Sweet Dreams: Sleeping tips for World Sleep Day
Friday 15 March is World Sleep Day which celebrates the importance of healthy sleep. But with our hectic lifestyles, it can be hard to switch off, resulting in insomnia for many. So what are some of the strategies to help? Samina Bhatti looks at how to get some shut eye
Keep a sleep diary
If you have trouble sleeping, it might be worth keeping a sleep diary. A sleep diary is simply a daily log where you record your sleep and waking patterns to identify how good or bad your sleep quality is. Keep a diary for two weeks and see if you can identify any particular problems. You can use an ordinary notebook or if you’re unsure about where to begin, download and print out a free sleep diary from the Sleep Council website. There’s enough space for seven days and it guides you through the process.
De-clutter your bedroom
Having too many things scattered around the room makes it feel claustrophobic. The bedroom should be clean and neat. If you have a laundry basket in the room or piles of books, move them into another room. It might make a difference to help you de-stress before heading for bed.
Make it personal
Add a few special touches here and there to make your bedroom comfy and peaceful. Things like family photographs, ornaments or plants can make the bedroom feel more relaxing and help you drift off. Perfumed pillow drops designed to aid your sleep may also help.
The 20 minute rule
Obviously, we should go to bed when we’re tired, however, if you don’t fall asleep in 20 minutes then you’re advised to try another activity. It’s tempting to turn your phone or laptop back on and catch up on the latest series on Netflix, but the harsh lighting will only keep you up longer. Reading a book, doing some yoga or listening to music are great activities to refocus your mind.
Have a cup of tea
As well as alcohol, we’re told not to drink any caffeine before we go to bed, but herbal tea may help you sleep. In particular, chamomile tea has numerous health benefits and it’s been found that it contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds particular receptors in the brain which may reduce insomnia and promote sleepiness. One study has shown that women who drank chamomile tea for two weeks reported that their sleep quality improved compared to those who didn’t drink it. While research on this is a little thin on the ground, it’s worth giving it a go.
Change your clock
We know we should avoid using technology before we go to sleep but there’s also bad news for anyone who has a digital alarm clock. Some researchers have suggested that LED displays make it difficult to drift off to sleep and the advice is to switch off anything with a LED display including digital alarm clocks. Maybe it’s time to dig out the old analogue clocks… just so long as the ticking doesn’t bother you.
Find the best mattress
Let’s not forget the bed. It’s important to choose the right kind of mattress for you. Researchers have found that an uncomfortable mattress can deduct up to one hour’s sleep per night which is bad news when you start thinking about how many hours you lose in a week. Don’t go for the cheapest, and prioritise your back by avoiding one that is too soft. It’s also recommended you change your mattress every eight years.
Turn down the lights
Try reducing the amount of artificial light in your bedroom using dimmers or low-voltage bulbs. Research suggests that artificial light supresses the melatonin – a sleep inducing hormone – and causes us to stay alert. Switch off mobile phones, iPads etc. and lower the lights in your bedroom. It will create a cosy and relaxing atmosphere.
Don’t overdo it
Tiring yourself in order to induce sleep is actually a myth and may be counter-productive as it makes you more alert if you partake in rigorous exercise just before bedtime. Try some gentle exercises like yoga and pilates – both of which help with relaxation and can help you fall asleep quicker.
Avoid daytime napping
Sometimes it’s hard to stay awake in the middle of the day, especially if you’ve been on the go. However, catching a lunchtime snooze may not be beneficial. Regularly taking naps during the day may force you to rely on them rather than concentrating on ways to get a better sleep at night, so avoid the temptation and save it for the evening.