Check out these tips to improve your sleep
It’s a fact, all human beings need to sleep. Sleep is a normal, indeed essential part of our lives. Every day we become unconscious and paralysed. But why? Scientists simply don't know for sure. In broad terms they believe it is to enable our bodies and especially our brains to recover and to clear the ‘waste’ accumulated during the day.
We need around 7 to 8 hours sleep a night. Some, famously Margaret Thatcher, survive on only 4 hours sleep. While others, especially teenagers, can sleep for 12 hours. And it is not just the amount of sleep, we need quality restful sleep. The NHS says poor sleep quality can lead to diabetes, obesity and heart conditions. Another study suggests that if you need a lie-in at weekends to make up for lack of sleep in the week, you may be at risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
So improving the on the way you sleep will develop your wellbeing and help you avoid some nasty diseases. There is much help and advice on the internet. In no particular order, we have taken some of that advice to give you 20 ways to improve your Sleep.
1) Change Your Mattress
We are bound to say this. An old, sagging, lumpy, maybe smelly mattress is uncomfortable and needs to be changed to improve your sleep. A sagging mattress throws the spine, neck and head out of alignment. A lumpy mattress will disturb sleep while your unconscious body seeks more comfortable positions. The Sleep Council say change your mattress every 8 years. By then the mattress has been slept on for over 23,000 hours. No matter how well made it is it is way past its use by date and unable to give you the quality of sleep you need.
There are many different types of mattress on the market. Which? The independent product testing organisation, regularly evaluates mattresses available for sale in the UK. They look for products to answer each of the following questions:
- How well does the mattress support my back?
- How durable is it?
- Is the mattress easy to move and turn?
- Does it move a lot when my partner turns?
- Does this mattress get soggy with sweat?
The resulting scores determine whether a mattress becomes a BEST BUY. The MouleTec Mattress meets all these criteria and more visit www.mouleltecmattress.co.uk for more information
2) Take physical exercise
Research has shown that people who are physically fit and active have a better quality of sleep. Exercise can help you enjoy better quality sleep and lower body temperature which also induces better sleep.
Exercise makes you feel fitter and better, and if you are experiencing sleeping difficulties, the more you exercise, the more likely you are to improve your sleeping patterns.
Exercising just three times a week for 20-30 minutes will have a noticeable impact on the quality of your sleep, as well as your overall fitness.
Prioritise exercise that gets your heart pumping, such as walking, swimming or cycling.
Don’t overdo it. Regular, gentle exercise is best. Heavy exercise can be counter-productive leading to wakefulness and alertness when trying to sleep.
Nevertheless, be careful to avoid strenuous exercise in the evening and certainly just before bedtime. Exercise temporarily arouses the nervous system and therefore, taken late in the day, it can lead to problems in achieving and maintaining sleep. Exhausting yourself and then collapsing into bed is not a good strategy.
You can help keep your biological clock tuned in to your sleep with anchor sleep. Aim to have at least four hours sleep at the same time every night/morning (e.g. 3-7am). This seems to help keep your sleep clock regular.
Use the weekend or days off to get in some extra “recovery” sleep.
3) Eat a balanced diet
Maintaining a balanced diet and a healthy weight will have a positive impact on your sleep.
Heavy people are more likely to snore, and are at greater risk of developing conditions such as sleep apnoea.
Rapid weight loss can also interrupt your sleep – severe dieting will cause hunger at unusual times, which can wake you up. If you're on a diet, aim to lose no more than a couple of pounds a week.
When you eat is also important. Your main evening meal should not be within three hours of bedtime, to give your digestive system a chance to work. But don't go to bed on a completely empty stomach either. A light snack an hour or two before bed is fine.
Always combine a protein food with a low to medium glycemic index carbohydrate food to optimize tryptophan levels.
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and cigarettes.
Avoid sedatives such as sleeping pills and alcohol to help you sleep. The effects are usually short-term, they can have counter effects, and sustained use can lead to dependency.
Avoid buying melatonin supplements from the Internet (they are only available on prescription in the UK). Taking them may disrupt your own natural melatonin production and potentially suppress your ability to produce this important hormone, ultimately making sleep problems worse.
Do not stop taking sleep medications suddenly. The best approach is to speak to your doctor and develop a strategy to slowly wean yourself off them.
