Sleep Disorders

Updated 12 December 2014

Good sleeping habits

From avoiding the TV to making a list, these are 8 great habits to stick to if you'd like a better night's sleep...


Many of us do things before we go to bed that affect our quality of sleep. Watching TV in bed, checking your cellphone when you wake up during the night and having no sleeping routine can all result in poor sleep. Try to develop the following eight habits by sticking to them as closely as possible until they become routine:

1. Keep a notebook handy and write down anything that’s worrying you and may be keeping you awake. Learn to fall asleep without thinking about it. Don’t wait to ‘‘switch off ’’.

2. Visualise something nice or replay a movie you enjoyed in your head. Dr Frans Hugo of the Panorama Psychiatry and Memory Clinic says a colleague loves Audis and every night visualises himself walking into a showroom, getting into the flashiest car and driving away – straight into dreamland.

3. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, chocolate and nicotine after 6 pm. Alcohol should be consumed early in the evening and in moderate amounts. It may relax you at first but your brain could switch back on in the middle of the night after the alcohol has been metabolised.

4. Teach your brain that bed is only for sleep and sleep is only in bed.

5. Don’t toss and turn. If you’re not asleep after 10 or 20 minutes get up and do something boring somewhere else – you could even try reading the telephone directory.

6. Don’t watch television or videos, read an exciting book or try to work.

7. Don’t get anxious if you can’t sleep for a few nights. You’ll soon catch up. ‘‘Comfort yourself with the thought you’ll probably sleep better the next night or the one after that. The worst that can happen is you’ll be tired and irritable the next day,’’ Dr Hugo says.

8. Follow the same routine every day. Your brain will learn to associate it with sleep. Exercise can help but should be done early in the evening. A hot bath and soothing music can also be effective.

Read more:
What happens when you fall asleep?
Just how much sleep is enough?
Why a lack of sleep makes you feel so awful

Compiled by Mari Hudson and Elise-Marie Tancred (Reviewed in January 2012)


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Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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