SOAS University of London

Student Advice and Wellbeing

Guidelines for a good night's sleep

These are suggestions to help improve both the quality and amount of your sleep. If the list seems daunting, choose a few that seem most relevant or manageable and try them over a week or so. Don’t expect instant results.

  1. Exercise during the day, preferably in the late afternoon, before you eat. Twenty minutes of aerobic exercise (eg running, skipping, aerobics) or 45 mins-an hour of brisk walking will do
  2. Go to bed and get up at regular times, even if you’re still tired when you get up. Don’t have erratic times of going to bed and getting up – but initially getting up half an hour earlier in the morning may help you sleep that night
  3. Don’t try to make yourself sleepy. If you don’t get to sleep after 20-30 minutes in bed, leave your bed and find a relaxing activity eg listening to a relaxation tape, having a milky drink or herb tea, reading a novel and don’t go back to bed till you’re sleepy
  4. Avoid heavy meals immediately before going to bed and avoid going to bed hungry. A small snack eg a milky drink, a banana or toast before bed may help
  5. Avoid heavy alcohol amounts before bed time. Though it may appear to help you sleep, you are likely to wake earlier and not feel refreshed
  6. Tune down during the last hour or two of the day, and avoid active exercise, mental activity (eg study) or emotional upsets etc
  7. Cut down caffeine and nicotine as much as possible. Avoid drinking coffee after lunchtime
  8. Try natural supplements that may help sleep eg those containing valerian. There a lots of branded products. Ask in a good health food shop. Check especially carefully if you take other medication
  9. Lavender oil also helps encourage sleep. You can use it in an oil burner (take care to extinguish the candle though before you fall asleep) or put a few drops in a warm bath, or on your pillow or on a hanky by your bed
  10. Develop a sleep ritual before bedtime. Repeat some activity every night before you get into bed eg a hot shower or bath before bedtime may help you relax or read a book (not study) or listen to music
  11. For relaxing tense muscles or an over-active mind use specific relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation or guided visualisation. There are many relaxation tapes on the market. Take time to find one that you like. Consider coming to the Counselling Service relaxation group to learn different techniques
  12. Avoid non sleep activities in bed eg study or other work or watching TV, to strengthen the association between bed and sleeping, unless these activities are part of your sleep ritual
  13. If you having nagging, worrying thoughts, write them down - and deal with them in the morning – have paper and pen ready by the bed
  14. Avoid napping during the day
  15. If you are easily disturbed by noise, consider using ear plugs
  16. Make sure you are warm enough. Being too hot or too cold may affect your sleep
  17. If you are disturbed by a partner who is restless, or snores consider separate beds at whatever distance is acceptable to you both
  18. Don’t be frightened of insomnia. Accept the times you sleep less well. You can still function, even on only 2-3 hours sleep. The less you fight or worry about sleeplessness the more it will go away
  19. If pain stops you sleeping consider painkillers rather than sleeping pills – seek your doctor’s advice
  20. Depression, anxiety and other emotional problems can cause sleeplessness. Consider consulting your doctor, the School counselling service, the chaplains or someone else who can give you emotional support and listen to you.
  21. You may wish to try the online service Sleepio, which offers a six week interactive (online) programme, designed to help you sleep better.
  22. Zzzzzzzzzzz 12 simple steps to a good nights sleep from the Guardian website.


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