Let’s face it, getting a good night’s sleep is not always easy. If you find yourself tossing and turning during the night and wake up feeling tired and irritable, you’re definitely not alone. In fact, it is believed that around one in three people in the UK suffer from a sleep disorder at some point in their lives. While a lack of shuteye is not always detrimental in the short term, prolonged periods of sleeplessness can soon begin to take their toll on your mental and physical health. Luckily, making some simple changes to your everyday habits, behaviours and lifestyle is often enough to improve your quality and quantity of sleep. With this in mind, here’s your essential guide to good sleep hygiene.
Establish a regular sleep schedule
One of the easiest and most effective ways to increase your chances of getting a full night’s rest is to establish set times to go to bed and wake up. By setting up a consistent sleep schedule, you can regulate your internal body clock and maintain a healthy sleep pattern. Try to stick to roughly the same bedtime and waking up time every day - even on holidays and weekends. It’s also important to not get too much or too little sleep. Although it varies from person to person, as a general rule of thumb, most adults need between seven and nine hours of shuteye per night to function properly during the day. Try to avoid napping during the day as well, as this can disrupt your sleep/wake cycle.
Have a relaxing wind down ritual
What you do in the hour before you turn in for the night can be the difference between a restful and restless slumber. Try to avoid stimulating activities, such as watching TV or catching up on work emails, and instead focus on calming things like reading a book, taking a bath or having a warm drink. Establishing a relaxing wind down ritual before bed will help to prepare your mind and body for rest so you will fall asleep more quickly. Some people also find doing yoga, meditating or practicing breathing exercises before bed can relieve stress and make it easier to nod off. Massage therapy can also be an effective way to wind down. Our adjustable beds feature a unique NHC Cyclo-Therapy system that can reduce stress. It can also relax your muscles and minimise aches and pains associated with medical problems such as arthritis and back pain.
Avoid certain foods and drinks
If you want to welcome more peaceful nights, it’s important to watch what you eat and drink before bedtime. Steer clear of caffeine and nicotine in the evening, as they act as stimulants and can keep you alert into the early hours. Try to limit your alcohol intake too. While it may help you to fall asleep initially, drinking alcohol before bed can disrupt the quality of your snooze time and can also aggravate health problems like snoring and sleep apnoea. There are also certain foods that can impede the quality of your sleep and cause problems like acid reflux, such as spicy, fatty and sugary meals. It’s a good idea to avoid eating a large meal late at night too, as this can keep your digestive system active and make you feel more awake. If you find yourself feeling hungry before bed, stick to a light, healthy snack.
Create a soothing environment
The environment in which you sleep in is also extremely important when it comes to getting a full night’s rest. For optimum slumber, your bedroom should be as quiet, dark and cool as possible. Blackout curtains or blinds are a good investment, as not only can they shut out bright light, but they can also help to regulate the temperature of your room. If outside noise wakes you up, you may want to consider getting a white noise machine or using earplugs. It’s also crucial to have a comfortable, supportive mattress and suitable bedding for the time of the year. For example, during the summer, you should switch to a lower tog duvet to keep you cool and prevent your body from overheating during the night.
If possible, remove devices such as TVs, laptops and phones from your bedroom. As well as being distracting, these electronics emit light that can slow down the production of melatonin - the sleep-inducing hormone.
Only go to bed when you feel tired
A common mistake people make is going to bed when they are not tired enough. If you are finding it difficult to drift off, forcing yourself to stay in bed and stare at the ceiling can increase frustration and stress levels, which can make it even more difficult to fall asleep. Instead, get up and go and do something else for half an hour or so until you feel tired. Some people find that writing down their thoughts or making a to-do list for the next day can help to get rid of worries and concerns that could be keeping them awake.
Exercise during the day
Doing exercise during the day can encourage a deeper, more restorative sleep by reducing stress and anxiety and making your body more tired. However, you need to make sure you do it at the right time. Ideally, you should do physical activity early in the day, or at least three hours before you go to bed to give your body time to wind down. Doing exercise outdoors is also a good option, as exposure to fresh air can make you feel more tired and ready for sleep when bedtime rolls around.
By practicing good sleep hygiene habits like these, you should be able to enjoy more restful nights. As well as making you feel more alert and energised during the day, this can reduce your risk of developing common sleep disorders like insomnia. If you are still having trouble getting to sleep after making these changes, it’s worth booking an appointment with a healthcare professional for further advice.