Seven Ways to Have a Perfect Night's Sleep

If you eat well and exercise regularly, you're probably a pretty health conscious person. But do you also make sure you get the right amount of sleep to keep your body in peak condition?

Many otherwise healthy people have a habit of neglecting their sleep. This is a shame because it's one of the most important things you can do to keep your body functioning properly.

Sleep is vital for maintaining normal levels of cognitive skills such as speech, memory, concentration and decision making. Have you ever been so tired you started slurring or couldn't think straight?

Sleep deprivation can also have a major impact on both our physical and emotional health. Chronic lack of sleep can lead to stress, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, depression, obesity and can cause fatal accidents. This is why it's so important to ensure that we get sufficient sleep.

The actual amount of sleep we need varies from person to person, with some people functioning well on just six hours sleep while others can't perform unless they've had ten. The average amount of sleep you should aim for each night is eight hours. If you have difficulty sleeping, trying these seven simple tips may help:

1. Invest in a good quality bed. 
A mattress that's old, lumpy or uncomfortable won't promote restful sleep. We spend a third of our lives in bed so your mattress is definitely not something you want to scrimp on.

2. Get some exercise during the day. 
But don't work out right before you want to sleep. This will get your heart pumping, boost your adrenaline and keep you awake – great for the morning, not so much at bedtime.

3. Stop eating about two hours before bedtime. 
This will give your body a chance to digest any food. Caffeine can stay in your system for 8-10 hours so try to have your last cup of coffee in the early afternoon. And contrary to popular belief, alcohol doesn't help you sleep better. It may get you to nod off faster, but you'll sleep fitfully and won't enjoy a deep, restful slumber.

4. Have a nighttime routine. 
This will make the transition from wakefulness to sleep easier for you to accomplish. Go to bed at a set time every night, but before you do, try this...

About an hour or so before bed, take a warm bath. The water will relax your muscles and the drop in temperature after you get out mimics your body's natural drop in temperature as you fall asleep.

Then about thirty minutes to an hour before bed, turn off all your technology (TV, laptop, phone etc) and go into your bedroom. Change into your pyjamas, dim the lights, light some scented candles and read a good book (preferably not one that's too gripping) until you feel tired.

5. Minimise distractions. 
Make sure your bedroom is dark, silent and well ventilated before you hit the sack.

6. Keep a pen and paper by your bed. 
Just before you turn out the lights, write down anything that's been troubling you. Getting the worries out of your head and onto paper will free your brain up for more important things (such as falling asleep) and it won't keep waking you up to remember the things you've been thinking about. If you do wake up during the night worrying about something, write that down too and resolve to take action in the morning. There's not much you can do about it in the middle of the night, so why upset yourself?

7. Have a morning routine. 
Wake up at the same time every day, even at the weekend. Plan or prepare something the night before to look forward to, such as a nice breakfast. And get up as soon as the alarm goes off - hitting the snooze button repeatedly is not good for you. Being woken up every ten minutes in the morning will interrupt your REM sleep (the last stage of sleep, when dreams occur) and cause you to feel more tired.

Note: If you have a sleeping problem that persists for longer than a few weeks, it might be a good idea to pay a visit to your GP who will be able to identify any underlying issues such as a medical condition or mental health problem.

Sleep tight!

How well do you sleep? Do you have a night time routine? Any tips for people who struggle to sleep well? Then please leave a comment!

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