In what way can the quality of my sleep affect my health?
More than half of Britons say stress or worry keeps them awake at night, and a third of adults in the UK have taken medication in an attempt to relieve sleeping problems. A third! However, the cost of all those sleepless nights is more than just bad moods and a lack of focus. Regular poor sleep puts you at risk of serious medical conditions including obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Sleep debt is such a huge issue in today’s society due to our ‘always on’ lifestyles and people are now waking up to the benefits of a great night’s sleep.
What are the main factors that can disrupt my sleep?
Take a look at your lifestyle to see if there are things that may be causing your sleep disruption. These could be your diet, exercise patterns (or lack of exercise) and your sleeping environment. Is your room too hot or too cold? Do you have a partner that disrupts your sleep? Are you stressed and find that your worries are stopping you from nodding off? Then consider your sleep schedule. Ideally you would enjoy a regular relaxing bedtime routine that allows your mind to unwind and you will be going to bed and getting up at the same time—even at the weekends.
How many hours of sleep should I be getting per night?
The Sleep Council says the recommended sleep for 18-65 year olds is seven to nine hours a night. Some people need more, some less. The real sign of whether or not you are getting enough sleep is if you feel tired in the day. Worryingly, the average UK person is under-sleeping by at least an hour a night. We’re a tired bunch and it’s really impacting our health and wellbeing!
What measures can I take to make sure I’m getting the right amount of sleep every night?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to sleeping. Find out what works for you and try to establish a bedtime routine. These three key elements will really help you get your recommended eight hours a night:
1. A quiet mind
The number one essential for getting to sleep is a quiet mind. If you find yourself tossing and turning at night with a head full of worry, get up and only go back to bed when you feel tired. Try writing down what is worrying you in a journal before bed to give your mind permission to switch off and pick things back up in the morning.
2. A relaxed body
Try to find ways to help you relax in the evening. It could be by enjoying a warm milk drink, having a long soak in the bath or by snuggling up with a great book. Trying deep breathing practices can also help you relax and prepare your mind and body for sleep.
3. A bedroom for sleeping
The bedroom should be a sanctuary reserved for sleep. Somewhere not too hot or cold—the ideal temperature should be around 16-18C (60-65F). Your bedroom should be pleasant and relaxing with fresh air and blackout curtains. Invest in a high quality and comfortable bed and go for the biggest one you can fit in your bedroom.
Recently, I’ve been struggling to fall asleep. What can I do?
One of the most important things you can do is to establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine. When we were younger most of us had an established bedtime routine. Now, many of us work late and fall into bed far later than planned, with no thought for a bedtime routine. Creating this sleep routine will signal to the body that it is time for sleep and will allow you to put the stresses and worries of the day behind you. What you do just before you go to sleep directly affects the quality and duration of your sleep.
Does what I eat and drink throughout the day affect the quality of my sleep?
We know that certain foods and drinks can interfere with sleep, the most obvious ones being caffeine and alchohol. A heavy meal close to bedtime may make you less comfortable when you settle down for your night’s rest. At the same time, going to bed hungry can be just as disruptive to sleep as going to bed too full. Enjoying a light meal a good few hours before you plan to sleep should set you up for the best chance of getting a good night’s rest.
Is napping during the day disrupting my sleeping schedule?
Whilst naps will never make up for a poor night’s sleep, a short nap of just 20-30 minutes can help pep you up, both improving your performance and reducing the number of mistakes you’re likely to make during the day if you’re overtired. Psychologically, a nap also feels like a ‘treat’, providing much needed respite from a stressful day and improving your overall sense of wellbeing.
However the best way to get a good night’s sleep is to be awake during the day. It sounds obvious but sleeping in late and excessive napping will play havoc with your sleep patterns.
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