It’s the little things that can make a big difference to a great night’s sleep.
Whilst there are many factors that play a role in getting a good night’s sleep, experts agree that setting yourself up for the night can have a massive impact on the quality of sleep that ensues.
Most people are conscious that sleep is vital for us to be able to live full, healthy and productive lives. Yet, there are almost daily reports stating that the average UK adult does not get the recommended amount (7-9 hours) of sleep. A 2019 report by Loughborough University finds three in four employees in the UK suffer persistent sleep problems, and over half (54 per cent) are unable to stay awake in the day. The reasons vary, and some cases require the attention of medical professionals, or will pass naturally (eg the first months with a new baby), but the lion’s share are people who with a few simple steps could vastly improve their quality of sleep.
As Helena Schiller, PhD in Public Health and co-author of the internet-based CBTProgram for Better Sleep says: “there are many factors that can negatively affect the mechanisms behind both the circadian rhythm and the sleep drive.” She then goes on to explain how to avoid those negative effects. The good news is that it is rather simple. It’s about setting your evening routine, bedroom, and bed up to encourage your mind and body to treat itself to an adequate amount restorative sleep.
Dr Schiller’s top tips for improving sleep
1. Keep regular sleep hours Going to sleep and waking up at about the same time every day will both maintain, and strengthen the effects of the circadian rhythm.
2. Keep your sleep drive in mind if taking naps during the day A day of normal activity commonly results in a strong sleep drive by night-time. A nap during the day will lower the sleep drive, which might affect your ability to fall asleep at night.
3. Be active every day Physical activity during the day increases the need for recovery and therefore strengthens your sleep drive.
4. Winding down before bedtime A stressful and very active day can increase sleep drive, but high levels of stress in the evening will activate a range of bodily systems that keep us alert and interfere with sleep.
5. Avoid stressful thoughts in bed If you don’t manage to switch off and unwind before going to bed your brain might get caught into stressful or negative thoughts that will make it difficult to relax and fall asleep
6. Lay in bed only to sleep Your brain should connect your bedroom with calm and rest. If you are struggling to fall asleep, get up and doing something calm and relaxing for 15 minutes or so, and then go back to bed again. This method is well founded in research.
7. Make sure to get enough daylight during the day Spending time in daylight, preferably in the morning, will make you more alert during the day, and the production of melatonin will be more pronounced in the evening. Research has shown that 30 minutes of daylight will have positive effects on sleep.
8. Put away your screens before going to bed Just like daylight, all screens that we use daily, such as TVs, computers, tablets and mobile phones, project a blue light that suppresses the release of melatonin. Screens will keep your brain active, when it should, in fact be winding down.
9. Keep your bedroom dark and cool Even when your eyes are closed, light will inhibit the release of melatonin. Therefore, it is important to keep your bedroom dark. Low bedroom temperature will also strengthen the effect of the circadian rhythm since body temperature decreases during night.
Whilst it may not solve all sleep issues, having a bed made perfectly for you goes a long way in setting you up for a great night’s sleep. As an added incentive, Rise & Fall are currently offering Telegraph readers 20% off the entire range. Simply enter code TG20 at checkout.
Helena Schiller, PhD in Public Health and co-author of the internet-based CBTProgram for Better Sleep