Sleep hacks

6th May 2022

Ever find it hard to wind down before bed? Do you often struggle to fall asleep, worrying about the day ahead or everything that needs to be done? Many people are familiar with the frustration of laying awake with a busy mind.

The relationship between stress and sleep is a vicious cycle. Feeling stressed or overwhelmed can have an impact on our sleep quality, leaving us feeling tired and groggy the next day [1]. However, sleep deprivation can also impact on our ability to cope with stress, through affecting regulation of cortisol, the stress hormone [2].

We wanted to share with you some suggestions for helping you to de-stress before bed and have more restful sleep:

Write a to-do list

It sounds simple but writing a to-do list before you go to bed could help you to sleep better. One study found that participants who spent 5 minutes completing a to-do list before bed fell asleep quicker than those who wrote about tasks they had already completed [3]. The researchers concluded that this mental ‘offloading’ may reduce some of the worry or rumination about future events.

Limit work before bed

If you find that you regularly work late before going to sleep, consider stopping around an hour or so before bed to help ease the transition between wakefulness and sleep. Instead, try to establish a pre-sleep routine by planning relaxing activities such as reading or a bath. Consider limiting phone and laptop usage in bed to strengthen the association between your bed and sleep, this may also reduce the temptation to check emails or notifications, which could lead to added stress or worry.

Don’t be a clock watcher

Some people may be tempted to check the time when they struggle to sleep to calculate how much longer they have to sleep. However, often this might lead to increased feelings of worry or stress, meaning it becomes even harder to fall asleep. Consider keeping the clock out of sight, or even across the room if you feel you’ll be tempted to look.

Calm your mind

Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or guided imagery before bed may help to calm your mind, making it easier to fall asleep. One study found that for a group of older adults experiencing sleep disturbances, practicing mindfulness meditation helped to improve sleep quality, reducing next-day symptoms of fatigue [4]. 

Be active during the day

Alongside improving our ability to cope with stress, exercise stimulates the release of feel-good endorphins which can help to reduce anxiety and maintain positive wellbeing [5]. Exposure to bright light during the day is also linked to higher levels of melatonin secretion in the evenings, the hormone that makes us feel tired, so we know when it’s time to sleep [6].

Make a hot drink

Some people may find that making a hot drink in the evening can help them to relax and unwind. Consider opting for non-caffeinated drinks such as chamomile tea, which is well known for its sleep-inducting properties [7].

Get support

Talking to a close friend or family member about your worries can help you feel less overwhelmed. Indeed, research has found that social support can enhance our resilience to stress [8]. However, if you’re finding that stress is having a large impact on your sleep quality, you could consider discussing your concerns with your doctor who might be able to suggest if there is additional support you can access.