed just a place where you sleep. It might not sound like a big deal, but keeping your bed for sleep related activities is a great way to separate your daily life from when you need to get some shut eye.
This isn't just a thing for young children. Having a bedtime routine of some sort has been proven to improve the quality of your sleep, as well as the time it takes to actually drop off.
Routine should include some different forms of relaxation to help unwind from the day. Avoid video games, music and videos that raise your level of alertness. Below are 50 things you can do to help when struggling to sleep. Why not try one for a few nights and see how you get on – if it doesn’t work, try something else. There is no one right way to do this – and it’s going to be down to you to see what works.
Cleanliness not only keeps us physically healthy but also helps with our mental health. Before bed, have a wash and brush your teeth. (A bath or shower can be part of your relaxation time). Make sure your bed sheets and clothes are clean too.
Put down the phone an hour before
Blue light in screens tricks your circadian rhythms into thinking it’s still daylight, meaning your natural bodily response to the fading light at the end of the day gets stopped in its tracks. This makes it much harder to fall asleep naturally, and then to get good quality sleep. Good news is though, putting down your phone an hour before the end of the day should sort you out.
Avoid lots of caffeine and sugar
Especially in the evening. Be warned, caffeine comes in many forms including the obvious; yes coffee and tea but also other treats like chocolate and soft drinks. While caffeine helps us feel more awake in the morning, it can have bad effects on your following night’s sleep. If you’re a big tea drinker, try having a herbal tea to keep you going instead. Peppermint tea is really refreshing and has minimal caffeine.
Stress is the biggest enemy of good quality sleep. If your mind is running in circles, don’t lie there hoping it’ll silence itself because it most probably won’t. Try putting pen to paper and writing about whatever it is on your mind.
It might sound obvious but bright lights do keep you up, our bodies are biologically sensitive to natural daylight, this is called a circadian rhythm. As it gets dark, our bodies are filled with the hormone melatonin, which signals that it’s time to sleep. Our biological rhythm is thrown off with artificial bright lighting, suppressing the melatonin. Try and keep things dark at night by putting a dim lamp on as you are getting ready to sleep.
If you’re struggling to fall asleep, don’t put pressure on yourself, this will only make you feel more stressed, making you less likely to sleep. If you just lay there thinking about going to sleep, it’s less likely to happen. Get up and do something for 10 minutes and then head back.
Getting out of bed in the morning
Problems sleeping can make it hard to get out of bed in the mornings. This is especially true during the winter months, when there are fewer hours of daylight. If you struggle with getting up in the mornings, here are a couple of tips that can help: Put your clock or mobile phone on the other side of the room, so you have to physically get out of bed to turn your alarm off. Find a small reason to get out of bed - like a tasty breakfast, exercise, meditation, writing a mood journal, or watching an episode of your favourite programme while you get ready.
Waking up early gives you some breathing space to think about what you want to achieve that day. Once you start getting into a routine, you’ll start to find that waking up each morning becomes slightly easier.
Sleep Planner and Tracker