A recent study found that four in every ten Australians are regularly experiencing inadequate sleep. And with the COVID-19 pandemic creating a new element of stress, along with natural disasters and political unrest, it's possible this number could be even higher. 

Disrupted sleep can take a number of forms, such as:

  • difficulty getting to sleep
  • frequently waking during the night
  • waking very early in the morning and being unable to get back to sleep.

If you're dealing with one, or multiple of the above issues, you're not alone. The good news is that there are evidence-based strategies for dealing with them. Like anything, reinforcing these habits takes work. But when it comes to sleep, it's certainly worth the effort!

Here are five pre-sleep habits to help you get a good night's sleep:

1. Be consistent with your bedtime

When it comes to sleep, your body doesn't like surprises. Going to bed at a similar time each night reinforces to your body that it's time to wind down. This consistency allows for better sleep. Remember, most adults need about seven to eight hours of sleep every night.

2. Set a digital curfew

Try to avoid screens for at least 30 minutes before going to sleep. Screen light and apps are designed to trigger hormones in your brain that keep you alert. Ensure your phone is off, or on 'do not disturb' mode, prior to going to bed. Phone notifications are the enemy of quality sleep!

3. Reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake 

Stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine can keep your body and mind alert up to seven hours after they're consumed. Obviously this can have a big detrimental affect on your sleep, so ensure you don't have them later than the early afternoon. As for alcohol, while in some cases it might help you fall asleep quicker, studies show that people who consume alcohol before bed often experience disruptions later in their sleep cycle.

4. Make the bedroom your sleep sanctuary

Keep your bed for sleeping only; don’t watch TV or use your phone in bed. And if you're working from home, try to ensure your bedroom doesn't become your home office! Keeping your bedroom quiet, dark and cool will create a healthy sleeping environment. 

5. Get out of bed if you can’t sleep

If you haven’t been able to sleep for a while, it won't help to toss and turn lamenting the fact you're not sleeping. In fact, beating yourself up will make things worse. Get up and do a calming activity, like reading a book, in dim light until you’re tired and then try going back to bed. If you find you're overthinking things, it may also help to write down some of the thoughts you're experiencing to get them out of your head.

Below is a breathing exercise that can also be very helpful when you're trying to calm racing thoughts.If sleep continues to be an issue, it’s worth talking to a specialist and finding about the full range of treatment options available. A good place to start is your GP. 

You can also find an extensive range of fact sheets and resources on the Sleep Health Foundation's website.

Related reading: Finding the work-life balance sweet spot

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