Tired? Bleary eyed? Getting some solid, quality sleep is one of the easiest ways to think more clearly and feel better. At different ages, we need different amounts of sleep to be at our best:
• If you’re 12–17, it’s probably between 8 and 10 hours a night
• If you’re 18–25, it’s probably between 7 and 9 hours a night.
Some people need more and others need less, but getting enough can make a huge difference to your life.
Find out how getting some Zs can help you bring your A game, and our top tips for improving your sleep habits.
Why sleep matters for your mental health
No-one’s at their best when they’re tired. An extra hour sleep each night could hugely improve your mental health in the hours you spend awake. Here are some of the ways snuggling in bed can be good for your head:
We’ve all been there… One of those days where everything’s gone wrong after a particularly bad sleep. But sometimes we don’t think of how preparing for a good night’s sleep can proactively help us have a better day. When we’re well-rested, we have more positive moods and are much better at managing our emotions.
Not only does getting enough sleep help make tough situations more manageable in the first place – getting proper sleep after a stressful or traumatic experience can also help us to process our emotions.
It’s hard to focus when you’re struggling to keep your eyes open. Regularly getting a good amount of quality sleep can improve your memory, concentration and ability to think and learn. It’s a simple trick to sharpen your performance at school, work or uni.
How to get more sleep
It’s one thing to read about how the wonders of slumber, but the best way to know for sure is seeing it for yourself. You could go to bed earlier for a week or two, and see if you observe a difference. If you’re choosing to do more snoozing, here are some simple hacks to help make that happen:
You’ve heard of counting sheep – have you thought about counting your sleep? Keep some paper by your bed and jot down the times you go to bed each night and get up each morning. It’ll let you work out how much rest you’re currently getting, notice patterns of poor sleep quality and help you see how much sleep you’re getting over time. You could also download a sleep tracking app on your phone – like Apple's Sleep Cycle alarm cock. (But make sure not to look at the clock throughout the night – that only keeps us awake!)
If you struggle getting to sleep when you’re in bed, try meditation – it’s a shortcut to dreamland. Body scan meditations – which involve observing the feelings in each part of your body – can help reduce anxiety and get you to sleep quicker. People have been doing them for thousands of years. Try downloading the Smiling Mind app and listen to a guided practice while you’re snuggled up in bed.
Watch out for some substances
The things we put into our body can mess with the way it rests. Here are a few non-illicit drugs to avoid before bedtime:
• Caffeine: A lot of us don’t realise how long caffeine can stay in your system. Avoid coffee, tea and energy drinks six hours before going to bed. The caffeine in dark chocolates can also give you trouble sleeping.
• Alcohol: Bedtime bevies might seem to help you get to sleep quicker, but alcohol actually reduces your quality of sleep during the night. It can also skew the balance between different sleep types and make you more tired in the morning.
If your sleep cycles are starting to feel like a problem, find out more or get in touch with the friendly crew at your local headspace centre.