March is National Bed Month, so we’re getting back to basics with getting a good night’s sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is a daily challenge for many of us. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 16% of UK adults sleep less than six hours per night, while a further 19% sleep for between six and seven hours per night. This means that over a third of Brits fall below the seven to nine hours per night recommended by the National Sleep Foundation.
And this is having an impact on our health and wellbeing. The UK loses around 200,000 working days every year as a result of lack of sleep, and chronic sleep deprivation is associated with many leading health concerns like heart disease, diabetes, depression, dementia and even cancer.
So, as March is National Bed Month, we decided to get back to basics when it comes to a good night’s sleep. These are our golden rules for improving your sleep quantity and quality.
Stick to a routine
Getting up and going to bed at the same time every day is the most effective way to train your body into falling asleep. Getting to sleep is a largely hormonal process. Ideally, our bodies produce serotonin for energy when we wake and melatonin for relaxation when getting to sleep. A strict routine can help regulate your body’s hormone release schedule.
Check your sleep habits
Create an evening and morning routine that you can stick to every day, and which encourages sleep — avoiding caffeine, avoiding bright screens and engaging in relaxing activities like reading or meditation in the hour before bed. You should also avoid alcohol as a sleep tool – it might help you get to sleep faster, but the quality of your sleep will diminish as a result.
Control your environment
A comfortable bed is key to falling asleep, and a poor quality mattress or pillows can result in achiness and lethargy upon waking. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, cool and dark, and is used primarily for sleeping rather than television, eating and surfing the web.
Keep a sleep journal
Keeping a sleep journal is an effective way of assessing your current sleep habits and seeing where any issues lie. Make a note of your total time in bed and total sleep time, as well as any naps, exercise routines and relaxation practices.
Watch your diet
Food and drink can have a huge impact on your sleep quality. We’ve already mentioned caffeine and alcohol, but certain foods can be detrimental too, such as high sugar items. You should also aim to finish dinner at least three hours before bedtime, and avoid late night snacking.
Use exercise to support your sleep
Exercise is a great way of boosting your energy for the day ahead and helping you feel suitably tired once evening rolls around. Start gradually and use time or distance as benchmarks. You should also avoid exercising too close to bedtime, as this can prevent you from falling asleep quickly.
Quiet your mind
For many of us, unquiet thoughts and worries are what keep us up at night. Be sure to address any worries or concerns you have by talking to the right people, be it family, friends or a professional. Often, struggling to sleep can be a sign of a wider health concern such as anxiety or depression.
Manage your stress
Similarly, addressing any sources of stress in your life can help you with your sleep quality. You can also try simple stress management techniques such as breathing, imagery, meditation and muscle relaxation. Some people find listening to guided meditation, podcasts or audiobooks at bedtime a helpful way to unwind.