Changes in diet can help you sleep but it takes a little longer than the quick fix pill. Fill in a sleep diary and note what you’ve done on days when you’ve slept well or badly.
4) Curb your caffeine intake
Caffeine stimulates your nervous system, and too much of it can keep you awake.
As well as tea and coffee caffeine is found in chocolate, soft drinks, headache pills and slimming pills.
Always check the label and avoid consuming any caffeine in the six hours before bedtime.
For an alternative hot bedtime drink try a decaffeinated tea or coffee, a mug of warm milk or just plain hot water with a slice of lemon.
5) Avoid daytime napping
It is natural to have spells of activity followed by spells of rest.
You can rest your body and mind at intervals throughout the day to allow your muscles to replenish and your concentration to improve without actually sleeping.
Some people swear by the restorative power of a daytime nap.
It is best to save your sleep for night-time and avoid napping during the day.
However, if you do feel sleepy during the daytime (rather than just tired) this may be dangerous. In these circumstances, a nap of less than 30 minutes is the sensible course of action.
If you absolutely have to nap be sure that you nap in the mid-afternoon while it is still light outside.
6) Make Your Bedroom a Sleep Friendly Environment
The bedroom should be sacrosanct. It is where you should have good quality restful sleep. As such, we should do what you can to make it a sleep-friendly environment. As well as investing in a quality bed and mattress, you should consider buying the best pillows, duvets and bed linen.
A pillow is designed to provide support and comfort to the body and head. Neck pillows support the neck by providing a deep area for the head to rest and a supportive area to keep the neck in alignment with the spine while sleeping. Maintaining the spine and neck in the same line will reduce pressure points and improve sleep. Experiment with different pillows - do you need one or two?
The firmness and placement of your pillows can have a huge effect on the quality of sleep and problems with back pain. Pillows can be used for more than resting your head. If you sleep on your side, place a between your legs. Bend both knees and bring them slightly up, so your black is flat. Place the pillow so that it fits between your ankles and between your knees at the same time. This prevents unhealthy spine rotation caused by an unsupported upper leg.
If you sleep on your back, place a supportive pillow underneath your knees. This flattens your back, removing a large arch from your lower back region, and can relieve pain in just a few minutes.
This is where it gets really disgusting. According to Mail Online, doctors have found that up to a third of a pillow's weight can be made up of bugs, dead skin, mites and their faeces, and the average unwashed pillow can contain a revolting 16 species of fungi. Luckily, washing at 60oC should kill most bacteria so chuck them in the washing machine once every three months.
Note: Every new MouleTec Mattress is supplied with Free MouleTec pillows
Duvets are the most common form of bed covering.
For comfort and sleep improvement manufacturers rate the performance of their duvets in togs, a measurement of thermal insulation. This enables the purchaser to select a duvet appropriate to the season: the higher the tog rating, the warmer the duvet. A few manufacturers have marketed combined duvet sets, one of approximately 4.5 tog and one of approximately 9.5 tog. The light-weight one is for summer and the medium one for autumn; snapped together, 14 togs is designed for winter.
As they come in direct contact with our skin, duvet covers and sheets are as important as your mattress, pillows and duvets in promoting good sleep.
Due to its durability, comfort and breathability cotton is still the most popular sheeting fabric.
Cotton both traps heat and lets cool air pass through in summer, so it’s a great choice for almost any climate. It can be blended with rayon and other materials that affect its weight and feel. As with any sheets you buy, do a hand test to gauge how you like these blends.
Egyptian, pima and Sea Island cottons are the gold standard, so look for those terms on the packaging and check to be sure the fabric is 100 percent that material. Be sure you’re buying from a quality manufacturer and again, feel the material for softness.
Eco-friendly bamboo blends have become more popular in recent years, often blended with cotton or other materials. Because bamboo is sustainable and naturally antimicrobial, and sips up moisture, it’s well worth considering.
Linen sheets, which work well in hot climates because they wick away body heat, are another option. Just be prepared to do a lot of ironing, unless you like the wrinkled look. Although satin sheets look glam and feel romantic, they can be too warm and slippery for many people.
According to a recent YouGov poll, one in ten of us wash our sheets only every four weeks, and more than a third wait 14 days. As we sleep we drop dry skin we also sweat creating a larder for bed mites and harmful bacteria. Wash sheets and pillowcases once a week at a minimum of 60oC to destroy bacteria.
