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How to get the best night's sleep, every night

Getting a good night’s sleep is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. Assuming that you’re getting the recommended eight hours of sleep each night, you spend a whopping 229,961 hours (roughly 1/3 of your life) tucked up in bed.

In countless studies of humans and animals, researchers have identified that sleep plays a critical role in the body’s immune system, metabolism, memory, learning, heart rate and other vital functions, in order to support an active and healthy lifestyle.

Regularly getting a healthy amount of sleep each night isn’t as easy as it seems, as modern life lends itself to habits and environments that don’t promote good sleep hygiene. TVs and other electronic gadgets, light, noise, and a bad mattress or bed can disrupt your sleep, and leave you feeling low and lacking in the energy needed to enjoy the day ahead.

How can you improve your sleep hygiene?

Maintaining good sleep hygiene isn’t just about improving your sleeping habits. Your environment is equally important to developing a regular, healthy sleeping pattern.

Here, Julie Jennings, Chief Occupational Therapist for comfort chair and bed specialists HSL, gives her expert advice on why sleep hygiene is such an important factor in a healthy lifestyle, and how you can improve yours:

Keep a consistent sleeping pattern:

Getting a regular amount of sleep every night can be difficult, but, if you don’t sleep well at night, long naps during the day aren’t always the answer.


• Try to support your body’s natural rhythms – going to sleep and getting up at the same time each day will help set your body’s internal clock, and optimize the quality of the sleep you get.

• Be smart about napping –although it can help to occasionally catch up on lost sleep and pay off your “sleep debt”, regular daytime napping can leave you feeling worse. Limit naps to 15-20 minutes’ maximum in the early afternoon and no more than once a day.

Let there be light (except when it’s dark):

Exposure to light and noise can really disrupt your sleep. Make sure your room doesn’t allow for unwanted wake up calls.


• Control your exposure to light - melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark, making you sleepy, and less when it’s light, making you more alert.

• Expose yourself to natural sunlight in the morning (it doesn’t have to be sunny). Have your breakfast outside or by a window; take an early morning walk; ensure you’re exposed to as much daylight as possible. If you work in environments without natural light, use a light therapy box, which can simulate sunshine and can be especially useful during short, winter days.

• At night, avoid bright screens within 1-2 hours before sleeping. The blue light omitted by most phones, tablets, computers and TVs can be stimulating and suppress melatonin, making it harder to drift off.

Stretch the stress away:

Not getting enough sleep can cause your body to produce an elevated level of stress hormones, resulting in higher incidents of depression and anxiety. Exercise not only relieves symptoms of depression and anxiety, it can increase the amount of time you spend in deep, restorative sleep.


• The more vigorous your exercise, the more powerful the benefits, but even gentle exercise, such as walking for 10-20 minutes per day will improve sleep quality.

• Ensure you time your exercise right; exercise speeds up the metabolism, elevates the body’s temperature and stimulates the “feel good” hormones. This is great if you exercise during the day but not so helpful too close to bedtime.

Curb your (coffee) enthusiasm:

What we eat and drink can be equally beneficial or detrimental to getting a good night’s sleep. Alcohol, coffee and cigarettes can all lead to disrupted sleep, so try to avoid these before bedtime.


• Think about what you eat and drink – limit caffeine and nicotine as these are stimulants that will prevent your body from relaxing

• Avoid eating heavy, rich foods two hours before bed, as the digestive process will produce acids that prevent the body’s natural sleep cycles from kick starting.

• Although a ‘nightcap’ may help you to relax and fall asleep, alcohol interferes with the body’s natural cardiac rhythms and prevents the brain from passing through its normal information processing cycle. This can result in a less restful night’s sleep.

Get a bed fit for a king (or queen):

We spend a third of our lives in bed, so make sure you’re sleeping in one that supports your posture and health.


• It is important that your posture is supported as much as possible by your bed and mattress. An adjustable mattress can make all the difference in providing comfort and support that caters to you and your body.

• If supported correctly, your body weight is distributed evenly, reducing pressure points and alleviating aches and pains while lying down. Improving positional comfort can lead to a better night’s sleep, as you won’t be woken up by aches, pains and other disturbances.

• Your sleeping position can be the difference between a good night’s sleep and a restless one. So, to find your ideal resting posture and improve your sleep quality, visit HSL’s adjustable bed guide, here:

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