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10 steps to better sleep

Man waking up in the morning. He is smiling and stretching his arms up.
A good night’s sleep helps us to be at our best during the day.

It’s 6am and your alarm is blaring. Time to rise and shine! You hit the snooze button once, twice, three times… and suddenly you’re running late for work. If this scenario is all too familiar, it might be time to give your sleep routine some attention.

We spend around a third of our lives asleep, but it mightn't feel that way if we’re always waking up tired. Restless, disrupted, or poor-quality sleep can leave us feeling pretty rubbish the next day, and if it’s an ongoing pattern, we might feel like we’re never truly rested.

Just like eating healthier and getting more exercise, it’s possible to improve our sleep. With a little time and commitment, hitting reset on your sleep routine can boost your physical and mental wellbeing in the long run.

Here are 10 things you can do throughout the day and night to help get a better sleep.

1. Stick to a sleep schedule

If you want to be a better sleeper, having a sleep routine should be at the top of your list. For adults aged 18-64 years, it’s recommended to aim for 7-9 hours sleep per night, and for people over 65, the recommendation is for 7-8 hours per night. Count backwards from your ideal wake-up time, and you’ll find your ideal bedtime. If you can stick to a regular bedtime you’ll support your body’s sleep/wake cycle (known as your circadian rhythm), which is essential for getting enough quality sleep.

2. Set up your sleep zone

Does your bedroom give you relaxing vibes? If not, your mind mightn’t associate it with sleep. Set up a great sleep space by removing electronic devices, minimising light (with blackout curtains or an eye mask) and sound (with earplugs or a ‘white noise’ source) and keeping the bedroom cool. You may also find that keeping your bedroom tidy helps your mind relax.

A woman asleep in bed, wearing an eye mask

3. Get your to-do list out of your mind and onto paper

It can be hard to relax at night if you’re mentally building a list of all the things you need to do tomorrow. So instead of keeping your to-do list whirring around in your mind, write it down. Your tasks will be ready for you tomorrow.

4. Have a pre-bed routine

Let your mind and body know that it’s time to wind down by having a pre-bed routine. Some activities that help us prepare for sleep include having a warm bath or shower, reading a book, or listening to relaxing music or an audio book.

5. Switch off the screens

TVs, phones, computers, video games… screens are the enemy of a good night’s sleep. The bright light emitted by electronic devices can confuse our body clock, disrupt the level of melatonin (the hormone that helps us sleep), and overstimulate our brain at the time we need to be calming down. Switch off the screens at least 30 minutes before bed time to support your pre-bed routine.

A woman reading on a sofa while holding a mug

6. Get comfy

Consider what small changes you might be able to make to help you sleep with greater comfort. A supportive mattress, comfortable pillow, sheets and blankets that suit the season, and loose pyjamas may help you sleep better and longer.

7. Don’t watch the clock

Clock-watching can make us worry and worrying stops us from sleeping. Instead of checking the time, try a breathing exercise instead. Slowly breathe in for four seconds, hold for two, breathe out for four, and hold for two. Repeating this pattern not only distracts your mind from worrying about the time, but you’ll also be sending messages of relaxation to your body.

8. Eat well throughout the day

What you eat influences your sleep, and vis versa. Eat well at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and have healthy snacks in between meals if needed. This will give your body the nutrition it needs to work during the day and rest at night. Avoid eating large or rich meals, especially close to bed time.

9. Get active daily

Exercising is not only great for our physical health, but it supports mental wellbeing too. Aim to get at least 30 minutes most days of the week, but don’t exercise too close to bed time – it can have the opposite effect of keeping us awake for longer.

Man walking a labrador dog

10. Check your caffeine and alcohol intake

Caffeine makes us feel more energised, which is the last thing we need when we’re trying to sleep. If you’re a caffeine drinker, think about when you’re having your beverages. The later in the day, the greater the chance they’ll affect your sleep. Alcohol and smoking also affect sleep quality, so aim to stick to the alcohol intake recommendations and seek support to quit smoking if you need it.

Still not sleeping?

If you find that you’re sleeping poorly despite making changes, or would like one-on-one support, speak with your doctor or a health professional. They can explore whether a health issue or sleep disorder could be the cause of your tiredness, and work with you to find other ways to improve your sleep.

More information

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Insomnia: what is it and when should you get help?

You won’t believe what triggered my sleepwalking…

Last updated: 25 September 2019