Find yourself counting sheep and still not drifting off at night? You’re not alone. According to research by the Sleep Council, over a third of the UK population sleep fewer than six hours a night (you should aim for six to eight hours a night).
As well as short-term side effects of too many late nights (hello bleary eyes, poor concentration and fatigue), research has linked sleep deprivation with everything from increasing your risk of catching the common cold to obesity. Don’t suffer in silence, here’s 7 ways you can sleep your way to health.
1. De-stress before you head to bed
According to the Sleep Council, some 47 percent of adults cited stress as a main cause of poor sleep. Remove this barrier to the land of nod by off-loading all your thoughts for the next day. If necessary, write down your worries before bed and then put it away until tomorrow.
2. Time your exercise right
While exercise is great for the body and the soul, try to avoid heavy cardio before bed as this will raise your cortisol levels (stress hormones) and impact on your sleep. Instead try something more relaxing such as yoga or Pilates. This will help relax your mind and body plus give you a good stretch before you head to bed.
3. Create a sleeping space
Make your bedroom space a place of rest and sleep, not work and distractions. Give it a good tidy and remove any clutter to reduce stress hormones and aim to make the room as dark as possible. Invest in thicker blinds to stop street lights and the sunrise from disturbing your sleep.
Ear plugs and an eye mask are also worth thinking about if necessary. Finally, check your thermostat. Aim for between 60F (16C) to 65F (18C) in the bedroom before you slip into a warm and comfortable bed.
4. Switch your bedtime habits
Leave your phone alone once you hit the sack, ban your laptop or tablet from the bedroom and commit to switching off any electronic devices at least half an hour before bed. Light-emitting devices can have a negative effect on you trying to switch off, and one study showed that exposure to light can reduce your melatonin (that’s the hormone which helps you sleep) by up to 50%.
To increase your sleepiness and help you hit the hay, read a book or listen to relaxing music instead. And wear socks…It’s true, warming your feet can send signals to your brain that it’s bedtime.
5. Steer clear of stimulants
Don’t be fooled by the sedative effect of alcohol. It may feel like you’re unwinding but as the alcohol wears off, you come out of a deep sleep, wake up earlier than usual, and find it difficult to drop back off again.
And while a cup of java can be a good thing in the morning, caffeine post-lunch can keep you up until the early hours. If you need something to help you snooze, try a milky drink or herbal tea like peppermint or chamomile.
6. Watch what you eat
When it comes to eating, try and leave at least an hour before you head to bed as digestive activity can keep you awake. Rich foods can also take time to leave the stomach so try and leave a gap between eating them and turning in.
If you are hungry before bed, try a small bowl of wholegrain cereal with warm skimmed milk. Milk contains an amino acid called tryptophan, which makes you feel sleepy and calcium which helps when it comes to regulating your sleep cycles.
7. Set an alarm (for bedtime)
Think about bedtime in the same way you think about getting up and set an alarm you can routinely stick to. At this time, you want to be tucked up in bed and ready to nod off. Going to bed and getting up at the same time programs your body and helps ensure you can get a good night’s sleep.
If you find it difficult at first, don’t stress, find an activity such as doing a jigsaw puzzle, to take your mind off it and relax. Then when you feel sleepy, head to bed.
A big thanks to The Style Dynamo for this great post to celebrate the National Festival of Sleep Day this week.