One of the most important and yet neglected things in life is sleep. Not only does it affect our moods, health and the decisions we make, but it affects our lives significantly both in the short and long-term. With this in mind we believe it should be the focus of everyone to better their sleep quality, and improve their life overall.

‘But how?’ I hear you say. Follow the tips below to become a sleep genius.

1. Avoid Caffeine, Tobacco and Alcohol Before Bed

caffeine

You’ve heard us say it hundreds of times before, but caffeinated products decrease your quality of sleep. You should avoid all caffeinated products, whether that be coffee, tea, chocolate, caffeine-heavy soft drinks or pain killers at least four to six hours before you go to bed. Same with smokers, if you do smoke you should refrain from using tobacco products close to bedtime as they can be stimulating.  Alcohol can keep you awake too. Many think it actually helps us sleep but after a few hours it acts as a stimulant which will increase the amount of time you wake up during the night and give you poor quality of sleep.

Related: The Science Behind Why Alcohol Is Bad Before Bed

During your day you should get as much natural light exposure as possible. Natural light helps to keep your internal clock on a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Research suggests that light tells the brain to wake up. That probably explains why we find it hard to get up in the morning during winter as it is still dark at 7.30am. To enjoy a good night’s sleep, let the light in first thing in the morning. Yes, you might struggle in winter but there are specially designed light boxes you can purchase which simulate sunlight.

3. Exercise At Least Three Hours Before Bed

If you exercise at least three hours before bed it will promote more restful sleep. Bear in mind that exercise actually stimulates the body to secrete the stress hormone, cortisol – which helps activate the alerting mechanism in the brain. So if you exercise too close to bed time, you’ll struggle to get to sleep for a good while. It is best to exercise earlier in the day, not only for sleep but to kick-start your metabolism too.

4. Create a Sleep-Inducing Environment

To get a good night’s sleep it is important that you have set the right environment. You need a quiet, dark and cool environment in order to promote sound slumber. If you live on a busy road lower the volume of cars driving past with some kind of white noise, or put in a pair of ear plugs. Depending on the time of year, it might not be dark enough when you want to go to sleep so use blackout shades or an eye mask to block out light. The temperature in the room needs to be comfortable too – so make sure you find a temperature that is comfortable for you.

Related: How to Design Your Bedroom Colour Scheme for a More Relaxing Atmosphere

5. Stick to a Sleep Schedule

Make sure you get to bed and wake up at a similar time each day to set your ‘internal clock’ to expect sleep at certain time. Even if one night you struggle to sleep, the next night the extra sleep drive you have accumulated will help you to consolidate sleep the following night … happy days!

6. Ensure You Have a Comfortable Bed

It’s important that your mattress is as supportive and comfortable as possible in order to have a good night’s sleep. A mattress needs replacing every 8 years, as it will begin to lose its support and won’t be doing any good for your sleep, or back for that matter. Make sure you have comfortable pillows and clean it regularly to reduce the build of dust mites and other allergens.

Related: Dr Rosemary Leonard On The Importance Of Good Sleep & A New Mattress

Do you have any advice on how to improve the quality of sleep? Let us know in the comments section below.