It is a fact: the majority of people do not get enough sleep each night.
Although the recommended amount varies for each person, the absolute minimum that anyone should get is six hours a night, but even this can prove to be too difficult for some.
There are a number of reasons why people do not get enough rest, and a variety of ways to deal with it, but the Sleep Council has some general tips that can help to make an immediate impact on your ability to get your head down and ensure you wake each morning feeling rested and ready for the day ahead.
Food for thought
The old adage that eating cheese before bed gives you nightmares may not be true 100 per cent of the time, but it is true that eating too close to bed time can disrupt your sleep, as can not eating. A stomach that is too full or too empty will cause discomfort and restlessness. Likewise, drinking certain things before bed can also disrupt your sleep pattern; caffeine should definitely be out of bounds on an evening, which means cutting out coffee, tea and cola, while alcohol can also cause dehydration and should therefore be consumed moderately or accompanied by plenty of water throughout the evening.
Ditch that device
It is a common sight in modern society – people with a phone in their hand, frantically typing away as they craft a message, check Facebook or play with any number of apps. Although smartphones and tablets have undoubtedly brought many people closer together, the always-on nature of the web means the temptation is constantly there to check your phone, particularly after getting into bed at the end of the day. However, blue light emitted from digital displays stimulate the brain and inhibit the production of melatonin – the hormone that humans need to sleep. As such, try to switch off your phone before sleep, avoid watching TV or using your laptop in bed, and instead read a book or magazine, which will help to tire your eyes and bring about sleep quickly and more naturally.
Comfort is key
You spend at least a quarter of your life in bed, so it goes without saying that your bed needs to be as comfortable as possible. People will gladly shell out thousands of pounds on a car that they only spend an hour a day in, so something that you spend six hours a night or more in should receive the same consideration. Key to the bed is the mattress, and there are many types available ranging from super soft to super firm, as well as orthopeadic variants for people with medical requirements. When bed shopping, try out a number of mattresses to see which best suits yours – and your partner’s – tastes. Also try to avoid passing old mattresses and beds down to children – if your bed is not good enough for you, then it probably isn’t good enough for them. Similarly, careful consideration needs to be given to pillows, as having too many can cause discomfort to the neck while too few can result in soreness.
Everyone has experienced the sensation of waking up in the middle of night and throwing off the covers because they are too hot. Similarly, there are few things worse than being awoken with a freezing foot or hand that has worked its way out of the covers and is exposed to the cold air. To avoid both of these occurrences, try to regulate your room temperature so that it is as low as possible without being uncomfortable. Bear this in mind when choosing your bedding and consider having both a summer and winter duvet, which you can exchange as the nights become hotter or colder.
If you are still struggling to sleep, there are a few more options that could help. Exercise and fresh air both combine to boost sleep quality. Physical activity tires the body out and makes you need rest, while studies have shown that people who are exposed to an adequate amount of daylight each day sleep more soundly on an evening. Keeping a sleep diary can also prove effective, as it helps you to document exactly what you have done or eaten each day and how you have then slept afterwards. Monitoring this over a period of a few days or weeks can help you to alter your routine to make it more beneficial to your sleep and ensure you get a good night’s rest, every night.
The Sleep Council was founded by the National Bed Federation, the trade association for British bed manufacturers, and aims to raise awareness of the importance of a good night’s sleep to health and wellbeing. For more information, visit www.sleepcouncil.org.uk.