Getting enough sleep: why a good night’s rest is our superpower (and how to have better quality sleep)

I think we all know that sleep is important. And I’m sure that most of us know at least some of the reasons why it’s important. But in the modern world of screens, social media, long working hours and multiple commitments, most of us probably aren’t getting enough of it – or, if we are, it’s not necessarily the quality, deep rest that we really need.

Sleep tends to fall by the wayside and become a low priority for many of us as we work or study late into the night, mindlessly scroll social media, or binge watch box sets until the early hours.

So how can we get more sleep? And how you can improve not just the amount of sleep you’re getting, but the quality of your rest?

Why getting enough sleep is so important

In a nutshell, regular sleep is essential for human health; we literally can’t survive without it. (Dying from sleep deprivation is extremely rare, but it can happen!)

While you’re sleeping, your body and brain are both hard at work. Your body is busy repairing itself, keeping your immune system and circulation functioning, and releasing hormones that help keep your heart and blood vessels healthy, while your brain is busy filing away the day’s memories.

Getting enough quality sleep keeps our bodily systems and organs functioning, as well as boosting our brains and mental and emotional wellbeing. Sleeping helps us to stay alert and have plenty of energy when we’re awake, and gives us the capacity to think clearly, learn new things, work, plan, build and maintain relationships with others, and do all the activities we want and need to do in our daily lives.

Here are some of the things that quality sleep does for you:

The effect of sleep on the body

Keeps your…

  • Heart healthy
  • Immune system strong
  • Blood sugar steady


  • Fights off germs (so you get ill less often)
  • Repairs damage to your tissues
  • Lowers your risk for serious health problems (such as diabetes and heart disease)
  • Helps you maintain a healthy weight
  • Improves your athletic ability

The effect of sleep on the brain

  • Keeps your brain sharp (helps you think more clearly)
  • Improves your attention span and ability to concentrate
  • Helps you learn and make memories
  • Improves your executive function (our ability to plan, focus our attention, remember things, and juggle lots of different tasks)

The effect of sleep on your mental health

  • Improves your mood
  • Reduces your stress levels
  • Helps you maintain good relationships with others

What happens when we don’t get enough sleep?

Of course, when we don’t get enough sleep – or enough good quality sleep – all these things can suffer. Lack of sleep can lead to or worsen all sorts of chronic health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. It deprives us of the hormones we need to help prevent these conditions. 

And – as I’m sure you’re experienced, I know I have! – when we don’t get enough sleep, our brains suffer too, and we can find ourselves getting irritable, anxious or depressed, feeling tired during the day (especially in the afternoon), and finding it hard to concentrate or remember things. Lack of sleep slows our reaction times too, and can lead to accidents; studies have shown that staying awake for 24 hours can have a similar effect on us to having a blood alcohol level of 0.10%, which is above the legal limit in the UK.

How to get more (and better) sleep

Sleep hygiene is the idea of creating the best possible conditions for great sleep. None of this is difficult or complicated! But it does mean focusing on improving your habits around sleep, and making sleep a priority in your life.

So let’s take a look at the two areas you’ll need to focus on to help you get more and better sleep: your sleep environment, and your habits.

How to create healthy sleep habits and routines

Sleep hygiene starts well before you’re even thinking about bed. Healthy habits throughout the day, such as getting up at the same time each day, taking regular exercise, eating healthy foods and having regular screen breaks if you work on a computer can all help you get a good night’s sleep.

Here are a few more specific habits to build in nearer to bedtime:

  • Go to bed at the same time each night
  • Work out your bedtime based on getting 7-8 hours of sleep – work backwards from the time you need to get up.
  • Make a clear distinction between daytime and sleep time. Turn off the TV and other devices at least an hour before bed, and use low lighting as you prepare for sleep.
  • Take a glass of water to bed with you and drink a small amount before going to sleep.
  • If your head is full of plans and worries for tomorrow, keep a notebook next to your bed to make a list, or write your thoughts in a journal. If you syphon all these things out of your head before turning out the light, you’ll be less likely to ruminate over them in bed.
  • Do a calming activity, such as reading or meditating, before falling asleep.

Set up your bedroom environment for better sleep

If you want better sleep, create a calm and peaceful environment that makes you feel restful.

  • Remove any clutter from your bedroom. Put things away in drawers or cupboards, or spend some time doing a declutter and get rid of what you don’t need – or move it somewhere else in the house.
  • Invest in the best mattress, pillows and bedding you can afford. Don’t scrimp on sleep!
  • Keep lighting low/dimmed as you’re getting ready for bed – use low wattage lamps rather than bright overhead lights.
  • Turn off your phone and other devices. And remove the TV from your bedroom! Make a ‘no screens in the bedroom’ rule to eliminate the blue light which interferes with our sleep patterns.
  • Invest in an analogue alarm clock, with no lights
  • Turn your WiFi off overnight (you’ll also save on your electric bill – and help keep your connection stable)
  • Use blackout curtains or blinds, especially if there are streetlights or other sources of light outside your window.
  • Keep the temperature in your bedroom cool. Consider turning heating off in the bedroom in the evening, and/or keeping a window open at night (all year round) to let in fresh air.

