Sep 2014 13

6 tips for a good night's sleep

By: Dave Wheeler

In a previous blog I wrote about the importance of getting a good night's sleep to allow you to function properly and perform well.

In this blog, we'll look at what you can do to improve your sleep.


1. Keep your room as dark as possible

A tiny region of the brain just above the optic nerve called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (or SCN) controls the circadian rhythms.

These circadian rhythms are a 24 hour pattern of biological processes. Because they're controlled by the SCN sitting next to the optic nerve, the amount of light has a big impact on these biological rhythms.

So there's a natural in-built rhythm of wakefulness and sleep which fits in with daylight and night-time.

In other words, if there's too much light when you try to sleep, your sleep will become disrupted.

So try to keep your bedroom as dark as possible:


  • Turn your lights off (including outside your room)
  • Have curtains closed that block out any light from outside


2. Keep your room quiet

The sleep cycle begins with a phase of light sleep which lasts for about half an hour in most people.

Deeper sleep only kicks in after that phase of light sleep - if the 1st phase gets disrupted by noise, then you'll never enter the second deeper phase.

So keep your room quiet


  • If you can sleep in a room away from a busy road, or with double glazing, that will help
  • If you've got noisy neighbours, use ear plugs. They'll take some getting used to, but after just a couple of nights, you won't notice them
  • Get rid of any loud ticking clocks!


3. Reserve your bedroom for only 2 things - sleep & sex

Unconcious habits form unbelievably quickly. If you watch TV, listen to radio or read in bed then don't be surprised if you find it hard to get to sleep. Subconciously doing these things becomes more appealing than sleeping, so our unconcious mind stops us sleeping!

Train your mind: reserve your bedroom for only 2 things... sleep & sex. Pretty quickly, you'll adjust unconciously so that when you go into your bedroom you'll expect to sleep.



  • Get rid of the TV, radio and books from your bedroom. This is often the hardest thing for people to do (they will always have an excuse) - but it's the one thing that  can make the biggest difference.
  • If you want to watch TV, listen to the radio, or do it in another room. If you share a house and there's no other room, buy a "TV/reading chair" - make that the comfortable place where you relax. Save your bed for what it's meant for.
  • Until you form the new sleep habit, if you can't get off to sleep after laying down for a while, get up to where you read or watch TV - and do it there. Come back to bed when you're tired.


4. Keep it cool

Those circadian rhythms we looked at earlier are also determined to some degree by temperature.

After 3-4 hours of sleep the body, the body temperature falls to it's lowest point of the day.

The temperature falls at night: it's an environmental cue that influences the circadian rhythms. So make sure that your room isn't too warm, or you won't get a good night's sleep:


  • A room temperature of 18 degrees centigrade is usually recommended
  • If you've got a warm duvet, though, you might find that a lower room temperature suits you better


5. Routine is good

We've already mentioned habits.

Like it or not, we're creatures of habit - we're just wired that way.

So to optimise your sleep, get into a fixed bedtime routine:


  • Give yourself cues that it's bedtime - it almost doesn't matter what they are, but put together a few things to do that signal to your unconcious mind that you're getting ready for bed. It really doesn't matter what those cues are, but for example, here's mine:
    • check that the doors are locked
    • turn off the lights
    • clean myteeth
  • Go to bed at the same time every day. OK, there will always be exceptions, but generally, get into the habit in the week of going to bed at the same time.


6. Clean the toilet

No, really, if you can't sleep clean the toilet.

If you've done the first 5 steps and still you're lying awake tossing and turning or obsessing over your worries, get up - go clean the toilet.

Remember, you want to keep your bedroom for sleep & sex, and lying there thinking about your problems isn't going to help you sleep, so you might as well spend the time productively.

Believe it or not, there are 3 benefits to cleaning the toilet if you can't sleep:

  • you'll have a really clean toilet
  • you'll help tire yourself out so that you're more ready to sleep
  • you'll soon start to hate cleaning the toilet - eventually your subconcious will get the hint and allow you to go to sleep rather than have to clean the damned toiled again


At the end of the day...

Sleep is really important. If we don't sleep properly we build up a sleep deficit which can affect our work, our relationships and our exercise performance.

People who suffer from sleep problems have usually built up a whole load of coping mechanisms (like the TV in the room, or the music playing in the background), not realising that it's often the accumulation of these things that's contributing to their poor night's sleep.

Getting out of the old habits and into these 6 new ones can seem hard, but they can really help you to get a good night's sleep.