How to sleep well

Struggling to get your eight hours a night at the moment? Sleep expert Lucy Wolfe shares her top tips for sleeping soundly.


Create a calming space

“To initiate sleep, your bedroom should be the coolest room the house and have been aired daily. Take care to create a comfortable environment: your mattress should be replaced every 7–10 years and your pillow every two years.

“Install a blackout blind to minimise light and remove any distractions, such as phones and laptops, from your bedroom too. You might actually have to buy an alarm clock…”


Set a routine

“If you struggle with sleep, waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day is crucial. You’ll also need to avoid the snooze button and expose yourself to natural light for the best possible wake-up.

“Create a pre-sleep routine so your body knows when to switch off. This means no technology, dimmed lighting and anything to help you unwind – think reading a book, listening to music, gentle stretching or meditating.

“When it comes to your everyday activities, encourage sleep by regulating mealtimes and getting plenty of exercise – just not two to three hours before bed.”


Empty your mind

“Stress and anxiety make up more than 40% of sleep issues because unwanted thoughts flood your mind, causing adrenaline and a ‘fight or flight’ mode. The harder you try to sleep, the more elusive it becomes – creating a cycle of tension.

“To break this, you’ll need to establish the root cause – perhaps by speaking to a therapist. Keeping a journal of your worries can also be a useful coping strategy when your brain is trying to switch off.”


Eat to sleep

“It sounds obvious but always start your morning with breakfast to wake up your body, and eat at regular intervals throughout the day. Staying hydrated by drinking 2–3 litres of water per day is also key.

“For optimal sleep, avoid caffeine after 14.30 and alcohol as they can disrupt your natural rhythm, as well as large meals in the run-up to bedtime. You might want to consider a small supper if you must eat later.

“High-sugar, spicy, fried and processed foods and refined carbohydrates all raise your blood-sugar levels and can cause a surge of energy that disturbs sleep.”


Think about supplements

“There are plenty of natural supplements that can enhance your sleep. You could try magnesium spray, Epsom bath salts, iron supplements, camomile or lavender tea, and essential oils such as camomile, lavender, camphor and vetiver.

“Invest in a diffuser, scented candles or linen spray to infuse your room – meanwhile an air purifier could help if you have sinus problems.”


Apply to the whole family

“Sleep can be particularly disturbed when you’re a new parent. Don’t forget to apply these same techniques to your children by establishing sleep and feeding routines that complement each other.

“And remember, draft in as much help as you need!”