10 sleep tips from experts to help you rest better 

Sleep is something we all do every day but what could we do to sleep better? We found out top tips from sleep experts.

Be honest: did you get any last night? How good was it? Did it last long? And would you like some more tonight?  

Sleep (of course) is incredibly important to us all, but the latest sleep research – conducted over 25 years – has shown not getting enough can seriously damage our health. Researchers from University College London found, simply, that those of us who do not get sufficient sleep are at higher risk of serious disease.  

Participants who had five hours or less were 20% more likely to be diagnosed with two or more chronic diseases over 25 years -compared with those who slept up to seven hours.  

Man sleepingCredit: Shutterstock / Motortion Films

Sleep seems like one of the simplest things our body can do; after all, we just get into bed and go to sleep, right? But we all know it’s, quite often, never that simple.  

To try and help you avoid another night tossing and turning or waking in the middle of a deep sleep for no reason, we spoke to some of the best sleep experts to find out how we can all improve our sleep and our health… starting tonight.  


1. Get up

When we snooze, we lose

Some mornings, when we’re feeling a bit dopey, the snooze button is an easy way to grab a few more minutes in our warm cozy beds. But it’s time to rip the covers off and get up –as we’re doing ourselves no favors.

James Wilson (AKA The Sleep Geek, a sleep practitioner) explains: “Hitting the snooze button is not a nice way to wake up and for some people it becomes Snooze Button Syndrome, hitting it every 5-10 minutes for, in some cases, hours on end.  

“It leaves us feeling tired and lethargic, with us continuously falling back to sleep and being woken with a start, with adrenaline pumping as our body thinks it is under attack.  

“A far more pleasant way to wake up is by using a sunshine alarm clock. These clocks rise like the sun, pulling deep sleepers out of the deepest stages of sleep, and even if they still need an alarm to wake they are far less likely to fall into a snooze button hell.” 

2. Sleep Debt

We can’t ‘catch up’ on sleep

If we lose a few hours of sleep in the week, we might be willing the weekend to come so we can get that all-important lay in. However, research has shown it can take four days to recover from just one hour of lost sleep, and up to nine days to eliminate ‘sleep debt’.   

If you have found yourself losing sleep, perhaps because life has got it the way or there was an event you just couldn’t miss out on, The Sleep Foundation suggested to us that an afternoon nap could help. Though it’s not a replacement for lost sleep, it advises it can help you feel more rested during the day (but you should aim to get a full night’s sleep the following night).  

Man having afternoon sleep on a sofaCredit: Shutterstock / Koldunov

3. Get ready to sleep

We need a bedtime ritual

Having a ritual may conjure up thoughts of witches with pointy hats, throwing rats’ tails into a cauldron, but you don’t have to be so extreme. 

Sleep Consultant Kayla Squier says having a ritual before bed can help our bodies shift from feeling awake to being ready to sleep: “Having a series of steps before you go to bed can help you unwind, reduce cortisol levels, and help you achieve relaxation which will positively impact your ability to fall asleep.” 

Cortisol is the stress hormone that our bodies release to help deal with stressful situations – the “fight or flight” system. It’s a natural process, but not very helpful when we are trying to get to sleep. To reduce it we can try reading or listening to something calming to create melatonin – the ‘sleep hormone’ that kicks in to help us feel drowsy. 

If words are too much to take in, there are lots of podcasts to try out instead; for instance, Sleep With Me is a popular podcast created by Drew Ackerman and features calming bedtime stories for adults, or you could check out some of the best sleep apps instead, many of which have great night-time audio.

Woman in bed with headphones preparing to sleepCredit: Shutterstock / Ruslan Huzau

4. Get moving

We should exercise to help us sleep

Exercising can tire out our bodies and promote a better night’s sleep, Lisa Artis Deputy CEO of The Sleep Charity told us. “It’s well known that people who exercise regularly tend to sleep better. Working out effectively can tire your body out gently, promoting a better night’s sleep.   

“Releasing pent-up tension through exercise is also highly beneficial, helping to banish stress before bedtime. Exercise is followed by a drop in your body’s temperature, which also induces better sleep.  

“Not only is exercise good for sleep, but sleep is good for exercise. If you’re consistently sleep-deprived your ability to adapt is lessened, due to alterations in the processes required for muscle tissue and growth hormone.  

“Proving the above, elite athletes pay as much attention to their sleep regimes as they do to their diet and exercise routines.  

“Exercises like walking, swimming, and running have been found to help people fall asleep more quickly. Aerobic exercise boosts oxygen consumption, improves breathing, and strengthens your heart and circulation.” 


5. Cut out the alcohol

A night cap doesn’t help

It can be tempting to have a drink or two to help us relax in the evening and unwind – but it’s doing our bodies no good when it’s time for bed.  

Samantha Briscoe, Lead Clinical Physiologist at London Bridge Hospital says: “Alcohol causes brain activity to slow down, which in turn induces feelings of relaxation and sleepiness.  