'Dry sheets and pillowcases in direct sunlight if you can, as UV light is effective in killing micro-organisms. Run a hot iron over pillowcases on the cotton setting (200c) to kill any leftover bacteria.'
7) Make changes to your bedroom
The simplest solution is to have thick curtains or blinds. Some people sleep well with a sleep mask on, but this is not for everyone The Sleep Council advise using this list to make your bedroom a more sleep friendly place.
Keep your room completely dark, if necessary use blackout curtains or an eye mask. Your bedroom should not be brightly lit, even before bedtime, and a combination of summer nights or strong street lighting and thin curtains should be avoided.
If you need a bit of light, keep it at a very low level, like a small lamp in the hallway with the door ajar very slightly, or a plug-in low wattage night-light. Make sure your room isn’t too hot or too cold, keep it slightly cool around 16-18°C (60-65°F). A stuffy room is likely to cause an uncomfortable sleep, while fresh air will promote sleep. Try opening a window before going to bed– the circulation of good-quality air is going to be helpful. See what you can do to adjust that blend of temperature and air control so that it is right for you. Keep clutter out of your room – put the laundry basket in the spare room, bathroom or the landing.
Avoid having a television or computer in the bedroom. Turn off your mobile phone and anything with an LED display (including clocks). Don’t treat your bedroom as an extension of your living room or a study. Use it for sleeping and intimacy only. Adorn your bedroom with beautiful things such as photographs of loved ones, artwork that you like, plants and flowers. It will help you feel more connected to the room and look forward to going to bed.
Try to avoid bright colours such as reds which are less restful and quite stimulating, and less conducive to a good nights’ sleep. Use muted and pastel colours, which are a lot more calming.
Some smells can affect your mood, making you more relaxed and calm. Sprinkle a pot pourri with essential oils of lavender or geranium, though never use during pregnancy or in children’s rooms.
Take a long hard look at your room and see what it says about you and understand that you have a duty to care for yourself, your sleep area and your general health and wellbeing – you’re worth it!
8) Wind down before you sleep
Modern lifestyles operate at high speed. Smart phones, computers, televison, newspapers emails, social media continuously stimulate the brain. For some it is difficult to switch off and wind down. The bedroom needs to be clear of all these gadgets and gismos if the body and brain are to wind down preparing you for deep sleep.
Reduce the intensity of light in your home in the evenings by using dimmer switches or lamps with low wattage bulbs. Have a bedtime routine and maintain a regular sleep pattern.
9) Have a bedtime routine.
Stick to a schedule - send relaxing signals to your body at the right time.
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule works because you follow your body’s circadian rhythms. It is not just children who need a good bedtime routine; adults also need to relax and unwind before they go to bed.
Try to have regular times when you go to bed and wake up every day, even on weekends. Develop a relaxing routine that you perform every night 15-30 minutes before you go to bed. Take a warm bath. Stretch your body. Read a book. Listen to relaxing music. Doing these things every night will help your body know when bedtime is approaching. Incorporating a relaxing activity into your routine will help you fall asleep (and stay asleep). Eventually these activities will signal your body to begin relaxing and preparing for good sleep at the same time every night.
Wake up at the same time every morning. It can be difficult, but if you want to stick to your schedule you have to try to avoid sleeping in as much as possible.
Set your usual alarm during the weekend as well as during the week. If you go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day you will program your body to sleep better. Use a hot water bottle if you get cold feet. Empty your bladder before going to bed. Avoid alcohol. Avoid use of technology in the hours before bedtime including computers, mobile phones and televisions.
Don't use the snooze button. The snooze button might be tempting, but it does not lead to high-quality, restful sleep. Instead, it makes it more likely that you will be overtired in the mornings and over-energized in the evening hours when you should be relaxing. Try to resist the urge to hit "snooze" in the mornings and instead make yourself get out of bed.
10) Banish noise
Noise, especially sudden noise, disturbs sleep. Noise is one of the great sleep disruptors, and it can make you feel stressed out before bed or overnight.
Most people get used to some noises. Living close to a railway line or busy road, a ticking clock, or even a partner's snoring can all become quite familiar. If noise becomes a problem, identify the cause and do what you can about it. Many noises, however, are out of our control. To deal with these you can try sleeping with earplugs, although many people find them uncomfortable. An alternative is to use a technique such as imagery to distract yourself from such noises.
