Sleep is crucial and plays an important role in your physical and mental health. The amount of sleep you require can vary for different individuals but the amount of sleep you achieve in 24 hours can easily be affected by various factors. For example, change of routine, stress, work life, social life etc.
General tips for getting to sleep
Here are some good-to-know tips on getting to sleep:
- Avoid clock anxiety- staring at the time when you are having trouble getting to sleep can increase stress and make it even more difficult to get to sleep. One solution is to simply face the clock away from you.
- Use a relaxation technique such as mentally concentrating on relaxing your muscles or trying to think of nothing.
- ‘Paradoxical intention’ can help you fall asleep more quickly – try as hard as you can to stay awake with your eyes closed while lying in bed.
- If you still can’t sleep, leave your bedroom and do something relaxing like reading in a dimly lit room.
If you are having difficulties getting to sleep, try this three-step technique. It’s designed to help you to exclude distractions and to focus your mind purely on relaxing to increase the likelihood that you will fall asleep. Keep your eyes closed for each step. You may want to use an eye mask and earplugs to ensure you aren’t disturbed.
Step 1: Relax your muscles
Relax the muscles throughout the body by visualising each part of your body relaxing. You could start by focusing your attention on your toes and imagining them becoming warm, heavy and relaxed. Once you have achieved this, move your attention to your feet and gradually move up the rest of the body, continuing to relax each part in turn.
Step 2: Breath slowly and deeply
Use your stomach, rather than your shoulders and upper chest, to take long, deep breaths. Concentrate on each deep inhale and exhale until you have established a relaxed breathing pattern that will continue through step 3.
Step 3: Focus your thoughts
One effective way to divert your mind away from everyday or stressful thoughts is to focus on the repetition of a neutral word or imagine yourself in a relaxing place. For example, you may repeat the word ‘nothing’ silently. Alternatively, you could imagine a scene that you find relaxing and try to picture yourself there. You might imagine yourself lying on a faraway beach or floating on a cloud. If your mind begins to wander, don’t worry; simply guide your thoughts back to the word or image on which you have been focusing.
Sleeping in hot weather
Sleeping in the heat is always a challenge, but as well as our top tips for sleep listed above which can help you whatever the weather, where possible you could try:
- Keep the windows and curtains closed in your bedroom during the day, to stop the room from heating up
- Once the sun has gone down, open the window to get a breeze and leave them open all night, if it is safe to do so
- Try going to bed a bit later than normal, it should be cooler, and you will build up more sleep pressure which can help
- Use a fan – the white noise, as well as the breeze, can help your sleep
- If you can’t sleep, get up and go to another room until you feel tired, then go back to bed – also try the relaxation techniques from our tips
For many of us, sleeping badly for a couple of nights during a heatwave won’t cause long-term issues, so our best advice is to not worry too much, and look forward to the improved sleep once the temperature drops later in the week. For safety-critical workers, remember your company’s fatigue reporting systems, and consider if the heat impacts your fitness to work safely.