According to the Mental Health UK website, adults up to the age of 64 are recommended to have around seven to nine hours of sleep each night. But how many of us actually do?
There are so many reasons why sleep can be disrupted, some of them are harder to tackle than others.
The Pluss’ Health Works for Cornwall team offers sessions to look at how we can try to get a better night’s sleep.
Let’s take a look at some of the practical things we can do in order to achieve some ‘beauty sleep’:
Some of the following may seem obvious, but we all fall into bad habits from time-to-time, and it’s worth a gentle reminder. See how many of them are relevant to you.
Your bedroom temperature should be comfortable, usually somewhere between 15.6C – 22.0C. Excess heat can disrupt sleep, so most experts suggest erring on the side of a cooler bedroom.
It goes without saying that loud noises can wake us from our slumbers, and frequent awakenings have been linked to reduced levels of sleep quality and overall health. So what can you do if outside noises are beyond your control?
It could be that a white noise machine could help drown out the external sounds, several mobile apps now offer this function. Or perhaps you could set up speakers to play comforting music, which many people use as a way to make their bedroom better suited for falling asleep.
Our bodies are attuned to respond to the rhythms of day and night, light and dark. It’s part of our biological clock that helps regulate sleep. So when it’s time for bed, you should try to make your bedroom as dark as possible to reinforce a healthy circadian rhythm.
Light emitted from digital devices such as televisions and mobile phones is called ‘Blue Light’ and it can often trick the brain into thinking it’s still daytime, which can prevent the body from falling asleep.
When you get into bed, try not to use your smart phone to scroll through all the day’s social media posts or check your emails, and don’t fall asleep watching the telly.
If you want a short period of ‘winding down’ before dropping off, try an activity that doesn’t produce blue light, like reading a book or solving a puzzle (as long as it’s not too engaging on the brain as this can also keep you awake.) Set yourself a time limit, and turn the lights off when you’re done.
It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about setting up your bedroom, but air quality is important for your health. Research has shown that ventilation and fresher air is associated with better sleep, and problems like mould build-up have been correlated with insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness.
Ensuring proper ventilation and avoiding excess humidity can combat mould growth, and regular claning can dramatically cut down on dust mites. If you have issues with allergies you can ask your doctor for recommendations about reducing allergens and/or using hypoallergenic bedding or an air purifier.
Have you ever considered the colour of your bedroom? Not just the walls but the bedding, flooring and furniture too? The colour scheme of your bedroom can affect your sleep – if it’s too vibrant you might not find it so easy to fall asleep. Most people find softer, warmer colours work best, but you can pick colours that most appeal to you.
Visual clutter can generate stress too, which is a well-known barrier to quality sleep. A disorganised bedroom may reinforce the sensation of having too many ‘loose ends’, generating anxious feelings that may make it harder to relax your mind when you want to fall asleep.
Finally, here are some tips for letting the stress of the day slip away before you head to your bed and, hopefully, get a good night’s, unbroken sleep.
First, find a quiet place free from distractions. Lie on the floor or recline in a chair, loosen any tight clothing and remove glasses or contact lenses. Rest your hands in your lap, or on the arms of the chair, and take a few slow, even breaths. Try to feel your breath heading deep down into your belly.
Now focus your attention on the following areas, whilst ensuring the rest of your body remains relaxed:
- Forehead: Squeeze the muscles in your forehead, holding for 15 seconds. Feel the muscles becoming tighter and tenser. Then slowly release the tension in your forehead while counting for 30 seconds. Notice the difference in how your muscles feel as you relax. Continue to release the tension until your forehead feels completely relaxed. Breathe slowly and evenly.
- Jaw: Tense the muscles in your jaw, holding for 15 seconds. Then release the tension slowly while counting to 30 seconds. Notice the feeling of relaxation and continue to breathe slowly and evenly.
- Neck and shoulders: Increase tension in your neck and shoulders by raising your shoulders up toward your ears and hold for 15 seconds. Slowly release the tension as you could to 30. Notice the tension melting away.
- Arms and hands: Slowly draw both hands into fists. Pull your fists into your chest and hold for 15 seconds, squeezing as tight as you can. Then slowly release while you count for 30 seconds.
- Buttocks: Slowly increase tension in your buttocks over 15 seconds. Then slowly release the tension over 30 seconds. Keep your breathing slow and even.
- Legs: Slowly increase the tension in your quadriceps and calves over 15 seconds. Squeeze the muscles as hard as you can. Then gently release over 30 seconds.
- Feet: Slowly increase the tension in your feet and toes. Tighten the muscles as much as you can before releasing as you count to 30 seconds. Notice all the tension slipping away. Continue breathing slowly and evenly.