6 Steps to Better Sleep

Many consider sleep to be a passive "time out" from living but it is far from being so. It is an active state essential for renewing our mental and physical health. As the Irish proverb goes "A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book".

Here are 6 simple steps to help you get a good night’s sleep.


There are over 100 recognised sleep illnesses so it’s vital to know that your sleep health needs good care. Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep. Getting less sleep than you need will create a ‘sleep debt’ that will lead to poor concentration, memory, mood, lethargy, aches and be a detriment to your health. Studies show that a lack of adequate sleep may lead to heart problems.


• Exercise regularly

This will help you fall asleep faster, attain more deep sleep and awaken less often during the night. A good workout leaves you more relaxed, increases serotonin (a ‘feel good’ chemical which promotes sleep). However it’s important not to exercise too close to bedtime – finish at least 4 hours before going to sleep. 20-30 minutes of cardio workout (to elevate your heart rate) 3 times a week is adequate.

• Maintain a healthy diet

Whatever the latest ‘fashion’ in diets, just follow these simple principles: Increase your fibre, fruit & vegetables; keep to foods with low sugar & fat. Obesity is the biggest risk factor for sleep apnoea, the leading sleep disorder in our society.

• Avoid foods which give you heartburn and indigestion


• Keep it regular

Your body has a natural 'clock' and your schedule will train this into a rhythm. So keep your sleep, awake and meal times as regular as possible.

• Develop a consistent pre-sleep routine

Most of us need a ‘down time’ before sleep and this should involve relaxing activities such as reading or listening to music. Avoid watching stimulating movies or computing. A warm bath or shower can be very helpful. Try to deal with any personal problems or anything else on your mind before retiring to bed instead of letting these worries compete with your mind trying to relax. If new worries come to minds don’t worry – take a pen and paper to bed and jot down the issues instead of filling your mind with fear of forgetting and anxieties.

• Reserve the bedroom for sleep and intimacy

You want your body to associate the bedroom only with sleep, so that subconsciously when you hit the bed, the brain sends the message “here comes some sleep”. Even though its cozy in bed, avoid bringing the TV, laptop etc. to the bedroom.

• Avoid afternoon naps

Aim to keep your sleep to one long nightime segment, especially if you regularly have problems falling asleep. Your body’s drive to “pull” you to sleep increases the longer you are awake so if you nap 4 hours before your usual bedtime, this drive is far less than if your last sleep was 16 hours before the bedtime. Giving in to the urge to nap in the day only perpetuates the cycle of sleeplessness at night.

• The "20 minute" rule

Bed is for sleep, not frustration. If you can’t sleep after 20 minutes, get up and do something soothing in a dimly lit area preferably. If you get agitated and lie there tossing and turning and worrying, your body is no longer relaxed. Your mind learns to associate the bed with these feelings rather than “it’s sleep time”. Come back to bed when you’re sleepy again.


Everything in the room must invite relaxation and encourage sleep.

• Control noise levels

If you live in a noisy area, ear plugs are remarkably effective. Remember if you have a noisy snoring partner, take them to your local doctor or sleep specialist – it is a sign of sleep apnoea which can be detrimental to their health and easily and safely treated.

• Keep it dark

Light is one of the strongest cues to the brain’s internal clock and can disturb the natural rhythm signaling the brain into thinking it is daytime rather than night.

• Hide the clock from your view.


• Caffeine

This is found in foods such as coffee, tea, some cola drinks and chocolate. Caffeine increases the time taken to fall asleep and reduces deep sleep. It is also a diuretic increasing the tendency to urinate at night. Have your last drink at least 6 hours before bed time and try cutting back slowly if you have many cups a day.

• Alcohol

You may think that a glass of wine at bedtime will get you asleep faster however it is likely to wake you up several times during the night and give you poor quality sleep. It dramatically reduces the proportion of deep sleep and can make sleep apnoea worse. Avoid alcohol at least 3 hrs before bedtime.

• Nicotine

This active ingredient of cigarettes is a stimulant & interferes with initiation of sleep. During the night, withdrawal cravings can make you wake up too.


These steps will hopefully set you on the right track but they are not a panacea for everyone. Remember that difficulty sleeping (insomnia) that persists can pose a serious risk to your health and well-being but effective treatments are available. You may well be suffering from a sleep disorder such as sleep apnoea, particularly if you feel very tired or snore loudly.

Talk to your GP or call us at SleepMed Australia on 1300 484 707.