Sometimes all we want is a good night’s sleep. To catch some z’s. To enjoy 40 winks. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to have our full eight hours due to anxiety, mental health issues, or even just a lumpy, uncomfortable bed. In this article, we’ve gathered together some information to help you uncover your insomnia issues and develop good sleep hygiene techniques in simple, easy ways:
- Why can’t you fall asleep?
- What does Sleep Hygiene mean?
- Six Sleep Hygiene tips
- How do you choose a bed?
Whip off your sleep mask and put down the sleeping tablets, let’s discover some bedtime best practices to help you get some beauty sleep…
Why can’t you fall asleep?
Having trouble sleeping, or insomnia, is a common issue for adults – it’s estimated that 30% of the UK population has experienced it at some point. If you find it hard to fall asleep, wake up in the night or feel sleep deprived even after hours of rest, then you probably have it too. But why do we suffer from it and what are insomnia causes?
Here are a few reasons:
- Being too hot or cold
- Alcohol or caffeine
- Depression, stress or other mental health issues
- Uncomfortable beds
The NHS has a Sleep self-assessment test online to help you work out if you have insomnia. It offers advice and ways you can sleep well. In other words, it tells you how to improve your sleep hygiene.
What does Sleep Hygiene mean?
It’s not about keeping your bed clean or tidy, sleep hygiene is a series of activities and habits you can adopt to (hopefully) improve your rest and fall asleep fast. With better sleep hygiene, you should feel more aware, refreshed, and alert during the day. As a result, your overall health, attitude, and your relationships with others may improve.
But there are more benefits to be had. Another reason why sleep hygiene is important is because of how sleepless nights affect us physically:
“Regular poor sleep puts you at risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes – and it shortens your life expectancy.” NHS
Yes, sleep hygiene and mental health go hand-in-hand, but it’s highly beneficial for your physical health too.
NOTE: Improving your sleep hygiene is not an effective treatment for medical sleep conditions such as Sleep Apnoea. Always follow your doctor’s advice.
Six Sleep Hygiene tips
Finding ways to fall asleep isn’t as easy as counting sheep anymore. Our daily lives linger in our minds, cold toes distract us, and sometimes the bed just isn’t comfy. Try these seven top tips and sleeping techniques to see if you can improve your sleep.
1. Keep it dark and quiet
The sunrise or street lights shining through your window could easily wake you up if you’re in a light part of your rem cycle. The same can be said of loud noises like car doors. Make your bedroom sleep-friendly with thick, blackout curtains or blinds to block out the light. And think about investing in some earplugs (or double glazing if you’re serious) to keep out the noise.
2. Adopt a sleep routine
Try to get into bed and wake up at the same time every day. Aim for eight hours of sleep a night. You may find you only need 7 or you need more, just keep a consistent schedule so your body clock can get used to it.
3. Avoid alcohol, caffeine or heavy late-night meals
All they’re going to do is keep your body working. Try not to eat or drink anything large or stimulating in the four hours before your scheduled bedtime.
4. Take time to unwind
There’s a lot said around how smartphones and screens affect your sleep, so give yourself an hour of screen-free time before bed. Read a book, have a warm bath, or do some yoga stretches. You could even write a to-do list for the next day. Anything that will relax you and help remove distracting thoughts or fears.
5. Say no to napping
Closing your eyes for a quick 10-minute nap may feel like the best thing you can do to catch up on your sleep but it can make it more difficult to sleep later on. Don’t put your carefully crafted sleep schedule at risk for a quick nap.
6. Get some exercise
Going out and enjoying some natural light will keep your body feeling awake during the day. It’ll help your body clock get used to your sleep/wake times, can help release pent-up energy, and contributes to better quality sleep. Just try not to exercise late in the evening.
There are plenty of other things you can do to encourage restful sleep as well, like only using your bed for sex and sleep, or doing a relaxing activity if you’re not asleep after 20 minutes. Keeping the room temperate is a huge one too – sweating or shivering is a night–time stimulant you don’t need. Your bedding contributes to that one, so the next section will help you work out the best bedding and which type of bed is good for sleeping.
How do you choose a bed?
Having comfortable mattresses, pillows, and sheets is one of the NHS’s top tips for sleep hygiene and treating insomnia. You might be thinking, do I need a new bed, or do I just need new bedding? There’s a lot to consider if you’re thinking of getting a whole new set up. And a good bed retailer will be able to help you decide between all the options available. The important thing is to choose a bed that’s right for you.
- Spring or foam, hard or soft – try mattresses out in–store to find your ideal.
- Think about getting a low-weighted duvet (4.5 tog) if you’re too hot or a heavier one (13.5 tog) if you’re always cold.
- New pillows are always tricky, but again, get one with the support you need. Some even come with temperature control fabric!
- And don’t forget mattress toppers – they’re a game–changer if you don’t want a whole new mattress. These also come with innovative temperature tech built-in and give you an additional layer of comfort too.
We all need and deserve a good night’s sleep, and hopefully these tips will help you on your way. Sleep well.