Do you long for more sleep? You’re not alone. GP’s are seeing a record number of insomnia sufferers or people simply feeling tired all the time. We don’t necessarily need the fabled eight hours of sleep a night. However, if your lack of shut-eye is making you irritable and unfocused, sometime just a few tweaks to your lifestyle may be enough to get better sleep.
Beat the sleep thieves with these 8 top tips for a good night’s sleep.
1. Don’t overdo the vino
One small glass of alcohol may help you feel sleepy because it’s relaxing. However, several are likely to mean an unsettled night when your body produces more adrenalin to counteract the effects.
Top tip: Drink plenty of water when out, and have hot water with lemon and a little honey when you get home.
2. Get up
Many specialists advise that if you can’t sleep, get up and go to another room, only returning to bed when sleepy.
Top tip: The trick is to do something absorbing that will occupy your mind and hands, such as a Sudoku puzzle, rather than mulling on not sleeping.
3. Set the temperature
During natural sleep, the body’s core temperature drops, but our extremities get warmer, so a warm – not hot- bath not only relaxes you, but brings circulation to the surface, away from the brain.
Top tip: Compound this effect by ensuring your feet stay warm all night – an extra blanket, bed socks or even an old-fashioned hot-water bottle will all do the trick. And keep the bedroom cool – about 20°C is ideal.
4. Stop snacking
Try to avoid eating up to three hours before bed because it’s likely to leave you uncomfortably full.
Top tip: If you’re really peckish, eat bananas, or have a milky drink: these are easy to digest and rich in tryptophan, an essential amino acid that the body uses to produce melatonin, the sleep – inducing hormone. It’s also found in eggs, chicken and fish, so include plenty in your supper dish.
5. Harness your hormones
The menstrual cycle can interfere with some women’s sleep, while night sweats are one of the most disruptive symptoms of menopause. Often, psychological reasons keep us awake too, as family life tends to change around this time.
Top tip: Cotton sheets and nightwear, plus very careful room temperature control and a fan in the room, can help with night sweats. Operate a total blackout, with effective blinds or curtains as mornings get lighter. Some people are sensitive to even tiny amounts of light, such as the glow of a clock radio.
6. Wind down – not up
Exercise, be it a session at the gym or an evening dancing, is a great precursor to a good night’s sleep because it makes you physically tired. However, it also raises adrenalin.
Top tip: Ideally, try to finish working out four hours before bed time, though this isn’t always practical. Alleviate the adrenalin effect by taking up more relaxing evening exercise, such as yoga or Pilates, saving aerobic activity for earlier in the day. Just back from a party? Have a warm bath or shower before bed, along with a cup of chamomile tea to calm mind and body.
7. Keep a routine
Try to maintain a regular wind-down routine that signals it’s time to sleep. Aim to be in bed at the same time every night: trying to catch up on lost sleep at weekend only confuses your body clock.
Top tip: Always set the alarm to go off at the same time. Sleeping in can make it hard to fall asleep later that night – you can still have a weekend lie-in with the papers.
8. Shelve the stress
This is the biggest sleep snatcher of all. An astonishing amount of people regularly struggle to sleep because of work worries – and Sunday night is the worst.
Top tip: Build in time to wind down – don’t go straight from your laptop to your duvet and expect to sleep. One successful psychological trick is to write down your worries – or a list of things you have to do – before you go to bed, then “park” them. This can even work if you wake in the night, so keep a notebook by bed.