Tips for a better night's sleep
Do you find yourself tossing and turning in the night? Or maybe it takes a bit too much time to fall asleep? Getting a good night's rest doesn't just help keep you alert in the day, it's also very important to your health. Not getting enough sleep has been linked to health problems such as Alzheimer's disease, obesity, diabetes and heart disease and has even been linked to premature death1. With that in mind we've put together the following tips to help you get a better night's sleep.
1. Banish your phone and tablet
Whether you're checking your emails, scrolling through Twitter, playing a game of Candy Crush, or maybe just surfing the web - it can be hard to put down your tablet or phone before bed. Unfortunately using your device at bed time may be doing a world of bad to your sleep patterns. Studies have shown that using electronic devices before bed can lead to a reduction in the amount of melatonin you produce2. Melatonin helps induce sleepiness, and without it falling asleep and reaching REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep - this stage is linked to our abilities to store memories, learn, and balance mood3) can be more difficult. So the next time you're tempted to update your status before bed, remember it may come at the cost of a good night's sleep.
2. Stick to a schedule
After five days of getting up early for work or school, it's hard not to feel like you deserve a good lie in to 'catch up' on sleep on the weekend. However, having a lie-in on weekends might actually be part of the reason you're so tired in the week. Studies have shown that disrupting the sleep cycle by just two hours can have detrimental effects on our ability to get a good night's sleep. So while it may feel just right to laze in bed until 10am on a Sunday, you are likely going to throw out your sleep cycle, making it that much harder to get a good night's rest for Monday morning4. It's not all doom and gloom though. Our bodies should be able to accommodate short disruptions to our sleep cycle, so you can likely squeeze in an extra hour of sleep in on the weekend without doing any harm5.
3. Make sure your bedding is helping, not hindering
There's nothing worse than have a stuffy, sneezy nose when you're trying to sleep. If your allergies are playing up at night and preventing you from sleeping soundly, you may want to consider giving your duvet and pillows a good look over. Just because you use covers, it doesn't meant the bedding beneath isn't rife with allergens such as bacteria, dead skin cells and dust mites. Pillows and duvets should be washed every 2 - 3 months and then pillows should be replaced every 2 years, and duvets every 5 years6.
4. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon/evening
It's oh so tempting during that mid-afternoon lull to head for the office kitchen and make yourself a cup of coffee, but think twice before you do. Studies have shown that the stimulating effects of caffeine can last at least 6 hours after consumption and cost you an hour's sleep7. Depending on when you go to bed, you should pick a time at least six hours before you go to bed and make a conscious effort to avoid caffeine for the rest of the day. We try to avoid caffeine after 3pm.
5. Get some exercise
The benefits of a good workout go beyond just calorie burning and getting fit. A study found that those who exercised for 150 minutes a week (the amount advised by the NHS) experienced sleep a 65% improvement in quality of sleep. As well, participants were less likely to be sleepy during the day8. Sounds like a pretty good reason to hit the gym to us!
6. Get a hold on snoring
Snoring can be incredibly disruptive to sleep for both snorers and those around them. Snoring can happen for a number of reasons -from excess weight and lack of exercise to having a congested nose or bent nasal cartridge9. If
snoring is a problem for you or your bed mate, there are some solutions that can be attempted such as losing weight, changing sleep position, or avoiding alcohol. To find out more read: How to remedy a bad night's sleep and stop snoring for good.
1. The Independent: Getting less than six hours sleep
2. Washington Post: iPads, tablets, smartphones disrupt good sleep
3. NICHD: What is REM sleep
4. The Telegraph: Feel tired of Mondays?
5. The Telegraph: Feel tired of Mondays?
6. Daily Mail: How clean is your bedding?
7. Psychology Today: New details on caffeine's sleep-disrupting effects
8. National Sleep Foundation: Physical activity impacts overall quality of sleep
9. Simplyhealth: Stop snoring