Sweet dreams: How to turn your mind off for better sleep

In our always-on world, more people than ever are struggling to get a good night’s sleep. This can have long-term effects on our overall health, as bad sleep is associated with increased weight gain and the risk of developing certain diseases, as well as affecting our mood.

Although it’s easy to feel helpless when you’re struggling to nod off, there’s a lot you can do to improve both the quantity and quality of your sleep. So, let’s look at five ways that you can turn your mind off for better sleep.


Create a bedtime routine

1. Create a bedtime routine

Humans are creatures of habit, so having a set routine in the evening can help you program your body to know when it’s time to go to sleep.

Start by giving yourself a bedtime. Most adults need 6-9 hours’ sleep a night, so work out when you need to get up in the morning and count back from there. Ideally, you should be waking up naturally, so if you always rely on your alarm, try going to bed earlier.

As part of your routine, put down your devices a couple of hours before going to bed, as blue light from phones, laptops, and TVs can trick your body into thinking it’s still daytime. Instead, try doing something relaxing to help you unwind, like some gentle yoga, or taking a hot bath.

Create a bedtime routine

2. Eat and drink your
way to good sleep

What we consume can have a big effect on how well we sleep. It’s a good idea to avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine late in the day. Alcohol should also be avoided as, although it can make you feel sleepy at first, it can disrupt your sleep cycle later on in the night.

Having rich, heavy foods less than two hours before bed has also been shown to negatively impact sleep, so try to eat earlier in the evening.

Create a bedtime routine

3. Create a cozy environment

Making your bedroom as relaxing as possible can help you get a good night’s sleep. If noise and light from outside are keeping you up, think about investing in some blackout curtains and double glazing or earplugs.

Inside your room, make sure to cover devices that emit blue light. You should also make sure your room is a comfortable temperature.

Create a bedtime routine

4. Get moving

Regular exercise has been proven to help people get longer, better-quality sleep, so consider building this into your routine. In general, the more vigorous the workout, the more it will benefit your sleep. However, even gentle exercise – such as walking for 10 minutes a day – has been shown to improve sleep quality; the most important thing is to choose an activity you enjoy and can stick to.

The timing of your exercise is also important, as working out late in the day can make you more alert. So, schedule your session at least three hours before you plan to go to bed.

5. If you can’t sleep...

Despite your best efforts, you might still find yourself lying awake at night. If this happens, try to make relaxation your goal, not sleep, and stay out of your head as much as possible. Learning a few simple meditations and breathing exercises can help.

Finally, if you’re awake for more than 15 minutes, get out of bed and do a quiet, non-stimulating activity until you’re ready to go back to bed. Make sure you keep the lights dimmed, so you don’t signal to your brain that it’s time to wake up.

Stay in the know!

Sign up to receive more on the latest Oxford Live events, news, exclusive stories, and more – delivered directly to your inbox.