General Health Monday April 4, 2016

Missing sleep? How to get a great night's kip

A recent report from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) published across the news in the UK shows that we're not getting enough sleep. Just one less hour than the recommended amount per night means many of us are missing out on one full night's sleep every single week.

The average amount of time required – or recommended – per night is nearly eight hours (7.7) of sublime dreaming, however the participants in the study recorded an average of 6.8 hours each night.

We have touched upon WHY you need a good night's sleep in a previous post, and it all comes down to recharging your batteries. Your body needs a certain amount of energy to get through the day and continually missing out on just one hour can mount up. Your body cannot recover, affecting your mind, your weight, your productivity and your attitude as mentioned, and may lead to other more serious health risks such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks).

With the amount of sleep Britons are apparently missing out every single week in the UK, what can you do to make sure you're getting enough shuteye?

The One With The Routine

Whilst Ross and Monica's NYE routine leaves a lot to be desired - and you snorting your drink out your nose - having a schedule in terms of the bedtime can be an important element to getting enough kip.

We've all heard of the 'body clock'. Well, it may seem like something associated with your childhood naps, but sticking to your bedtime will reinforce your body clock and help you wake naturally without an alarm, especially on weekends unless you've had a spontaneous late one. Of course you can't go to sleep at exactly the same time every single night, but trying to nod off and rise at similar times can help. Even waking up fairly early on the weekend can aid in helping your natural clock.

You can also adopt a routine in other ways that may have you harping back to your childhood…

good sleep relaxing bath

Steer away from the tech

There is a reason we sleep at night. When the sun sets and darkness descends, a hormone called melatonin in our bodies is released that helps regulate your natural clock, making us feel sleepy. The use of artificial light in the 21st century is increasing through our technologies. Phones, tablets, laptops and mahoosive television sets are all emitting too much light during our evenings, which is interrupting the release of this vital hormone that makes us nod off.

If you use a tablet to read or enjoy using apps just before your bedtime – watching a show on BBC iPlayer for example – it is advisable to adjust the light settings down to avoid staring at the ceiling for the next hour or so.

The good news is the new Apple Update (iOS 9.3 launched 21.03.2016) has the Night Shift app, as well as finally giving us the middle finger emoji. By logging in the time you wish to zone out, the iPhone mutes blue cool colours on your screen leaving an orange hue and dimmed light to apparently help you sleep. Whilst this option is new, reports from individuals have claimed this works so why not give it a go.

The art of napping

Experts say that taking a 20-minute nap in the day can significantly help with tiredness. This is true for many, however this doesn't always work and there are some pointers to remember; the main being the time of which you decide to take a nap. Too late and you may risk a dodge night's sleep when you're bedtime comes around.


We've mentioned the time period after work where you get home exhausted and immediately head for the sofa, however keeping your energy levels up in the evening can actually help you sleep like a log. One simple way is to incorporate a regular exercise routine in the evening. This could be walking home – thus doing your bit for the environment – but many find heading to the gym to be a good option.

This doesn't mean heading to the gym every single night and vigorously exercising, but even 10 minutes can aid in getting more shuteye. Why does this help?

  • Speeds up your metabolism
  • Activates the cortisol hormones

It's important to allow your body the time to cool down and for your metabolism to lessen, which is what makes us sleepy. Doctors suggest a cool down period of two to three hours before your bedtime.

relaxing sleep

Create the perfect atmosphere

Reserving your bed and your bedroom for sleep is essential for a good night's kip. Avoid doing anything too strenuous in such a peaceful environment and you can follow the below guidelines to see what works for you:

  • Avoid blackout blinds! Whilst many may recommend these, the main downside is that you don't experience morning sunshine beaming through your room. Once your body clock to sending you to Dreamland at a reasonable hour, the morning light will leave you waking up naturally. Try to choose blinds or curtains that provide enough cover from glaring streetlights but let's the morning light slip through.
  • Dim the lights, or use a bedside lamp, around one to two hours before sleep.
  • Monitor your stress and anxiety levels and use tactics to help overcome worry. Stress and worrying is a common occurrence so find an option that works for you. This could be therapy, calling up your parents in the evening, chatting to housemates or simply sitting quietly to zone out.
  • Turn off your bedroom radiator, or lower the temperature, to keep the room cool.
  • Meditating and Zen is a popular method to calm the mind to relieve stress and help you feel sleepy. Exercises such as Pilates and Yoga have been found to decrease stress levels, or you can take advantage of free apps to help with meditating such as Headspace. Also try deep breathing techniques and muscle relaxation.

Arrange your bedroom into the perfect 'sleep zone'. This can include:

  • Incense and candles
  • Dimmed lighting
  • Stretching
  • Audiobooks
  • Colouring books
  • Easy tidying
  • Getting your schedule ready for the next day
  • Try atmospheric or calming music (Spotify have many playlists that are easily accessible)
  • Some factors to be wary of is using your bedroom as a study or keeping a television in your room. Keep this space for relaxation.
  • Eliminate noise where possible, but remember that silence isn't doable. Learn to embrace outside noise and not get worked up as soon as you hear a dog bark or car drive past. You can use special audios designed to help with sleep, use earplugs or opt for a white noise machine.
  • Take time to alter your bed. Research online and ask professionals what sort of mattresses, pillows and covers can help with your sleep.

Dietary changes

One aspect to avoid in the evening is any food or drink with caffeine. This includes coffee, obviously, but also tea (even though the level of caffeine is fairly low). Decaffeinated teas and coffees are widely available for every budget. It is also important to avoid alcohol and big meals just before bed, especially those that can interfere with sleep such as takeaways with high sugar intake and those more inclined to cause indigestion. If you're peckish later at night, try low energy foods.

Limit the amount of fluids you drink just before bed, especially if you're prone to waking in the night to use the bathroom.

Getting back to sleep…

If you've woken during the night or whatever reason, it's frustrating. However, some of our habits could be stopping us from getting back to sleep quickly…

  • Avoid turning the lights on – A common scenario is needing the toilet. Try not to turn on any of your lights. If you struggle to reach the bathroom without any aid at all, get a childlight for the hallway or a small flashlight situated next to your bed.
  • Try reading – Even head to the living room sofa and may be surprised how quickly you feel sleepy enough to go back to bed, by which time your body would have cooled and nodding off is even easier.
  • Relax – Try deep breathing, listening to soothing music and meditation.
  • Write it down – WedMD advise a sleep diary to record your sleeping habits. This may coincide with a lifestyle factor you can adjust. You may also want to note down dreams to see if these are linked.
reading to help with sleeping

Are you an insomniac?

It is common to be a troubled sleeper, especially if you're in a houseshare, outside noise is unavoidable or the stress of the day is difficult to leave behind. However, trying out these options can help.

If the quality of sleep is low most of the time, you may have a sleep disorder such as insomnia. Other sleeping disorders could be the need for lots of sleep, difficulty falling asleep, extreme difficulty in waking up or feeling fatigue continually.

If you feel that the quality of your sleep is dire, and doesn't improve with lifestyle changes, don't hesitate to book an appointment with your doctor to talk through further options.


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