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Better sleep habits – tips from our counsellors

sleepy man

Our counsellors share their best sleep habits that will help you get a full night’s rest.

1. Stick to a sleep plan

Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends, holidays and days off. Regularity reinforces your body's sleep-wake cycle and promotes better sleep at night.

If you don't fall asleep within about 15 minutes, get up and do something relaxing. Go back to bed when you're tired. If you agonise over falling asleep, you might find it more difficult to nod off.

2. Pay attention to what you eat and drink

Don't go to bed either hungry or feeling full. Your discomfort might keep you up.

Limit how much you drink before bed to prevent troublesome midnight trips to the toilet.

Be careful with nicotine, caffeine and alcohol. The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off and can wreak havoc on quality sleep. And even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy at first, it can disrupt sleep later in the night.

Stop taking stimulants after 11am and drink a glass of water for each alcoholic drink you consume.

If you begin to notice that you possibly have a drinking or drug problem that affects your sleep, join Connect’s addictions group or Groupwork London's addictions group for the support you need to make a much needed change.

3. Create a bedtime ritual

This might be enjoying a warm bath or shower, reading a book or listening to soothing music by candlelight.

Relaxing activities support better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness.

Be wary of watching the TV or using computers, phones and iPad as part of your bedtime ritual. Some research suggests that screen time and other media use before bedtime interferes with sleep.

4. Get comfortable

Spend some time creating a room that's ideal for sleeping: cool, dark and quiet. Consider using room-darkening blackout blinds, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs.

Your mattress and pillows affect your sleep too. Shop around for what feels most comfortable to you.

If you share your bed, make sure there's enough room for two.

If you have children or pets, set boundaries on how often they sleep with you or insist on separate sleeping areas.

5. Limit daytime naps

Daytime naps interfere with your night-time sleep.

If you choose to nap during the day, limit yourself to about 10 to 30 minutes and make it during the mid-afternoon.

6. Include exercise in your daily routine

Regular physical activity can encourage better sleep, helping you to fall asleep faster and to enjoy deeper sleep.

Be careful: if you exercise too close to bedtime, you might be too invigorated to fall asleep. Instead, exercise earlier in the day.

7. Manage stress

When you're overwhelmed, your sleep is likely to suffer.

To help restore balance, consider healthier ways to manage stress. Start by getting more organised, setting priorities and delegating tasks.

Give yourself permission to take a break when you need one.

Before bed, try listing what's on your mind, and then letting it go - or leaving it for consideration on the following day, after a good night’s sleep.

More help:

‹‹ HIV treatment and sleep



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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 2/12/2015 by Anna Peters

Date due for the next review: 2/12/2018

Content Author: Kathy Osborne

Current Owner: Counselling

More information:

NHS Choices Insomnia resources

Mental Health Foundation's sleep disorders resources

Insomnia in HIV/AIDS, Sleep Review (2009)

How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?, National Sleep Foundation (2009)

‘Sleep Debts’ Accrue When Nightly Sleep Totals Six Hours or Fewer, ScienceDaily (2003)

Pataki, G.E. (2006) Managing Side Effects of HIV Medications New York State Department of Health: New York.

Plusve (2009) UK daily dosing of ADULT antiretroviral agents How’s That Publishing Ltd: Middlesex.

Insomnia in HIV and Its Management: One Clinician’s Perspective, The Center for AIDS (Research Initiative/Treatment Action) & The Body (2000)

Side Effects of HIV and AIDS Drugs WebMD HIV & AIDS Health Center (2009)

Be Mindful, a Mental Health Foundation resource on mindfulness