Everyone loves being in bed and sleeping, so why do we avoid it so much by staying up late watching box sets and stalking social media channels? Sleep is vitally important for us, body and soul. We need sleep to allow our bodies to heal and our brains to reboot, so here are a few tips on getting the best night’s sleep possible.
Everybody knows this is true and yet we all still have a TV in the bedroom and scan our phones before going to bed – Facebook really isn’t appropriate bedtime reading. If you use the alarm on your phone, turn off data and wifi so you get no notifications in the night. Get an old school alarm clock and leave your phone in another room if you find it really tricky to switch it off. You want to wind down to bedtime so have a bath, listen to some relaxing music, or read a book. Relax into bed, switch off slowly and you should sink into sleep.
A good quality mattress should last you about ten years. Feather and down pillows will give you a good five to eight years’ service, and a synthetic pillow will last about two years. Pillows are not immortal. If they don’t have any bounce to them then they are not giving your neck and head the support they need. Pop your pillows in a tumble dryer for about half an hour to kill mites and fluff them up. Pillows need to be firm enough to support your head but soft enough for air to circulate. If your mattress is sagging or you regularly wake up with lower back pain, you probably need a new one. Buy the best quality mattress you can afford because your sleep affects every part of your life.
The temperature of you and your room are very important to sleeping well. You should have a winter and a summer duvet with togs to suit the weather. Go for a 4.5 tog duvet in summer, a 9 to 10.5 in autumn and spring, and a good 13.5 to 15 in winter. Some duvets come in two parts so you can attach and discard the extra layer as the seasons change. Have a hot water bottle or electric blanket if you get very cold, and you should open a window, even just a little air will help you sleep better. If you live in a noisy neighbourhood, you might want to invest in a white noise machine, a fan or ear plugs. Also, crisp clean sheets will help you sleep better too.
Before electricity and alarm clocks, we simply went to bed and woke with the sun. So, for a good night’s sleep, ensure your bedroom is dark when you go to bed. Putting up blackout curtains are a great idea – for kids trying to sleep in the late daylight of summer time, this is invaluable. Also, getting a bit of exercise during the day will help you sleep better at night.
Try and keep to the same bedtimes and wake times every day, yes even on weekends! Don’t eat too late or too heavily and don’t drink coffee, sugary drinks or alcohol for at least a few hours before bed. It’s not just how long we sleep that’s important – everyone knows eight hours is the ideal – it’s also the sleep cycles you are in. Many fitness bands have a sleep monitor. See how you’re doing, and if you continue to sleep badly then consider speaking to a specialist.
That means no naps during the day and a quick wake up in the morning. As soon as your alarm goes off, that should be you awake! Make like a cat, and give yourself a good stretch, this will propel oxygen through your body and wake up your muscles. If you do wake up during the night, don’t clock watch but try keeping your eyes open! It sounds odd, but if you think about keeping your eyes open, you often drop off faster.
Many people say not being able to switch off their brains is the reason they can’t sleep and this is often down to worry. If you’re worrying at night, it’s probably because you haven’t done something during the day. Make a to-do list and tick things off, maybe keep a pen and paper by your bed in case you get a brainwave in the middle of the night. If you find it hard to switch off your thoughts when you go to bed, listen to the radio or some music to help you drift off but make sure it will turn off after a set length of time otherwise it might wake you up later.
Now, hopefully all that’s left to say is sweet dreams!