Why do we struggle to fall sleep before a big presentation or exam? Psychologist and RMIT sleep guru Dr Melinda Jackson explains how to get a good night’s sleep to be at the top of your game.
It is well known that sleep has important benefits for memory consolidation and learning.
Studies have shown that when people are presented with a problem in the evening, after a night of sleep they are able to see the solution; this suggests that sleep may be important for “insight”.
On the other hand, sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on our performance and moods the next day, so it’s important to provide adequate time for sleep each night.
Next time you’re struggling to get to sleep, consider the following:
1. Cut back on technology
Most of us will have a smartphone or tablet and many will use these devices late at night and even while in bed during the night.
The blue light that is emitted from these devices is very stimulating on the brain and actually supresses the secretion of melatonin – a sleep promoting hormone – making us feel less sleepy at night and delaying sleep onset.
2. Give yourself some time to wind down before bed
Far too often we are running around late at night, answering emails, phoning family members, cleaning the house or paying bills. We then wonder why it is so hard to get to sleep!
It is important to give yourself a “sleep buffer” of 1-2 hours where you are doing passive activities, like watching TV or reading, so you are not too overstimulated late at night.
This allows us to get into a more relaxed state of mind that is more conducive for sleep.
3. Keep it regular
It’s good to keep a consistent bedtime and wake up schedule.
This routine really helps our body clock to become regulated, making it easier over time to fall asleep.
This is particularly important on weekends when we tend to have a sleep in and find it hard to get to sleep the next night – especially on Sunday nights!
4. Reduce stimulant use
Caffeine, nicotine and energy drinks are widely used in our society, but can have detrimental effects on our sleep. Even beverages like green tea and chocolate contain caffeine.
It can take around six hours for caffeine to clear our system. Therefore we recommend that people stop consuming these beverages after 3pm, to ensure that they are not impacting on their ability to fall asleep at night.
5. Make your bedroom a sanctuary for sleep
There are three key elements to ensure your bedroom environment is conducive for sleep: light, temperature and noise.
Ensure your room is dark and the blinds are able to keep out the morning light, particularly if you tend to wake up early in the morning.
It is important that the bedroom is cool and well-ventilated as our body temperature can play a role in how quickly we are able to fall asleep.
Any outside noise can disrupt our sleep, especially if you are a light sleeper. Invest in a good set of earplugs if you live in a noisy area, have loud housemates or sleep next to a snoring bed partner.
Watch an interview with Dr Melinda Jackson on YouTube.
Story: Rebecca McGillivray