Do you get enough sleep?
A recent report by Loughborough University found that three in four employees in the UK suffer persistent sleep problems, and over half (54%) are unable to stay awake during the day.
Not getting enough sleep can lead to health and productivity issues. A quarter of respondents to the survey reported their sleep problems prevented them from completing work they had planned, and, on average, employees in the UK take two sick days a year to catch up on sleep.
If you’re struggling to get enough sleep, here are five tips to help you.
- Invest in a good bed
The Sleep Council say that ‘the foundation of a great night’s sleep is a comfortable bed’. A good mattress encourages a good sleeping posture which, in turn, can lead to better sleep.
With a wide choice of beds available, how do you pick the right one?
- Put quality above price – spend as much as you can afford
- Get the right support – if your bed is too hard or soft it will be unsupportive and uncomfortable. It should be firm enough to support your spine while conforming to the contours of your body
- Try before you buy – always lie down on each bed you’re considering and try several positions to measure its comfort and support. If you sleep with a partner, make sure you test the bed together
- Replace your bed in time – research shows that sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress can cost you up to one hour’s sleep each night. Experts suggest changing your bed every seven years.
- Turn off your phone and tablet in the evening
While exposure to light is beneficial in the day, night-time light exposure has the opposite effect. This is because night-time light has an impact on your circadian rhythm, tricking your brain into thinking that it is still daytime. This reduces hormones such as melatonin which help you relax and get deep sleep.
The worst type of light is the ‘blue light’ emitted by smartphones, tablets and computers. To reduce your exposure to blue light in the evening you can:
- Stop watching TV and turn off your smartphone or tablet two hours before heading to bed
- Download an app to block blue light on your laptop or computer (search ‘blue light filter’ on the App or Play Store for options)
- Install an app that blocks blue light on your smartphone
- Don’t eat and drink late
Eating late at night can impact the quality of your sleep and negatively impact the production of melatonin.
Drinking at night can also negatively affect your sleep. Alcohol is known to cause or increase the symptoms of snoring, sleep apnea and disrupted sleep patterns and a study found it also decreases the natural night-time elevations in human growth hormone (HGH) which plays a role in your circadian rhythm.
Caffeine late in the day can also prevent your body from relaxing at night. One study found that consuming caffeine up to six hours before bed can significantly worsen sleep quality as it stimulates your nervous system.
As caffeine can stay elevated in your blood for 6 to 8 hours, you should consider reducing the amount of coffee you drink after mid-afternoon.
- Get regular exercise
While it isn’t recommended that you exercise just before bedtime, exercise is one of the best ways to improve your sleep and your overall health. As well as enhancing all aspects of sleep, it can also reduce symptoms of insomnia.
One study in older adults determined that exercise nearly halved the amount of time it took to fall asleep and provided 41 more minutes of sleep at night.
In people with severe insomnia, exercise offered more benefits than most drugs. Exercise reduced time to fall asleep by 55%, total night wakefulness by 30% and anxiety by 15% while increasing total sleep time by 18%.
Just remember not to exercise too late in the day as the stimulatory effect increases alertness and hormones like epinephrine and adrenaline.
- Make your bedroom sleep-friendly
The NHS say that ‘your bedroom should be a relaxing environment’ and that ‘experts claim there’s a strong association in people’s minds between sleep and the bedroom’.
Conversely, there are things that weaken the association between sleep and the bedroom. These include:
- TVs and electronic gadgets (see above)
- An uncomfortable bed (see above)
Keeping your bedroom just for sleep can help. Ideally, your bedroom should be dark, quiet, tidy and kept at a temperature of between 18C and 24C.
Fit thick curtains if you don’t have them and consider double glazing or earplugs if you are bothered by noise.