The surprising secrets of a good night’s sleep

When you’re asleep, your body restores itself—which is why next to eating well and exercising, getting enough sleep is the most important thing you can do for your health. But how can you best prepare yourself for a restful night? Meditation and reading a book before bedtime can help, but here are a few more surprising behaviours that signal to body and mind that you’re ready to get some shuteye.


1. Create a little bedtime routine

It doesn’t have to be complicated, as long as you do it every night and start to associate it with sleep.  Before you open your book, try lighting a scented candle on your nightstand. The small flame is a visual cue that it’s time to relax, while the comforting fragrance will also have a calming influence on you.

2. Refresh your bedding

Want to ensure an optimal night’s sleep? Make sure your bedding, including mattress and pillows are changed as often as recommended. According to a poll by the Sleep Foundation 91 percent of people change their sheets fortnightly, but experts recommend a weekly switch is better. And, well, there is nothing more comforting than getting into a bed with freshly washed sheets (ideally after a bath and wearing a new set of pyjamas.)


When it comes to pillows these should be changed every one to two years, while it’s best to replace your mattress every six to eight years. And, did you know that if rotate your mattress every three months, it will ensure the filling stays well distributed and the mattress will wear evenly over its lifespan?

3. Keep cool and get a breath of fresh air

Hot baths are a great way to relax, but soaking right before you try to sleep is a mistake. This is because raising your body temperature actually keeps you awake. Studies show that the optimal temperature for sleeping is around 18.5 degrees, so keeping your bedroom cool is a must. Ventilation is also beneficial—the new air circulating throughout the room promotes a deeper sleep, so whenever possible, try to sleep with the window at least partially open.


4. Spray yourself to sleep

Scent has a very powerful effect on our minds and bodies. Spraying a relaxing fragrance on your pillow before bed let’s your brain know it’s time to quieten down.

5. Be a bit shady

Light has an enormous impact on our psychology and our biological rhythms. Case in point: the less sun you see, the more melatonin you make. Enjoy the sunshine, but put your sunglasses on at 4 pm to stimulate production of this very important sleep hormone.

6. No more mid-day cappuccinos

All insomniacs know to refuse that after-dinner coffee. But caffeine stays in the body for up to 8 hours, so you should avoid drinking it after 2 pm. If you’re craving a warm drink in the afternoon, try some herbal tea.

7. Push your buttons

Chinese medicine cures sleeplessness with acupressure, which is a close cousin of acupuncture without the needles. While lying down, apply slight pressure to areas like the indent between the top of your nose and eyebrows and the balls of your feet.

8. Eat a banana

While it’s best to avoid eating a lot before bedtime, one specific snack could help you fall asleep faster. Bananas contain two natural sleep aids: melatonin and tryptophan.

A healthy lifestyle depends upon a good diet, exercise and getting enough sleep. These small adjustments to your day and evening don’t require a lot of effort, but they do promote better sleep quality. Give them a try and you’ll notice that you’ll wake up feeling truly restored and with enough energy to conquer whatever the day has in store for you.