ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

How to achieve a good night’s sleep

This World Sleep Day, CABA, the wellbeing charity, in association with Sleepstation, advises how to get the best possible shut-eye.

April 2021

It’s no secret that accountancy is a tough profession. Between the short deadlines, heavy workloads and demanding clients, it can often be stressful.

We know, of course, about the importance of getting plenty of exercise, maintaining a good diet and striking a positive work-life balance. But something that is often overlooked is our sleep.

To sleep well, there are three general principles. We need a quiet mind, relaxed body and a conducive environment. That said, we’re all different. There are no universal rules to achieving these three things. You, as an individual, need to find your own way to sleep.

Keep active during the day

Achieving a good night’s sleep starts during the day. Daytime exercise, both physical and mental, can help to ensure you sleep well at night. Similarly, it's essential to get adequate exposure to natural light during the day, as this is the primary signal to the brain that it is time to be awake.

Establish a routine

Establishing a regular and relaxing bedtime routine is one of the most important things you can do when it comes to achieving better sleep. Most people's preparation for sleep seems to involve nothing more than turning the TV off, brushing their teeth and then simply expecting to fall asleep when they get into bed.

In actuality, you should spend at least 30 minutes winding down before bed, in order to signal to the body that it is time for sleep. This means turning off the TV or computer, not working, not arguing with your partner and certainly not opening the gas bill…

Create a conducive environment for sleep

The bedroom should be a sanctuary that is reserved for sleep. It should be dark, either through the use of heavy curtains or an eye mask, and it should be as quiet as possible. If this is difficult, then consider using comfortable earplugs.

Likewise, the bedroom shouldn’t be stuffy, as fresh air is good for sleep, and it should be neither too hot nor too cold. Many experts say that the ideal temperature for the bedroom is 16-18°C, although this is ultimately a question of personal preference.

Then there is the question of the bed. It should, of course, be comfortable. But try as well to have as large a bed as you can fit into your room. Remember that a standard double shared by two adults actually gives each adult less space than they would have in a single bed.

Finally, it’s crucial in your sleep sanctuary that you get rid of the TV and any computers.

Keep cool

It’s not just the temperature of the bedroom that is important for getting a good night's sleep. Achieving an optimal temperature under the duvet is equally important.

During the night, the body needs to lose heat, and a cool bedroom facilitates this heat loss. If the room is too hot or you're too hot under the duvet, then it's more difficult for the body to lose heat and this will cause disturbed sleep.

The same is also true if you're too cold, as this means the body has to work hard to maintain its optimal temperature, which, again, can disturb sleep. Ideally, the temperature of your sleeping environment should be as close to a thermo-neutral temperature (approximately 29°C) as possible. But again, this is ultimately a question of personal preference.

Get up on the right side

Having a regular wake up time can really help to improve your sleep, as the body starts preparing to wake up about one hour before you actually wake.

If it doesn't know when you're going to wake, then it can't prepare properly and, as a result, you're liable to feel groggy when you wake. Establish a fixed wake time and get up at the same time every morning. You’ll soon find that you feel much better for it in the mornings.

Think guidance, not law

Sleep is a very individual thing, so listen to your body. For instance, while alcohol can disturb sleep, the relaxation gained from sipping a fine single malt in front of a roaring fire can sometimes outweigh the possible side effects of the alcohol. Likewise, while you should strive only to associate your bed with sleep, reading or watching TV in bed is, for some people, an essential sleep inducer.

It's wrong to use the 'rules' too prescriptively. If you sleep well and don't feel sleepy during the day, then you shouldn't need to worry. When it comes to sleep, it really is about what works for you.

With a bit of luck, these tips will help you start to make the most of your sleep. But remember – you can't find sleep. You have to let it find you.The harder you try to make it happen, the more worked up you will get and the less likely you are actually to fall asleep. Give some of these suggestions a try, but if you're very worried about your sleep, don’t be afraid to consult your doctor. If medical issues are disturbing your sleep or your sleep problems started after a change in medication, this course of action is particularly advisable.

Additional support

We want to help you maintain a sense of balance and control in your lives, and that’s why CABA is building on the ‘Keeping Yourself Well’ campaign hub with new and relevant advice and information. New self-help articles on topics such as how to maintain a work-life blend, redundancy, coping with the new normal and preparing for winter are now available, along with information on all of our support services. Our content covers all areas of wellbeing – mental, physical, career, financial, care and relationships – and we’ll continue to add more useful resources in line with what’s happening in the world.

In the meantime, for more help and advice on taking care of your sleep, make sure to check out CABA’s Sleepstation hub. Members of the accountancy community can access a range of free information and self-help resources to support their sleep, as well as register to use online sleep therapy.

London Accountant

Go to London Accountant for more features, news and opinion.
Follow us on Twitter @ICAEW_London and join us on LinkedIn: LSCA and Croydon.
Subscribe to ‘regional updates’ to receive more articles.