A good night sleep is just as important in keeping our minds and bodies healthy as a healthy diet and exercise yet research shows that as many as 60% of us are struggling to sleep well.
The odd bad night sleep is normal, for example before an exam or during a bout of extreme stress yet for some people they find it impossible to nip it in the bud and get back on track.
The effects of a bad night sleep are immediate; we feel tired, lack motivation and find it hard to concentrate which often leads to worry about the lack of sleep. Over time, this can develop into further anxiety or even depression as it becomes so difficult to remain upbeat and positive if we are always feeling tired.
From a physical perspective, poor sleep has been linked to weight gain and heart disease amongst other long term conditions making it clear that sleep is important, so how do we improve our snooze?
The first thing we do when we can’t sleep is start going to bed earlier to try and increase our opportunity for sleeping. However, our body has a natural ‘appetite’ for sleep which we can build up by being out of bed. So, rather than going to bed early and spending hours in bed awake, instead, go to bed later and set your alarm for the morning. Allow your natural drive to build up as this will help you to fall asleep faster and create a deeper quality of sleep.
The first thing we do when we wake in the night is check the time. This increases the pressure to fall back to sleep and makes it less likely as our minds start to race. Instead, set your alarm for the morning and then turn it away and resist the temptation to check the time when you wake. This can help to break the habit of waking at the same time each night.
Lift the blinds, let the natural daylight in so that your body begins to ‘learn’ when to be awake and when to feel sleepy. This is also really good for your mood as spending time in a dark room when you wake up in the morning can make you feel worse.
In the evenings and when you go to bed, keep the lights down and make sure your bedroom is darker as this will help your body to develop melatonin, the sleepy hormone you need to nod off.
If you can’t get to sleep or have woken up in the middle of night, get out of bed. The longer we lie in bed trying to fall back to sleep the more frustrated we get. This, in turn, means we begin to subconsciously relate bed to feeling stressed and being awake rather than asleep. Leave the bedroom and do something relaxing like read a book downstairs, then when you are tired go back to bed.
Sleep is important, so how do we improve our snooze?