Katie O’Brien provides advice on how to get ahead with a good night’s sleep
With a poor sleep reported to cost the UK economy billions each year, it’s no secret that bad sleeping habits can seriously affect your brain function. Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind, commented that sleep problems can “affect your ability to concentrate and carry out usual day-to-day tasks, such as going to work”.
A recent report form Aviva1 shows that the use of sleep monitoring technology doubles annually, showing that people are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of a healthy night’s sleep. Nevertheless, it also uncovered that over a third of UK adults feel they don’t get enough sleep and consequently, sleeping better is the fastest growing health ambition for adults in the UK.
So how do we ensure that we’re getting a decent forty winks each night? Take a look at these six top tips for a sound night’s sleep.
Avoid technology before bedtime
Reading a work email or watching a video on social media can make it harder to wind down and switch off, but that’s not the only problem with using tech late at night: devices like TVs, laptops and smartphones also mimic natural light, which stimulates the brain, making it harder to unwind.2 Your circadian rhythm, or body clock, can be kept in check by exposing yourself to bright natural light during the day and avoiding the screens of our devices in the evening. As a nation that enjoys a lot of screen time, this may seem like no easy feat, but turning screens off an hour before lying down can make a big difference to your sleeping pattern.
Get the room temperature right
It’s important that the room in which you’re trying to sleep isn’t too hot. An overheated room can lead to headaches and a restless night’s sleep. The optimal sleeping temperature is 16-20 degrees Celsius, so be sure to adjust your thermostat before heading to bed. When you start to drift off, your body attempts to initiate sleep by cooling itself down, so keeping your room at this temperature can work to speed things along.
Practise a routine
We’re all creatures of habit, but unfortunately it doesn’t mean we always stick to the same routine before bed – a custom that would do wonders when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. Following the same routine each night is another way of signalling to your brain that it’s time to power down.
Check your mattress
If you spend a lot of time tossing and turning, or you find it hard to get a comfortable spot, it might just be time to change your mattress. It’s estimated that mattresses should be replaced every eight years, so if you’ve had yours too long, it’s no surprise that a rogue spring digging into your back here and there will affect the quality of your sleep.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals before bed
The nicotine in cigarettes is a stimulant that can stop you drifting off as well as you should. Although alcohol may make you feel sleepy in some instances, it actually makes for a lighter, more disrupted sleep. Going to bed feeling full can also lead to a disrupted night’s sleep, so leaving a 2-3 hours between your last meal of the day and your bedtime is optimal.
If you can’t sleep – don’t keep trying
Sometimes it’s the very action of trying to sleep (and the frustration that comes with it) that makes it so difficult to drift off. If sleep continues to allude you, why not go into another room and do something relaxing, like reading a book? Flicking through the pages of your favourite book may well make you realise how tired you are.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, why not try out one of the above tips? You might notice a big improvement in your daily performance.