“However, the consumption of alcohol can have an adverse effect on the quality of your sleep.  Once alcohol has been metabolised and blood alcohol levels fall, it no longer has a sedative effect; instead, acting as a stimulant to fragment and disrupt our sleep cycle.  

“Additionally, alcohol is a diuretic, which means it encourages the body to lose extra fluid, making you dehydrated. This could also cause you to wake up in the night with the need to go to the toilet or because you feel thirsty.” 

Man sleeping next to glass of waterCredit: Shutterstock / Cunaplus

6. Sleep to lead

Sleep makes us better leaders

If we want to learn new things and retain them then we need to sleep, The Sleep School told us. “When it comes to being a great leader, good memory is important. From facts to deadlines to names, a good leader relies on their ability to remember all the things that matter when it comes to doing a good job. 

“There are three steps required for something to become a memory, all of which depend on good quality sleep. First, one needs the ability to acquire a memory which is the process of learning or experiencing something new.  

However, a sleep deprived person will experience difficulty in this process, as their ability to focus and concentrate will be greatly diminished.  

“Secondly, the memory needs to ‘stick’ through a process called consolidation which occurs in the hippocampus, your brain’s memory processing area. As we sleep, the hippocampus replays the events of the day which are then stored across different, interconnected regions within the brain.  

But with a lack of sleep, these connections significantly weaken, affecting our ability to remember things in the long term. 

“Last but not least, we also need to be able to recall the memory. However, this can be difficult when sleep deprived, as the storing process may not have been completed successfully.” 

7. Know your chronotype

Are you a lion, bear or wolf?

Finding out if we are a lion, wolf or bear can help us understand more about when we should go to bed according to sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo:Your chronotype, indicative of your circadian rhythm preferences, outlines ideal times for you to sleep, wake and be productive. 

“It’s so critical to know for your best night’s sleep because this completely dismantles the belief that all of us should go to bed at 10pm for our best night’s rest. In fact, this is only applicable to the lLion chronotype (the early to bed / early riser).  

“On the other hand, wolves, the (night owls – those who are late to bed and late to rise), should go to bed in the hour before midnight. Bears; those with a preference which is neither early nor late, should go to bed slightly later than 10pm too. If bears and wolves go to bed at 10pm, it’s likely they will lie awake for hours, become restless and worsen their sleep quality.” 

Find out which animal you are by taking Olivia’s quiz. 

8. Observe your day

We should look at our daily habits

What we do in the day can affect us when it’s time for bed, says slumber medicine physician Joshua Roland. While he doesn’t have any ‘secret’ bad habits to look out for, taking a step back and thinking about how you’re structuring your day with regards to sleeping well can pay dividends.

“Getting a good night’s sleep really starts with our behaviours during the day, with habits conducive to a good night’s rest starting the moment we wake up,” Roland tell us.

“Having a consistent wake and sleep time, getting exercise, along with minimising things counterproductive to sleep, such as substances (caffeine, nicotine, alcohol), stress/anxiety, and nighttime stimulation are crucial to good sleep.   

“In addition to checking for symptoms of sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea, if you are having trouble sleeping at night, take a close look at your habits during the day.”   

It’s also key to think about our diet as well – food can play a massive part in how well we rest at night, and these are lots of great food tips to help you sleep to help you get there.

“You cannot force yourself to sleep. The harder you try the less likely it is to happen. 

9. Sleep apart

We could use a sleep holiday

It’s normal to slumber next to a loved one – but what if that’s causing sleep problems? Acknowledging that doesn’t spell the end of the relationship – it could actually make you both happier. 

The Sleep Charity ambassador Mark Thompson tells us: “If your bed partner keeps you awake, then give each other a sleep holiday and choose separate rooms for one night a week.  

“There is no harm in it; in fact, if you love your partner but you are keeping them awake there is no greater gift you can give them than a good night’s sleep.” 

10. What will be, will be

We can’t force sleep

It’s all very well talking about it, but what happens when we get into bed and try as we might -we just can’t get into the land of nod? 

Wilson, The Sleep Geek, says: “You cannot force yourself to sleep; the harder you try the less likely it is to happen.  

“You need to understand yourself, create routines and a sleep environment that works for you, have a targeted sleep time in line with your body’s natural rhythm and spend the hour before this time doing things that relax you. The more we take the stress out of sleep, the better we will kip.” 

So, take the opportunity now to head upstairs and make your bedroom as beautiful as can be. Then when it’s time for bed, you can snuggle down with a sense of happiness you’re getting into a relaxing space to sleep in.  

Rebecca Frew

Written by Rebecca Frew she/her


Becky Frew has written various articles for newspapers and magazines focusing on fitness, is a qualified run leader, and a certified sleep talker trainer who loves to help advise people how they can nod off easier. When she is not writing or reading about fitness, she is at hot pod yoga, bounce class, training for an ultra-marathon or booking anything with a medal and free food at the end.

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