Wondering how to sleep well? It’s all about the hour before bed

The key to how to sleep well is not just about what you do when you get to bed. Start preparing for a great night’s sleep one hour before bedtime, experts say

how to sleep well: woman sleeping in bed by getty images
(Image credit: Getty)

Wondering how to sleep well? With insomnia rates at an all-time high, it’s a question many of us are asking. Perhaps you have a sleep tracking app, or you’re using sleep-inducing sprays and silk eye masks? Remember, a great mattress is a must – without a supportive, comfortable and breathable mattress, no amount of sleep tracking will help you sleep better. 

However, regardless of how much effort you put into creating the perfect sleep environment in your bedroom, it’s your evening routine, particularly in the hour leading up to bedtime, that affects the quality of your sleep most, according to advice from The National Sleep Foundation.

We’ve all heard about the harmful effects on our circadian rhythms of the blue light emitted by phones and laptops. Yet there’s more to promoting good sleep than switching off your phone. 

One of the most common mistakes people make preventing them from sleeping well is exercising right before bedtime. A trip to the gym before bed may seem like a good way to tire yourself out, but you are raising your heart rate and body temperature, which is exactly the opposite of what your body needs to get to sleep. You should stop all strenuous physical activity at least two hours before bedtime. 

Love a big dinner with wine? Finish eating and drinking alcohol two, and ideally three, hours before bedtime. While the food and drink may make you feel sleepy initially, you’re more likely to wake up in the night, for three reasons: acid reflux, adenosine levels raised by alcohol dropping in the middle of the night, or needing to get up to go to the toilet (alcohol is a diuretic). 

Finally, try to develop a relaxing routine for an hour before bed and stick to it. Whether it’s reading (excellent for promoting sleep), playing with a pet, or meditation, a gentle activity is best at telling your brain that it’s time to wind down for the day. 

For even more tips, see our feature article on how to sleep well