6 steps to sleeping like a baby How well do you sleep? Do you get your 8 hours per night, fall asleep easily and wake up refreshed in the morning? Or do you regularly have fragmented nights, bad dreams, and struggle to get out of bed when the alarm goes? We all know that a good night’s rest is essential to our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Sleep helps our bodies to heal and repair our heart and blood vessels, maintain a healthy weight, balance our hormones and blood sugar levels. Sleep is critical for proper cognitive functioning and safeguards against mood swings, stress and even depression. This is all very well in theory, but chances are that if you’re reading this article, you could be sleeping better. Causes of poor sleeping behaviour Poor sleep quality can have many reasons. There may be an underlying medical problem that may be affecting your sleep. A sleep disturbance could be a symptom or an adverse effect of therapy to treat one of a wide range of health issues including • Arthritis and other musculoskeletal issues • Urinary tract infections or kidney disease • Overactive thyroid or other hormone related issues • Respiratory problems • Diabetes • Heart disease • Mental health issues including stress, anxiety and depression • Medication such as beta blockers, corticosteroids, medicines containing caffeine If you’re suffering from restless nights, frequent wakings, sleep apnoea or any symptoms of sleep deprivation , your first port of call should be your GP so that any medical issues can be properly investigated and eliminated. But what if you’ve done all that, and you’re still not sleeping properly? Creating the ideal sleep environment Have you considered the possibility that your sleeping troubles could be a consequence of the lifestyle you lead? Not as judgemental as it might appear, it is now a recognised fact that stressful jobs, hectic lives and the expectation of 24/7 availability in everything we do leaves little room for downtime, let alone proper sleep. What’s more, in our digital age where the smartphone, computer and internet reign supreme, most of us cannot help taking part in activities that actually have a detrimental impact on sleep . To regain balance, it’s time to turn the tide and make sleep a priority. With that in mind, here are 6 very practical steps you can take to create the right conditions for a good night’s sleep. 1. Keep it comfy The first thing to tackle in an effort to improve your sleep is your bed. Is it comfortable to sleep on? How supportive is your mattress? How old is it? Everybody is different – there’s no one-size-fits all solution when it comes to beds and mattresses – meaning you must ensure you get the best mattress to optimally support your weight and build and provide maximum comfort. Check out this helpful bed buying guide from Snug Interiors for more advice. Are you a front, back or side sleeper? Do you change position often during the night? Are you suffering from chronic back pain? Do you prefer a pocket sprung mattress, one made from memory foam, latex, or a mixture or materials? These and many other factors will determine the right level of firmness you require. If you decide to buy a new mattress , it’s a good idea to find a manufacturer that will offer a trial period of around 100 nights, with the option of returning the mattress for a full refund if you don’t like the way it feels. 2. Keep it relaxed Don’t underestimate the importance of creating an oasis of calm and tranquillity in the bedroom. Does yours channel rest and relaxation? If not, consider setting aside a weekend to declutter and redecorate and create a bedroom you’ll love to retire to. Just as important is to develop a nightly wind-down bedtime routine to prepare your body and mind for sleep. There are many tried and tested techniques to put you in the right frame of mind for bed including • A warm bubble bath • Calming scents or pillow sprays • A warm milky drink or relaxing herbal tea (no alcohol or caffeine!) • Yoga, meditation or breathing techniques • ½ hour reading in bed • Soft, soothing music 3. Keep tech out of the bedroom It’s important to remember that a bedroom should be a place for rest and intimacy, not for work, entertainment or communication. Whether you wish to watch a film, answer emails, play computer games or catch up with your social media accounts, the bedroom is not the right place. Appliances and gadgets such as TVs, computers, tablets, mobile phones, gaming platforms etc. should be kept out of the bedroom altogether. Not only will they overstimulate the brain and stop it from switching into sleep mode, but flashing lights and beeping noises can all be sleep disruptive. 4. Keep the temperature cool The ideal bedroom temperature should be 16-18°C (slightly warmer for children and older people), while a room that’s hotter than 24°C is likely to lead to restlessness. Get a thermometer for your bedroom to monitor the temperature to ensure the temperature is perfect when you go to bed. To ventilate the room, have the windows open in the evening to maximise cool air circulation, particularly during the summer, but close them at bedtime if there’s a draught. During wintertime, a hot water bottle or pair of bedsocks can work wonders. Invest in a heavy winter duvet and a lighter one for summer, as well as extra sheets and blankets that can be used as needed. 5. Keep the room dark The body’s circadian rhythm responds to light and darkness. This is a biological process that helps us to sleep at night when it’s dark – the release of melatonin relaxes the body and helps us fall asleep – and wake up when it’s light. Work with your body by keeping your bedroom dark: fit opaque curtains and/or a blackout blinds, keep lights switched off during the night (or get a nightlight for toilet trips etc), and wear an eye mask if it helps. Keep computers and mobile phones out of the bedroom; LED screens glow with a blue light that actually suppresses the release of melatonin, keeping you awake. 6. Keep it quiet Finally, peace and tranquillity should be the watchword for the ideal sleep environment, so ensure that any noise is kept to an absolute minimum. This goes for noises coming from outside (keep the window closed, fit double glazing if necessary) as well as inside. Switch off household appliances and make certain that the other members of the household are quiet during the night. Sometimes, earplugs are the only way. While loud, sudden noises are disruptive, some people find soft, continuous sounds helpful to fall asleep to. If you don’t fancy leaving the hairdryer or vacuum cleaner on all night, you can get the same effect by playing ambient sounds such as white, grey, pink and softened brown noise . About the Author: Dakota Murphey enjoys sharing her experiences of living a healthy lifestyle through her blog posts. Working as a freelance writer for a multitude of different industries, when she's not writing or cooking up a storm in her kitchen she enjoys hiking and countryside walks with her family.