Losing sleep? Improve your sleep routine for a great night's rest
Did you know that we spend a third of our lives sleeping? At least, we should do. Insomnia is so common in the UK that one in three people are affected at some point in their lives. On average, we need between seven and eight hours of sleep a night, although some people need slightly more, whilst others can get by on less.
Insomnia is more common in women than in men, and it isn't just about difficulty falling asleep. Waking frequently during the night or early in the morning can be a common symptom too, which can leave you feeling worn out. Even daily cat-naps usually don't make up for a full eight hours' rest.
What causes insomnia?
Stress and anxiety are the most common causes of insomnia, although other conditions such as asthma or even depression could be at fault. Drinking, taking drugs or consuming too much caffeine can also prevent a good night's sleep. The good news is that by maintaining good sleep hygiene habits, such as putting in place a routine you follow at bedtime, can help to banish insomnia. Our tips will have you snoozing like a baby in no time...
Reset your body clock
Our bodies are programmed to wake up when it's light and go to bed when it's dark – it's nature's way. This is why workers on the night shift have a hard time adjusting to different sleep patterns. When it's dark, your body produces melatonin, which regulates your sleep cycle. Make sure you get outside as soon as possible after you wake up, to soak up some sun (even if it seems cold and dull outside!)
Use blackout blinds or curtains to eliminate light from your room at night and turn off your laptop and TV an hour before bed. Did you know that tablets and smartphones emit blue light which can actually fool your body into thinking it's still daytime? Turn them off and read a good book instead.
On busy days, many of us don't even think about dinner until late in the evening, but it's actually healthier to eat before 8pm. This is because your body needs time to digest food, so if you eat late, your digestion will still be working as you try to sleep. Eating more healthily and making sure you get your five-a-day will ensure your body is getting all the nutrients it needs, which aids digestion. A light, low-fat dinner is more easily digested and will ensure you don't feel bloated or full at bedtime.
A bedtime snack could actually encourage restful sleep – just make sure it's the right type of snack. Try a handful of Brazil nuts and glass of cold or warm milk. The potassium and selenium in the nuts and dodecanoic and butanoic acid in the milk can help you get a better night's sleep. There are plenty of healthy late-night snacks that won't pile on the pounds and won't leave you staring at the ceiling at 3am. Avoid drinking too much, fatty foods and caffeine in the evening – there's a reason why they say cheese gives you nightmares!
Try a natural remedy
Aromatherapy uses natural essential oils derived from plants and flowers to help you relax and unwind, or be more alert. It's easy to find natural products designed to help you sleep well, such as room spray or pillow mists. These usually contain lavender, renowned for its relaxing properties. You can also sprinkle a couple of drops of lavender directly onto your pillow or into a warm bath for the same effect.
Enjoy a work out
You don't need to head to the gym to enjoy a work out - go for a run after work or try a Bikram Yoga class to detox and de-stress. Exercise boosts your metabolism and after a good workout you will be feeling ready for a light dinner and a restful night's sleep. Even 30 minutes of exercise a day such as walking the dog can help aid sleep.
Social media, email and smartphones – what do these three things have in common? They're all great ways of keeping us connected during the day, but they're also what makes it hard to switch off and relax at night. Try turning off your PC and TV an hour before bed, put your phone on silent and reach for a book instead. Taking a warm bath with essential oils is a great way to de-stress and prepare for bedtime.
Stick to your routine
If you've ever wondered why you feel most tired on a Monday morning, it could be because you've broken your sleep routine over the weekend. Many of us go to bed later and then lie in at the weekends, but this could actually be contributing to your tiredness. Getting up and going to bed at the same time everyday resets your natural body clock, so you're more likely to fall asleep quickly and wake up without the need for an alarm. Try it for a week and see if it works for you!
The key to a great night's sleep is not to worry about insomnia; this just fuels the cycle of stress and worry, making it even less likely that you will enjoy a good night's rest. So relax, unwind, and sleep well - you may even find you become a morning person once you're getting a proper night's sleep!