Getting enough sleep is essential for our overall health and wellbeing. People are different and can function on varying amounts of sleep (some people only need four or five hours, whereas others need nine or ten hours to feel functional). Most people need seven or eight hours of sleep per night.
Your sleep can be disrupted for many reasons – stress at work or family stress, a new baby, spending too much time in front of computer or mobile phone screens, not switching our technology off early enough (medical experts recommend a 7pm cut-off point). Insomnia is a massive worldwide problem, and there’s a big market in sleep aid products as a result. Signs that you’re having sleep problems include excessive yawning, irritability and daytime fatigue.
Sleep problems can have long term effects on your health, from affecting your mental abilities (difficulty concentrating) to affecting your physical health. Insomnia can also cause weight gain and a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, risk of heart disease/diabetes, and can even negatively effect your sex life and balance. During sleep, your body heals itself and restores its chemical balance. If you don’t get enough sleep over a long period, your overall quality of life can be adversely affected. Sleeping for less than six to eight hours a night can increase the risk of early death by about 12%.
Ways that your sleep can be affected:
*Difficulty getting to sleep/lying awake for a long time
*Waking up during the night/interrupted sleep
*Waking up too early/not getting enough sleep
*Having nightmares or night terrors which interrupt sleep
Ways to improve your sleep:
*Avoid drinking caffeine after midday (drink water, herbal tea or decaffeinated coffee instead). Drinking alcohol also affects your sleep (it’s a sedative but it disrupts the quality of your sleep). Avoid drinking alcohol within three hours of bedtime.
*Switch off technology by 7pm at the latest
*Keep electronics out the bedroom – even watching Netflix on a laptop will affect your sleep. The blue light from phone and computer screens suppresses your body’s production of melatonin, which is an important hormone for sleep.
*Develop a relaxing bedtime routine – read, take a warm bath, play relaxing music, go to bed earlier. Lavender essential oil in an oil burner or drops on your pillow/rubbed into your feet can also help
*Create a comfortable bedroom environment that’s dark, comfortable and cool
*Stick to a consistent sleep schedule – frequently changing the times you wake up and go to bed confuses your body’s biological clock
*Make sure your bed is large enough, your mattress is comfy, your pillows aren’t too old – buying new products can make a huge difference.
*Light, sound and temperature are important sleep factors. Make sure your room is dark enough, it is as quiet as possible and the temperature is moderate, not too hot or too cold
*If you’re struggling to sleep, don’t force it. Get out of bed and do something else. Do something relaxation to get rid of the anxiety of not being able to sleep. Don’t be tempted to check your phone or watch TV. Read or listen to soothing music.
For more information on insomnia from NHS Direct click here