7 common sleep mistakes and how to fix them
After a busy day, you look forward to a good night's sleep, however as soon as your head hits the pillow you feel wide awake - it's more than just frustrating, it can have an impact on your relationships, your work and your mental health if you can't get the rest you need.
If you have the tendency to lie in bed, staring at the ceiling, continually picking up your phone to check the time to see just how long you have got before the alarm is due to go off - you are not alone.
In fact, scientists from Oxford University say we are getting one-to-two hours’ less sleep per night than we did 60 years ago and research published by the UK's Mental Health Foundation shows that up to one-third of the UK population has trouble getting to sleep at night.
Why do I need a good night's sleep?
Bad sleep doesn't just leave you tired, it can have a negative impact on wider aspects of your life, as the research shows:
- Over four times as many people with insomnia reported relationship difficulties, compared with good sleepers.
- Nearly 95% of people with insomnia reported low energy levels in their daily lives, compared with over 40% of good sleepers.
- Over 75% of people with insomnia experienced poor concentration.
What can I do to get a better night's sleep?
Statistics from the British Sleep Council show 31 per cent of the population has taken medication in an attempt to relieve a sleep problem. However, before visiting your pharmacist, take a look at the top 7 most common sleep mistakes, and how you can fix them to instantly improve your quality of sleep.
1. Your bedroom isn't sleep-friendly
It may sound like common sense but too much light and background noise can prevent you from falling or staying asleep.
Thick blackout curtains and blinds can help, or you could invest in an eye mask and earplugs, which you can take with you wherever you are staying.
Temperature is also important, and if you share a bed with a partner with different temperature preferences a Partner Duvet with a choice of tog combinations provides the perfect answer.
Also, leave your tech outside the bedroom. If you use your phone to wake you up, invest in a traditional alarm clock
2. You have irregular bed and wake up time
Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day creates a routine that your body will get used to - and you will find after a short time you will wake up naturally without an alarm. If you get a good 7-8 hours sleep every night you won't feel the need for a Sunday sleep in.
3. Too much 'blue light' two hours before bedtime
Your tech is telling your brain it's daytime whenever it's on. TVs, smartphones and PC screens give off a blue light which has the same effect on your brain as daylight, suppressing the production of the hormone melatonin in your body. Your body needs Melatonin to tell it it's time to sleep - so switch off the screens to give your body time to realise it's bedtime.
4. Do you have a bedtime, wind-down routine?
Just as a routine about the time you go to bed and get up helps your body prepare for sleep, having a bedtime routine will also help you wind down and be ready for a good night's sleep. It could be having a warm bath, reading a book (not an eBook or tablet) or turning the bright electric lights off and sitting listening to some relaxing music by candlelight half an hour before going to bed.
Writing down your concerns before bed can help put things into perspective. You don't have to write a novel, just a list of what you are thinking about - it could be all the things you need to do tomorrow. Once committed to paper you don't have to keep them in your head.
This will signal to your mind and body, it's time to rest.
5. Avoid stimulants like caffeine after midday
Caffeine which is found in some teas and soft drinks, as well as coffee, stays in your body for many hours after you've enjoyed the drink, stimulating your body to stay awake. Try swapping to decaffeinated drinks such as herbal teas or water after 12 noon.
6. Let's talk food
Eating rice, oats and dairy products can produce chemicals that increase our desire to sleep - while foods high in sugar can keep you awake if consumed late in the day. Try to avoid sugar in your lighter, evening meal and include some sleep-promoting ingredients.
When we eat, our bodies must work hard to digest the food, which is why eating too late in the evening puts added stress on your digestive system which impacts on your sleep. Try to each your main meal earlier in the day and have a light supper.
7. Why your body can keep your mind awake
Exercise is good for helping you reduce stress and sleep better, however, strenuous exercise does wake your body up, getting oxygen pumping around, so go for your run, swim or aerobics class earlier in the day.
What should I do if I still can’t get to sleep?
If you’re finding it difficult to get to sleep, don't just lie there worrying. Get up for a while and get a drink (no sugar or caffeine, remember!) try reading a book or magazine (not a tablet or eBook) for a little while and go back to bed when you’re feeling a bit sleepier.