A few things to avoid if you want to have better sleep


  • Nap in the day (once you establish healthier sleep habits you shouldn’t need to)
  • Drink caffeine before bed
  • Watch TV in bed (move that TV out of the bedroom completely!)
  • Exercise too soon before sleeping (give it a few hours)
  • Eat too soon before sleeping (there should be at least two hours between your last meal and going to sleep)

Don’t feel you have to make a lot of changes all at once – you can start with the ones you think you’ll find easiest and add a new healthy sleep habit each night (or even each week!). If you want to get to bed a lot earlier, start by going half an hour earlier, and build up gradually over a few nights or weeks.

What about when there’s a medical reason for lack of sleep?

Of course, sometimes there might be a medical reason for poor sleep. You might have tried all the things I’ve suggested and still not be getting the rest you want and need.

If you find that after a couple of weeks of following healthy sleep habits, you’re still struggling to fall or stay asleep, or you’re not feeling rested after regularly getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night, you might need to talk to your GP. 

One common cause of poor sleep is chronic pain, but there may be an underlying cause you’re unaware of, such as sleep apnoea or a thyroid disorder. If there’s no physical cause, visiting a therapist trained in CBTi (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for insomnia) might help you. 

Create an environment that supports your health and wellbeing

Create an environment that supports your health and wellbeing

How to can create an environment that supports your health and wellbeing

Does your environment nurture you? Have you given any thought to how you can create an environment that supports your health and wellbeing?

It’s all too easy to forget the important part our environment plays in our health and general wellbeing – physical, mental and emotional. When we become accustomed to our environment we stop seeing what’s around us, and without realising it we can find that our environment is contributing negatively to our mood, health and happiness.

Equally, there is lots we can do to positively create an environment that make us feel better.

It’s worth spending time creating an environment that will support and nurture you. 

What helps make you feel better?

Start by thinking of the things that make you feel better when you’re low or unwell. This will be different for different people of course! Is it fresh flowers? Candles? Cosy blankets and a hot water bottle?

Three things that help create an environment that supports me:

  • I’ve created a meditation corner in my home, to make it easy for me to meditate daily. I go there out of habit, no willpower required.
  • I have plenty of candles and diffusers around, which give me that home sweet home feeling at the end of a busy day.
  • I keep a journal on my bedside table, to remind me to reflect on the day and unload my to-do list before bed, so I don’t go over and over it in my head when I’m trying to fall asleep. This is one of my regular restorative routines.

Tips for creating a comforting and nurturing environment that supports your health and wellbeing

This is all about creating a safe space where you can feel comforted and nurtured.  This can be anywhere – in your home, at work, even out of doors. 

Give these ideas a try:

In your home 

  • Play uplifting music – or find a recording of waves crashing or a log fire burning. Whatever makes you feel most tranquil or comforted.
  • Brighten up an unloved space with fresh flowers, a houseplant or a beautiful picture or piece of art – something that makes you feel joyful to look at
  • Get in the habit of using diffusers, incense or scented candles to create pleasant aromas around your home
  • Apply the ‘useful or beautiful’ rule – is this item practical/necessary? If not, does it ‘spark joy’? Fix or throw away anything that’s broken, and gift, donate or recycle anything that you no longer need or love.
  • Create a peaceful meditation corner or reading zone – somewhere you can retreat to for a few moments of calm

At work

  • Tidy and organise your desk
  • Add a mini zen garden or a pot plant
  • Keep some personal items such as photos around you – and other items with positive associations, such as thank you cards from clients or colleagues
  • Work in as much natural light as possible – or use a daylight bulb
  • Make it easy to keep your work area clean and tidy – get a desk tidy and have plenty of cupboards and drawers to tidy things into
  • Give your desk, keyboard and mouse a regular clean – easily overlooked, but important both for physical health and how it will make you feel when you sit down to work.


  • Get outside daily – schedule time into your day, even if it’s only for a few minutes. If you can, try to visit a green space like a garden, park, field or river.
  • Do a grounding practice and take a few mindful minutes to connect with nature. Pay active attention to what’s around you: listen to birdsong, feel the breeze on your face, feel the ground beneath your feet. This will make you feel both nurtured and energised. 
  • Create a nurturing outside space of your own: whether you have a big garden or just a tiny yard – or even a window box – do whatever you can to make it beautiful. Plant something gorgeous. Set up a bird feeder to encourage nature in. Make a water feature. Invest in some really comfortable seating – and make time to sit outside and relax – or make a space for practicing yoga or tai chi.

Where to begin… when you don’t know where to begin

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, start by thinking about just one thing you can change. 

This is going to be unique to you; what works for you won’t necessarily work for everyone. So start by thinking about what makes you feel most supported, nurtured and healthy. If you’re on a budget, make a list of all the things you could do that are free – or cost very little. There are plenty!

Picture yourself coming home after a busy day. If you could see, hear, smell and touch anything you wanted, what would you choose? How could you create that – or a version of it – in your home (or even at work!)?

If there are specific things you’d like to incorporate into your daily routine (like meditation, reading, or gratitude practice), think about how making some small changes to your environment would gently support that.

The main thing to focus on is what makes you feel good, and what’s the simplest way to make it happen.


I’d love to know how you’ve adapted your environment to make you feel good. Catch up with me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook to let me know what changes you’ve put in place at home, work or outside to support your wellbeing.