While it’s easy to skimp on sleep when there are other competing priorities, getting enough sleep is more important than you might think.

It’s now recognised that good sleep is a significant contributor to our health and well-being. Poor sleep not only impacts our mood, concentration and energy levels, but can increase the risk of health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. So along with other lifestyle habits, such as eating well and staying active, getting enough sleep should be considered an essential part of optimising your health.

Try these tips to help improve your sleep habits:

  • Have a regular sleep pattern. This means going to bed and getting up at around the same times each day, including weekends.
  • Get enough sleep. While our sleep needs vary, and some people need more or less, most adults need between 7 – 9 hours sleep per night, while children need more.
  • Go screen free. The light from your television, computer, tablet or mobile phone screen can affect the production of melatonin, a hormone which plays an important role in sleep, so turn off all screens for at least an hour before bed.
  • Stop work. Avoid working right up until bedtime and finish your work day by writing down a list of things you need to do tomorrow so your brain can switch off.
  • Relax before bed. Listening to relaxing music, meditating, reading or having a warm bath or shower can all help so find out what works best for you.
  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark and a comfortable temperature before you go to bed – noise, light and being too hot or cold will all make it harder to get a good night’s sleep.
  • Exercise regularly but avoid strenuous exercise close to bed time. Exercising earlier in the day can help to improve sleep quality.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and smoking. Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants that can keep you awake and while alcohol might help you get off to sleep, it can disrupt your sleep during the night.

For more information about sleep visit Sleep Health Foundation or speak with your GP.