How can I sleep better at night?

Graphic shows a young person in bed having problems with their sleep. they are on their phone and the background is a starry night sky.

Fay is a freelance writer with an interest in beauty, fashion and self-care. She also works as a researcher and writer on wellness topics, such as alternative treatments and CBD. 

Unhealthy sleep habits

Have you ever stayed up into the wee hours watching TikTok videos under the covers? Or been chatting away on Whatsapp and suddenly realised it’s 2am? Maybe you can’t resist finding out what happens with Cassie and Nate in Euphoria, and before you know it the sun is coming up. These kind of sleeping habits can catch up with you in the day and leave you feeling a bit like a zombie. 

It may seem worth it at the time, but if you’re staying up night after night, then this can lead to lots of challenges. When you’re sleep-deprived, you not only develop raccoon eyes, but you’ll also have a hard time concentrating in class, or at work the next day. You’ll find it also takes a toll on your mental health, leading to anxiety and increased stress levels. In the long-term, lack of sleep can also put you at risk of serious conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. 

It’s important to start thinking about how you can have a healthier relationship with sleep, and the good news is, there are plenty of simple changes you can make. Here’s our handy guide, starting with the science. 

How much sleep do I need?

Most people need roughly eight hours of sleep each night, but this can vary depending on the person. The NHS’s sleep guide says that if you’re feeling sleepy in the day, it’s likely that you’re not getting enough sleep.

Sleep and technology 

When you get into bed at night, do you turn off your phone? Most likely you just keep it by your bed right? You might even check it in the middle of the night.  

Overuse of phones is a contributing factor to not being able to get enough sleep. Hate to break it to you, but it’s true. Here’s why. 

Smartphones emit artificial blue light that can activate neurons in your brain. These chemicals can interrupt with your body’s ability to produce melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone.  

Sleep and stress  

When you’re under chronic stress, your body ‘thinks’ it’s in a state of never-ending danger. Like being in a panic mode all the time. 

When you’re sleep-deprived and stressed, it’s easy for negative thoughts to creep into your head and repeat themselves. Like a test that you failed in school, a breakup, a fight with your BFF, or whatever it may be that’s bothering you.   

If you have no time to wind down at the end of the day, your body may forget how to distinguish between a time for action and a time for rest. That’s why you’re having difficulty falling asleep.   

How to change my sleep habits 

If you’re already worried about your physical and mental health, here are a few tips on overcoming stress and insufficient sleep. 

Change your diet 

There’s nothing wrong with liking a coffee, or maybe three. But make sure to limit your caffeine consumption. Drink less caffeine and drink it early on in the day. Caffeine can take up to 10 hours to leave your bloodstream, so give your body enough time to get into rest mode before bed. 

Foods made with refined carbohydrates (like white bread and pastry) can increase your risk of developing insomnia. They’re fine for a treat as part of a healthy diet, but you might experience sleepless nights if you eat too many of them. Wholegrain foods like brown bread and oats give you much better chance of a good snooze. 

Other foods that you should avoid eating before going to sleep include chocolates, spicy foods, and sweet drinks. Sugary and high-carb foods may be tasty but can wreak havoc on your energy levels and blood sugar.   

Try some natural relaxation  

You don’t need special skills to meditate, so why not give it a try?  

Begin by taking some time out to unwind at the end of your day. You can use aromatherapy oils to reduce anxiety levels (try lavender). You could also put on a playlist of all your favourite soothing sounds – purring cats, anyone? 

Yoga is accessible to anyone and you don’t have to be a pro to enjoy it and feel the benefits. You not only improve your muscular strength, but you’ll also improve your sleep patterns and enhance your quality of life. Yoga with Adriene on YouTube is great for beginners. 

Start journaling  

Journaling or writing a diary can really help relieve stress. It can be relaxing to put your thoughts on paper, almost like having someone to talk to. 

Though it’s old school, experts suggest that journaling can help you manage overwhelming emotions and anxiety. It can also allow you to prioritise your problems, face your fears, and work out other issues that stress you out through journaling.   

The next time you’re getting ready to go to bed, turn off your phone and start writing in your journal instead. Just make sure you put it away from nosy eyes!

Create healthy technology boundaries  

Discipline yourself to stop using your gadgets at a set time every night, or turn your phone or tablet on flight mode. Without access to the internet, you won’t have a reason to stay up late at night.  

You can also turn your phone to grayscale mode so if you’re using it earlier in the evening, it won’t affect your sleep later on. 

If you’re addicted to Roblox, Minecraft, Fortnite or other games, make sure to limit your game time, especially at night, so you’ll have energy in the morning.  

Seek professional support 

If you whole-heartedly follow all the above suggestions and nothing seems to work, now is the time to seek professional help.    

Your GP can advise you on what to do about your sleep problem. They can check your heart rate and breathing to ensure you don’t have underlying medical issues. They can also determine if your sleep problem is stress-related or something else. 

You can also get in touch with The Mix to book up to eight sessions of free counselling, to help you talk through the issues that might be affecting your sleep. 

Next Steps

  • Visit http://www.sleepcouncil.org.uk/ for advice and guidance on healthy sleep habits.
  • AnxietyUK run helplines, email support, live chats and therapy services for people with anxiety disorders. 08444 775 774
  • Visit bemindful for more information on mindfulness and to search for a course near you.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Fay Smith

Updated on 24-Feb-2022

Sorry, comments closed