How to sleep better

Professor Jason Ellis reveals his top 10 tips for a better night’s sleep, this World Sleep Day

Comfort is key

Check that your pillow is up to scratch – a pillow which has reached its sell-by date won’t give your neck and head the support they need and you’ll end up with either a stiff neck or having a restless night as you toss and turn in order to get comfortable. Test your pillow by holding it out in front of you with the short end in your hands and if you’ve got pillow droop, it’s time to change your pillow. I’ve had patients come in to me with pillows they’ve had longer than their partners!

Cool, dark and quiet
The basic rules for good sleep are to have a bedroom which is cool, dark and quiet. Earplugs are a wonderful invention so find a pair which work for you.

Switch off
Turn off all your electronics so that there isn’t any blue light in the room – and yes, this means phones and laptops/tablets as well as the TV.

Pre slumber ritual 
No lie-ins, going to bed early or having a nap if you’re tired as these all weaken the signal to your brain about going to sleep – you’ll lose the association between bed and sleep. Imagine hanging out at a buffet all day and then when it comes to dinner, you’re not going to be hungry.

Put your day to bed 
Don’t have your clock facing you when you are in bed as you’ll inevitably clock watch rather than go to sleep. Put the day to bed before you go to bed so your brain stops whirring.

Imaginary distractions 
If you can’t sleep, don’t count sheep as that’s too easy and your brain will keep churning. Try a taxing task like counting backwards in sevens from a thousand – unless you are an accountant, this will keep your mind focused on just one thing so you can wind down.

Exercise in advance 
If you want to have a bath or exercise before bed, the best time to do so is two hours before you want to go to sleep so that you have a chance to cool down which will aid going to sleep.

Avoid alcohol 
Moderate alcohol is a sedative but it significantly increases your chances of waking up in the night. As such you are more likely too to wake up and stay awake so not only will you be dehydrated but you’ll be tired too!

Choose your mattress wisely
Choosing a mattress is a very personal matter and you need to try it out for at least 5-10 minutes.  You spend a third of your life in bed so take care when choosing.  I advise my patients to avoid memory foam as it can trap the heat you produce so you may wake up all hot and bothered. 

Snack with care 
Avoid chocolate at night as well as heavy spicy food which takes longer to digest. Regulate your liquid intake before bed time so that you avoid nocturnal bathroom visits and make sure that you’re not hungry before you go to bed. Try a cereal based snack, soft fruits or walnuts. Don’t have any caffeine after midday if you’re having trouble sleeping.

To find out more join Jason Ellis on one of our specialist Sleep Retreats at Champneys
Jason Ellis is Professor in Psychology at Northumbria University and Director of the Northumbria Centre for Sleep Research. He has sat on various committees including the British Psychological Society – Division of Health Psychology, the Teaching and Educational Advisory Committee for the Sleep Research Society (based in the USA) and the Division of Health Psychology Scotland.

Jason has presented his research at numerous conferences and invited talks in the UK, Europe, the United States and Canada (including the University of California – San Diego C.A., Harvard Medical School M.A., and the University of Laval, Quebec), and the rest of the world.