Use a white noise machine to cover up stressful sounds. White noise is a calming, ambient sound that can help cover up stressful noises such as voices, cars, snoring, or your neighbours' music. White noise machines can be specifically purchased, or you can use a fan or de-humidifier as a white noise machine. There are also white noise generators to be found online.
Scientists have found a direct link between anxiety/stress and rhythm of sleep.
Not properly dealing with anxiety/stress may lead to insomnia and other sleep problems. Being unable to get to sleep may cause more stress. Anxiety causes the heart rate to increase and the mind starts to ‘race’. This causes the brain to become alert and stimulated and start producing beta waves. And to make matters worse, once their brain is stimulated in this way, other worries are activated, making sleep even harder to achieve. As a pattern sets in, sleep becomes a thing of anxiety. Stressful lifestyles can contribute to the mind racing and being unable to wind down.
11) Minimise stress
Being relaxed before bed is key. A relaxed state, physically and mentally, is certainly a prerequisite for sleep, and we know that naturally relaxed people are usually better sleepers. Use effective relaxation techniques in order to experience deep, restful sleep.
12) Relaxation and breathing
If you are having trouble getting to sleep there are several relaxation techniques like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Stimulus and Sleep Restriction. For more information, access them on the internet. Meanwhile here are some relaxation and breathing exercises for you to try.
Relax your body
This can be done in bed and works by relaxing separate groups of muscles. It is also effective to visualize each set of muscles being relaxed as you go through the exercise:
Tense a muscle by contracting and flexing for 7-10 seconds. Don’t strain the muscle.
Visualize the muscle being tensed and feel the build up of tension.
Release each muscle abruptly, then relax, allowing the body to go limp before going on to the next muscle.
Keep other muscles relaxed whilst working on a particular muscle.
The effects of deep breathing are largely psychological but it can bring about a physiological response in the body. It can normalise the heart and respiration rate and calm you.
As well as relaxing you before bed, you can use this breathing exercise whenever anything upsetting happens, and before you react. It can be done anywhere because you don’t have to lie on your back:
Sit up with your back straight and place the tip of your tongue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there throughout the entire exercise.
Practice exhaling with your tongue in this position. It will be easier if you purse your lips.
Now close your mouth and inhale through your nose for 4 seconds (counting one one thousand, two one thousand etc).
Hold your breath for 7 seconds then exhale through your mouth, taking 8 seconds to exhale completely.
Repeat 3-4 times and try to be accurate with the counting.
Do this every evening before bed.
13) Shift Workers
If you are a shift worker and have difficulty sleeping during the day, chances are you also have difficulty staying awake at work. Also, the more sleepy / fatigued you are, the more likely you are to experience a "microsleep," an involuntary bout of sleep brought on by sleep deprivation that lasts for a few seconds.
Here are some tips for staying alert on the job:
Avoid long commutes and extended hours.
Take short nap breaks throughout the shift.
Work with others to help keep you alert.
Try to be active during breaks (e.g., take a walk, shoot hoops in the parking lot, or even exercise).
Drink a caffeinated beverage (coffee, tea, colas) to help maintain alertness during the shift.
Don't leave the most tedious or boring tasks to the end of your shift when you are apt to feel the drowsiest. Night shift workers are most sleepy around 4-5 a.m.
Exchange ideas with your colleagues on ways to cope with the problems of shift work. Set up a support group at work so that you can discuss these issues and learn from each other.
For some shift workers, napping is essential. It can be extremely effective at eliminating fatigue-related accidents and injuries and reducing worker’s compensation costs. Although most employers do not allow napping in the workplace, a ban on napping may soon prove to be a legal liability. Thus, efforts to make workplace policies nap-friendly may soon gain popularity as the issue increases in global significance.
Here are some tips for sleeping during the day:
Wear dark glasses to block out the sunlight on your way home.
Keep to the same bedtime and wake time schedule, even on weekends.
Eliminate noise and light from your sleep environment (use eye masks and ear plugs).
Avoid caffeinated beverages and foods close to bedtime.
Avoid alcohol; although it may seem to improve sleep initially, tolerance develops quickly and it will soon disturb sleep.