Sleep is as important for our health as is eating, drinking and breathing. It allows our body time to repair and our brain time to consolidate our memories and process information. Poor sleep is linked to physical problems such as weakened immune system and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
Regular poor sleep puts you at risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Insomnia means you regularly have problems sleeping. It usually gets better by changing your sleeping habits.
You have insomnia if you regularly:
- find it hard to go to sleep
- wake up several times during the night
- lie awake at night
- wake up early and cannot go back to sleep
- still feel tired after waking up
- find it hard to nap during the day even though you’re tired
- feel tired and irritable during the day
- find it difficult to concentrate during the day because you’re tired
The NHS has a short test you can complete which will give you a ‘sleep score’ and let you know when to see a GP.
It also includes practical tips and advice for improving your sleep.
Top tips to create positive sleep habits
Practice good sleep hygiene
In the final hour before going to sleep, avoid blue light from your phone screen, avoid caffeine and practise meditation. Studies have shown that as little as two minutes of mindfulness meditation before bed can have a marked improvement on your sleep.
Exercise – but not too late in the day
One way to enhance the likelihood of a good night’s sleep is by doing regular aerobic exercise. As little as ten minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can dramatically improve the quality of your nighttime sleep, especially when done on a regular basis.
Avoid alcohol and drugs
Substances such as alcohol and cannabis can have a short initial effect on sleep, making it easier to fall asleep. But this effect always diminishes after some period of use, as the body gets used to the substance. Your sleep quality will also worsen – you’ll find you experience less deep sleep and wake more easily in the night – because your body has to decompose the added substance.
Stop screen time
Your brain will start to wind down and become tired if you engage it in activities such as reading, writing or listening to music. On the other hand, watching a TV show or scrolling through social media is too passive and will, therefore, keep your brain engaged and awake.
Consider your diet
It’s worth considering your food and drink choices. Consuming stimulants, such as caffeine and sugar, before bed will make it hard for you to relax and fall asleep. Caffeine, for example, blocks the receptors in your brain that make you drowsy, preventing you from reaching deep sleep.
Hints and tips
Are you getting enough sleep? Is the problem stress related? Do you or your partner snore? Is it simply your bedroom needs a little makeover?
In an ideal world, you would wake up naturally, at the end of your sleep cycle. However modern day life with shift work, children, school runs and many other factors, can often put a stop to this!
When the alarm goes off on a morning, you may still feel tired however this could be from your sleep cycle being disturbed rather than lack of sleep.
We are going to look at a sleep calculator.
The link below provides great information on how to calculate your ideal bedtime and what a sleep cycle is. You can utilise the Sleep Calculator tool to see what would be best for yourself to try and help you time when to go to bed for the best rest! It doesn’t take long to complete.
Go on give it a go! The results may surprise you!
Who doesn’t love climbing into bed at the end of a long day?! Fresh bedding on? New pyjamas? A good book to read?
But have you ever thought that your bed could also be hindering your ability to have a really nice sleep? Did you know around a third of our lives is actually spent in bed, so what better excuse for making sure it’s the right bed?!
You maybe ticking all the right boxes, eating the right foods, exercising, switching off gadgets before bedtime, winding down amongst others, but if your bed is not well looked after then you still won’t be getting the best sleep you can.
Please take a little time to click on the below link. This will take you to a short quiz about your bed. The results are only for you.
Once you have completed this, advice will be given on what you can do to give your bed a little MOT, if needed!
Some people find it difficult to relax, which is essential to getting a good night’s sleep. Some need total silence to sleep and others prefer a little background noise.
Soothing music and nature sounds tend to be the favourites. Things like the rain, birdsong and waves.
They are a great way of focusing and relaxing before bedtime and can become an important part of your wind down routine. Have a search and see what sounds appeal to you and make you relax.
The link below will take you to a video, which will show you how you can use meditation to get a better night’s sleep.
Yoga nidra is the ultimate relaxation technique for releasing stress and tension held in your body. Experience a deep level of relaxation, with this easy to follow meditation and allow your body to restore and balance itself. It is lovely for relaxation during the day or before you go to sleep.
Sleep and fatigue video
A sleep and fatigue video talk by Dr Ceri Sutherland, consultant in sleep medicine.