By Lisa Artis on March 1, 2017
It’s National Bed Month (March 2017), so what better time to assess the quality of what we spend a third of our lives doing in bed – sleep!
That’s the advice from the organisation aimed at helping people get a better night’s kip, The Sleep Council.
“We all sleep, but many of us don’t do it very well. A good night’s rest is essential to a healthy lifestyle – protecting you physically and mentally as well as boosting your quality of living,” said Lisa Artis of The Sleep Council.
“Unfortunately, many of us struggle to fall asleep, have bad dreams, can’t wake up in the morning and then feel constantly tired. It is rather worrying that the majority of people don’t sleep very well, but fortunately, there are many practical ways to improve your sleeping habits.
“This National Bed Month (March 2017), we want to help people get a better night’s sleep by making them aware of some of the most basic ways to improve your Zzz’s.”
Here are seven easy steps from The Sleep Council to help improve your sleep this National Bed Month.
1. Your Bedroom
A clean, peaceful and welcoming bedroom will aid a better night’s sleep. Make sure your room it completely dark and invest in a blackout blind or curtains, or an eye mask might be a cheaper alternative. Your bedroom should not be too hot or too cold, around 16-18° C (60-65° F) is recommended. Scents such as lavender and germanium are naturally calming, so invest in some essential oils to help you drift off. Remember, these should not be used in pregnancy or children’s rooms.
2. Your Bed
Do you ever wake up with neck or back ache? When lying in bed, do you feel springs or ridges beneath the surface? Avoid the ‘Seven Year Hitch’ – the point at which existing beds may still look good but are beginning to offer less support than a new one*. What better time than National Bed Month to invest in a better night’s sleep if your bed is seven years old or more?
3. Your Lifestyle
The 21st century lifestyle is typically fast paced, chaotic and jam-packed with technology. From the moment we wake up, we’re continuously being fed content from smart phones, TV, radio and social media feeds. All this non-stop stimulation causes havoc when we’re trying to fall asleep. Switch off your tech a couple of hours before bedtime – that includes your phone! Also try reducing the intensity of artificial light in your home by using dimmer switches or low wattage bulbs.
4. Stress and Worry
Scientists have found a direct correlation between anxiety and rhythm of sleep. When a person is anxious their heart rate increases, which causes the brain to ‘race’, too. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help ‘unlearn’ negative thought processes through psychological treatment. Deep breathing and meditation before bed can help slow down your busy brain activity. Also, give yourself a positive affirmation before going to sleep. Instead of thinking ‘the mortgage is due and I don’t have the money to pay it’, say aloud ‘we will find a way to pay the mortgage this month.’
5. Your Diet
They say you are what you eat, and when it comes to getting a restful night’s sleep, the food and drink you consume has a drastic effect. The best foods for sleep include milk, cherries, chicken and rice, while fatty meat, curry and alcohol are some of the worst. Some people choose not to eat after 6pm, as late meals can make it difficult to sleep. However, if you are tempted to have something before bed, reach for a milky drink or a soothing herbal tea.
Sports and exercise can help you to enjoy a better quality of sleep. Working out effectively can tire your body out gently, promoting a better night’s sleep. But don’t over-do it right before bedtime – wearing yourself out physically is not likely to induce sleepiness. In fact, it can often be counter-productive, leading to additional alertness when trying to sleep.
7. Relaxation and other therapies
Demanding jobs, long hours and active families all contribute to a hectic lifestyle, and that’s not helped by the intense media that surrounds us. These elements make it very difficult to wind down, so try to relax and insist on some ‘me time’ before going to bed. Have a warm bath, listen to some quiet music or do some yoga – these all help to relax both the mind and body.