Improving Sleep

Having a healthy sleeping pattern is very important for overall wellbeing, it affects relationships, study and general day to day life. Many young people have difficulties with sleeping and feeling tired. This webpage aims to give you information about what you can do to improve your sleeping pattern.

Sleeping environment

Our sleeping environment can have a big effect on the quality of our sleep.

The temperature should be right, it can be hard to fall asleep if it is too hot or too cold. If it is not dark or quiet enough it can also be difficult. Black out curtains or eye patches can help block out the light and ear plugs are good for blocking out noise. It is also important to have a comfy bed and good air quality.


The brain often works at an unconscious level when it comes to sleep.

Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time each day can be very helpful for improving sleep, the brain starts to know when you will be going to bed and will ’wind down’ as a result. Another thing to do to improve sleep is to have the same ’bed time’ routine an hour before going to bed each night. Again, this helps the brain to know when to start the ’wind down’ in preparation for sleep. Try to avoid eating too early or late in the evening since being ‘full up’ or hungry can prevent you from falling asleep. Exercise can also improve your sleep, so long as it is not just before going to bed!

Associating your bed with sleep

People who sleep well associate their bed with sleep. Those who sleep poorly may associate the bed with stress and being awake. There are things you can do to improve this association:
Only go to bed when you feel sleepy (prickly, hot eyes; yawning; tiered muscles; droopy eyes). If you go to bed when you are not feeling sleepy then you are more likely to lie in bed awake and get frustrated, this will make it harder to sleep when you start actually feeling sleepy.
The bed is only for sleep.  If you use your bed for other things like studying then you weaken the association between bed and sleep. You should have a separate space where you can study; talk with friends and do everything else.

Follow the 20 minute rule: If you have not fallen asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy again, only then go back to bed. The longer you lie in bed awake the weaker the bed-sleep association becomes.


Sometimes it can be difficult to fall asleep because you start worrying when you are in bed. Trying to simply stop worrying can seem useless as you end up worrying even more! One thing that can help is writing your worries down on a piece of paper you keep beside the bed. Give yourself a set time in the day to go through the worries you have recorded; either try to put a plan in place to solve the problem, or use that time to think about the worry in more depth. People often find it is easier to forget about the worry when they are in bed if they have a set ‘worry time’ in the day.

Time to relax

Being a busy young person can mean that there is little time to relax; you have work to do; deadlines to meet; friends to go out with; TV to watch; X-box to play!  If you are constantly ’on the go’ it can make it very difficult to fall asleep when you go to bed. Try and make time to do something relaxing where you can forget about everything else and ‘enjoy the moment’. E.g. A hot bath can help relax the muscles and mind before bed.

Computers and TV

Computers; mobile phones and TV’s stimulate the brain due to the colours and electronic light. Avoid using these before going to bed.