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A couple of weeks ago week I introduced to you Dr Rangan Chatterjee, a GP and author of ‘The Four Pillar Plan’. I talked about how to relax and hopefully that’s given you some good ideas. This week I want to tell you what he says about how to get a good night’s sleep.

According to him, waking up feeling refreshed is a good general barometer of overall health, but I know that many people struggle with this. He believes that waking up at the same time, give or take 30 minutes, without an alarm, is a good indicator that your body’s intrinsic biological rhythms are working well. I am lucky as this happens to me, but Mr Simple complains as he likes to sleep in. Unfortunately I feel like death warmed up when I do that. Most days I get up and go and make a cup of tea. This helps to get Mr Simple going in the morning.

Not being able to drop off within thirty minutes of trying means that there is likely to be something in your lifestyle that is un-training your body’s own natural ability to sleep. I think Mr Simple is jealous of my ability to fall asleep almost as soon as my head hits the pillow. He would say that he struggles to get to sleep, because as soon as I do so, I start snoring and he can’t get to sleep due to the noise level.

What then are Dr Chatterjee’s tips for a better night’s sleep. Firstly…

Create an environment of absolute darkness

Try to keep your bedroom completely dark and free of televisions or e-devices. One of the worst things you can do in the hour or two before bed is look at your smartphone or tablet. What goes for e-devices also goes for television. Turn it off at least 30 minutes before you go to bed. I’ve never really understood the idea of having a TV in the bedroom. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a bookworm and so bed is for reading and not watching TV.

Embrace morning light

Spend at least twenty minutes outside every morning. Even on the dullest days we’re still exposing ourselves to light at a higher amount outdoors than if we were inside. This is not something that I am good at. My excuse is always that if the weather was better I would do so. Also, our patio area at the back of the house is a bit tatty at the moment and not a pleasant place to sit. Once it is looking better I will have no excuse.

Have a cup of tea outside in the morning

Tips to help you embrace morning light:

Have your morning tea or coffee in the garden or next to a window

Don’t get your newspaper delivered; collect it on foot.  My frugal streak would say not to buy a paper at all, but just go for a walk. My grandfather used to go to the local shop every morning to buy his paper. Whenever we stayed with my grandparents we would go out with him to the shop in the morning.

If you must drive in the morning, leave the car a ten-minute walk away from your destination.

If you shop in the morning park as far as possible from the supermarket entrance.

Get off the bus half a mile from your destination and walk the remaining distance.

Consider getting a dog and taking it for a walk every morning. This is lovely on a summer’s morning, but I’m writing this on a particularly wet day in July and the thought of having to take a dog out in that is not something that I would look forward to. I do know though that when we looked after a friend’s dog for a week last August I went out twice a day no matter what the weather.

Try to take a morning break and go for a short walk outside. This obviously depends on where you work. Some offices are not in particularly good locations for walking, but if yours is, try to spend a few minutes outside.

Create a bedtime routine

No matter how late you go to bed, no matter if the next day is a Monday or a Sunday, always get up at the same time. If you did stay up late the night before and are still feeling tired in the morning, it is worth trying to catch up a with a nap later on in the day.

Dr Chatterjee’s ideal night time routine

Make sure that all vigorous exercise is done by 6.30pm.

By 8.30pm turn off your computer and mobile phone.

Watch a bit of TV, but make sure it’s relaxing and do some light stretching at the same time. I watched the film ‘Everest’ a few months ago; a true story about a climbing accident and couldn’t sleep as a result of thinking about the trip leader who had to say goodbye to his pregnant wife as he was going to die on the mountain.

Alternatively, sit and listen to relaxing music or do some deep breathing in silence.

Drinks should be non-caffeinated.

Go to bed around 9.30pm. Mr Simple thinks that this is super early, but it’s when I think about going upstairs. It takes time to brush my teeth, wash my face and then I have half an hour or so to read, so lights out is not until after 10pm.

Have the bedroom window open a little. Central heating can make the bedroom too warm. It is better to have a cool bedroom and snuggle under a duvet.

Read next to a dim light until ready to fall asleep. I have a sunrise/sunset lamp which I absolutely love, mainly for the mornings as it gradually increases the amount of light in the room over 30 minutes. It is so long since I was woken by the alarm in a pitch black room and had to tell Mr Simple to cover his eyes as I switched on the bedside lamp and blinded us both. I have also used it at night when Mr Simple is away as I can go to sleep next to a dim light rather than in darkness, worrying about who might be breaking in to murder me.

Manage your commotion

Minimise any activity that will raise emotional tension before bed. Make it a cast-iron rule that you do not discuss emotive subjects in the evenings or crack into a new work task.

Tips to manage your commotion

Don’t watch the news, a thriller or any similar commotion-causing programme before bed.

Don’t discuss financial or stressful family matters

Make it a rule not to check work emails in the ninety minutes before bed. In an ideal world I would say don’t check work emails after 5pm.

Focus on relaxing exercise in the evening such as yoga or light stretching.

Meditation before bed can help you quieten your mind.

Educate your family and friends about your evening routine.

Make an entry into a gratitude journal before bed.

Enjoy your caffeine before noon

Ensure that any caffeine you do choose to consume is taken before lunchtime. When I started taking a flask of coffee with me to the office in order to save money, as there was usually some left in the afternoon, I was drinking it and had several sleepless nights as a result.

Tips to reduce your caffeine intake

Drink non-caffeinated herbal tea to get you past your 3pm slump.

Avoid decaffeinated coffee as many brands still contain trace amounts.

Drink sparkling water in place of your caffeinated beverage. Not sure I agree – just drink tap water -it’s cheaper.

Reduce your sugar intake. This will actually give you more energy and reduce the likelihood of craving a caffeine pick-me-up in the afternoon.

Drink camomile tea in the evening. This can be a great caffeine-replacement as well as promoting relaxation before sleep.

So that’s it. How do you sleep? Could you try some of these tips to help you feel more refreshed when you wake up in the morning? Do you have any other advice for how to get a good night’s sleep? I would love to know them. If you want to find out more don’t forget to check out Dr Chatterjee’s book.