In a world where we are becoming increasingly concerned with bedroom feng shui and the impact of color on our psyche and sleep, experts have recently explored new ways to send yourself to sleep (whether that’s through bedroom paint ideas or bedsheet colors to avoid). However, when we asked sleep psychologists for their better sleep tips, their advice continued to differ from what we have heard before.  

What are 5 ways to improve sleep? Try these new methods tonight

You may have painted your bedroom in a therapeutic tone and invested in the best mattress for your needs, but how are you sleeping? If you’re struggling to fall (and stay) asleep, it is worth following these expert tips below. 

1. Spend less time in bed 

When looking for ways to improve sleep, it may seem contradictory to limit your time in bed. However, Sleep Psychologist Dan Ford from The Better Sleep Clinic (opens in new tab) suggests that this could be the solution you need.  ‘Sleepiness is caused by a build-up of a substance called ‘adenosine’ in the sleep-wake centers of the brainstem. [And] adenosine build-up is determined by wakeful activity. So, the longer your day, the more wakeful activity, and the more sleepy you become.’ If you are finding it difficult to sleep, you should therefore lengthen your day and increase your wakeful activity to counter-intuitively lead you into a deeper, longer sleep.  ‘You will need to keep time in bed close to the average sleep you get and hold it steady for around two weeks,’ Dan says. You should then slowly increase time in bed by 20 minutes every five nights – a method that some insomnia therapy is based around.

2. Sit up in bed 

If you have insomnia, you may have heard that getting up out of bed during the night is an effective solution. However, while this works for improving sleep, Dan explains that it is unclear exactly why. So, if this method isn’t working for you, it may be worth sitting up instead.   ‘Scientific evidence (opens in new tab) shows sitting up in bed when you can’t sleep has the same effect on improving sleep. This is called counter-control and is much nicer than getting up on a cold winter’s night,’ he says.  Once again, you will need to practise this regularly for a few weeks before you notice any results.

3. Explore paradoxical intention 

‘Many people with sleep problems believe they can ’effort’ themselves to sleep (for example, if they try hard, they can make themselves sleep). This tends to increase their focus on sleep and triggers the anxiety with being awake,’ Dan explains.  Instead, he recommends a science-backed treatment (opens in new tab) called paradoxical intention, which involves a new way of thinking about bedroom lighting ideas.  To follow this method, Dan says you need to lie in bed with the lights out (and your eyes open), but you should not concern yourself with the fact you are awake.  ‘When your eyelids feel like they want to close, you say to yourself gently – “just stay awake for another couple of minutes; I’ll fall asleep naturally when I’m ready”,’ he says. ‘You don’t purposefully make yourself stay awake, but if a person can shift the focus away from attempting to fall asleep, they will find that sleep comes naturally.’ 

4. Expose your eyes to sunlight in the morning 

When looking for ways to improve sleep, you may not feel like beginning with window treatment ideas. However, Laurie Dierstein, the LCSW, Founder and CEO of REBOOT Mind Body Health (opens in new tab), suggests that light levels have a direct influence on how well you sleep – long after the sun goes down.  Laurie urges you to expose your eyes to sunlight ‘first thing in the morning’ to set your natural circadian rhythm that runs your body clock for the day. ‘Morning sunlight exposure also helps balance certain hormones (cortisol and serotonin) that help ignite an appropriate feeling of energy and excitement to take on the day ahead,’ she adds. 

5. Invest in a weighted blanket

Ensuring you have the best bed sheets you can find is one way to encourage a comfortable slumber, but the process doesn’t end there.  Dan refers to scientific evidence (opens in new tab) that suggests a weighted blanket may reduce anxiety through its stimulating touch receptors that are similar to a massage.  ‘This helps people relax and assists in falling asleep,’ he says. 

What are signs your sleep quality needs to improve?

Classic signs that your sleep quality needs to improve includes feeling tired when you wake up, even if you have put in a solid eight hours; irritability; and wakefulness during the night.

Why am I awake at night?

You may be kept awake at night – or wake up in the night – by anxieties or health problems, such as a bad back or sleep apnoea. However, you may also find yourself awake at night if you have a poor sleep schedule, perhaps if you have napped too long in the day, or if you have eaten too much or drunk too much alcohol, both of which can interfere with sleep patterns.