Sleep. We all need it, we all get it, but some of us aren’t getting as much as we need.
If you’ve ever suffered from a bad night’s sleep then you’ll be well aware of the effect it can have on your day. But what if you’re struggling to get a full night of sleep several times a week?
The NHS recommends we get between six to nine hours of sleep per night, but according to The Sleep Council, a third of us are only getting between five and six hours, while 70% of the nation sleeps for seven hours or less.
The Sleep Council’s Great British Bedtime report discovered that around 6.8 million of us are even self-medicating with over-the-counter tonics in a bid to get a decent night of slumber, while the NHS estimates it spends around £50 million on sleeping pills every year.
So what is it that’s stopping the nation from getting a full night of shut-eye?
Why aren’t we getting a good night’s sleep?
A lack of sleep can be caused by a number of factors, the most common of which is stress. We’ve all been there, staring at the ceiling worrying about bills we need to pay, errands we need to run and the mountain of other tasks that we’re sure we’re not going to get done. Whether it’s stress, anxiety or depression, our mental state during the day can have a huge effect on our ability to get good quality sleep.
Another factor that has an effect on our sleep is alcohol. While many of us may find that getting to sleep is rather easy once we’ve enjoyed a drink or two, the problem comes when it comes to staying that way. Dr Paula Franklin, director of Healthcare Development at BUPA says, “Alcohol quickens the heart rate and leads to dehydration, making us wakeful and thirsty in the early hours of the morning.”
Caffeine can also cause sleeping issues. Dr Franklin explains
“Insomnia is common in people whose daily intake exceeds 600mg of caffeine a day – and each tea or coffee contains 80-150mg.”
Many of us comfort our sleepy selves with the promise of a lie in when it comes to the weekend, but contrary to popular belief, catching up on sleep won’t make a difference if we’re not getting enough during the week. Unfortunately for us, sleep doesn’t work on flexi-time.
The health benefits of sleep
Most of us are well aware of the recommended hours per night but do we know why it’s so important to get a good night’s rest?
Jessica Alexander of The Sleep Council says, “sleeping well is as crucial to our health and wellbeing as eating a healthy diet or exercising regularly.”
While most of us have experienced the after effects of a bad night of sleep, we might not realise fully the damage it could be doing to our health. Jessica Alexander warns
“Just one bad night’s sleep affects our mood, concentration and alertness while long-term sleep deprivation has far more serious consequences: it’s been linked to a number of serious health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke.”
So if you’re reaching for the matchsticks and coffee yet again at work, or you find yourself dozing in front of the TV but then struggling to sleep once you’ve hauled yourself off to bed, here are a few tips that will have you well on your way to sweet dreams.
The key to sleep is in the bedroom
If you’re having trouble sleeping, the first place to look at is your bedroom. Having the right environment for sleep is one of the most important aspects of getting your sleeping back on track, and that means creating a bedroom that’s cosy and appealing.
Create the perfect bedroom using our tips and you might just find yourself enjoying a great night’s sleep.
Only darkness will do
Many of us think we are sleeping in the dark, but how dark is your dark? The scientific journal Nature has talked about the consequence of light exposure on our natural body clocks. It states that any exposure to light, whether it be from a streetlight outside the window, or from the alarm clock on our bedside table, can be detrimental to our body’s production of melatonin, a chemical that aids sleep.
If you’re unsure of how dark your room is, turn all the lights off at night time, let your eyes adjust to the room and seek out any potential light sources that might be interrupting your slumber. Blackout blinds will come in handy when it comes to blocking outside lighting, but you should try to remove anything else that shines into your bedroom.
Your bed is your kingdom
We spend a third of our lives in bed, so it’s important to pick the right one. Your bed is the most integral item when it comes to sleeping well. The Sleep Council’s study found that one in five of us recognise that buying a different bed would improve our sleep significantly.
One of the most important decisions when it comes to bed shopping is choosing the mattress. Your mattress will determine the alignment of the body when you sleep, so it’s vital that you’re sleeping on something that will support you. Award winning mattresses such as the Hypnos Ortho Gold mattress will mould to your body whilst supporting it, ensuring you’re in the best position for comfortable sleeping.
Trinkets and flowers
Most of us love a fresh bouquet around the home, but having flowers in the bedroom might help us when it comes to drifting off to sleep. One scientific study found that floral scents such as jasmine help to relieve anxiety, often more so than the barbiturates that are prescribed to aid sleep.
Decorating your bedroom with personal trinkets such as photographs and artwork might also help relieve any stress. They’ll make you feel right at home when it comes to bedtime.
Too hot or too cold?
One of the most common causes of disturbed sleep is the natural fluctuations in our body temperature that occur overnight. There are a few steps you can take to combat the temperature extremes.
Blankets and hot water bottles will help keep you warm in the winter while lighter tog duvets and cotton bedding will help you keep cool in the warmer months. If you’re feeling the heat, open a window. Many believe that some fresh air works wonders for a good night’s sleep.
When shopping for a mattress, look for something with natural insulation like wool or cashmere. Wool is a natural insulator providing coolness in the summer and warmth in the winter. Award winning mattresses such as the Hypnos Ortho Gold mattress provide both wool and cashmere.
If it’s all getting a bit too hot, try some precautionary bedroom preparation. Keep the windows open and the sunshine out during the day to maintain the recommended temperature of 16-18°C (60-65°F).
Sleeping in silence
Whether you live in a city or in the countryside, you are probably used to a certain level or type of noise. Those of us that are used to city dwelling might be comforted by the soft hums of the outside world, but if you’re disturbed by noise, try a night-time playlist of white noise tracks to dull any sudden loud noises into the background.
Failing that, ear plugs can work wonders when it comes to blocking out those outside disturbances.
Tidy room, tidy mind
It’s not just the neat freaks among us that get stressed by clutter; mess in the bedroom can lead to a lack of sleep. Ensure your bedroom is neat and tidy to stop your mind from worrying about the cleanup and to feel completely comfortable in your space.
Mental clutter can also affect your ability to sleep. Whether you’re worrying about work, relationships or the grocery shop, try practising some mindfulness meditation for ten minutes a day to curb some of that anxiety and stress.
A bedroom should be a bedroom. By keeping any laptops, work files and computers out of the bedroom you can start to associate it with sleep.
Most of us are partial to a bit of telly watching before sleeping, but try keeping this to the living room and you might notice that you fall asleep as your head hits the pillow.
Getting a good night’s sleep every night is important when it comes to being healthy and happy. All it takes is a few simple steps to create your ideal bedroom environment and in no time at all, you could be sleeping soundly.