Sleep is one of the most important things we can do to maintain good physical and mental health. While we sleep, our body repairs itself from the effects of the day and it allows our brains to form lasting memories and keep our hormones in good balance. The optimum sleep time an adult needs is around 7-9 hours each night. However, it has been reported that half of the UK population is not able to reach that target and as many as 1 in 3 adults suffer from insomnia. That’s 16 million people!
According to Public Health England, the annual cost of lost sleep is around £30bn each year. If we don’t manage to sleep at least 7 hours a day then we are prone to a number of health risks such as obesity, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Insufficient sleep also costs employers around 200,000 working days lost due to a loss of productivity and sickness absence. It appears a sleep revolution is in need to not only improve our physical and mental wellbeing, but also our economy.
Sleep hygiene is basically a list of good practices that are well-known to improve the length and quality of your sleep. While you may not notice things improve overnight, with regular practice, the below advice should help you catch a few more zzz’s and promote your general wellbeing:
- Sustain a sleep schedule
It’s hard when you’re working shift patterns and with younger children, but having a regular bedtime routine is important if you want a better night’s sleep. Try setting bedtime reminders and alarms to help you sustain fixed times for going to bed and waking up.
- Avoid eating late at night
Timing of our food has a significant effect on sleep patterns and eating too late at night has been proven to have a negative impact on sleep quality. There’s currently no recommended timeframe that you should wait after you eat to go to sleep, but if you struggle to nod off then do consider your eating schedule too.
- Ensure you’re doing regular physical activity
Exercise will help you spend more time in deep sleep which is the best phase for repairing and restoring from the previous day. Deep sleep is also beneficial for controlling stress, anxiety and boosts immune function.
- Avoid technology in the bedroom
Advice from any sleep organisation will tell you that the bed should only be for sleep and sex, yet many of us are used to snuggling up with an addictive tv show or our phones. However, technology use in the evenings has been proven to reduce our melatonin levels, the hormone that is essential for getting us to sleep. For some it may help us get off, but if you’re one who suffers insomnia try to keep technology out of the bedroom and avoid it in the hour before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in the evenings
All three of these substances are stimulants that will prevent your sleep hormones from inducing and maintaining that blissful rest your body needs every day. You may find that reducing consumption initially gives you some side effects that can temporarily affect sleep, but if you wait for these to pass and keep hydrated with water, you will see yourself sleeping easier.
- Make a sleep sanctuary for snoozing
Your bedroom should be associated as a cosy little sanctuary that’s not too hot, cold, noisy or bright. Create a comfortable space that you enjoy relaxing in and good sleep should come naturally. Make sure it’s dark enough by investing in some good curtains or an eye mask too, especially if you work nights. Our brain needs it to be dark to trick it into releasing those sleepy hormones.
I could go on and on as there’s a mountain of research and books that have been written on sleep hygiene. But those top 6 tips are regarded as the best practices for better sleep. Remember we do wellbeing talks that focus on sleep if you’d like to learn more about the importance of sleep and wellbeing.
We hope you find these tips are useful but if you find you’re doing a lot of these things and still not nodding off properly, do consider talking to your GP and getting some professional advice from a sleep specialist. Sleep disorders are relatively common and it’s important not to suffer through sleepless nights when your wellbeing is at stake.
Night night, sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite!