The Sleep Council woman-asleep-in-dressing-gown-219x300 What You Want To Know When It Comes To Sleep!  Do you think you sleep too much or too little? Should you nap? Why won’t your child sleep?

These are just some of the common queries that you want answers too and since we’re celebrating Sleeptember – the month dedicated to highlighting the benefits of a good night’s sleep – we thought we’d share with you some of the most frequently asked questions and our answers to them.

How much sleep should I get a night? I usually get about six hours. I feel tired at times, but not that tired that I can’t function.
The average sleep an adult requires or might expect to sleep is around eight hours a night. However there is no ‘normal’ length of time, it is whatever is natural for you.  We all feel tired at times but it is important that it is not disruptive to your daily life and general health. Looking at your bedroom environment and then assessing if there is anything you can do to improve your quality of your environment might help you to improve on the time you are asleep.

How can I make sure I am getting a proper night’s sleep every night?
To ensure you experience good sleep it’s essential to follow good lifestyle habits and to eliminate the factors that are causing you disturbed sleep. For example making sure that your bedroom is the right environment (cool, dark and quiet), that your bed is up to scratch, looking at the lighting in your home, and avoiding foods and drinks that can hinder sleep. Avoid screen time at least an hour before bed and find alternative ways of relaxing like warm baths with calming scents, quiet soothing music, reading, gentle stretching and yoga. It’s also important to establish regular sleep pattern – going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time. Your bodies and minds will feel much better for it.

Are there any products I can buy that help to get a better night’s sleep?
A bed – many people underestimate the importance of a comfortable supportive bed. Research found that swapping an uncomfortable bed for a new one resulted in nearly an extra hour of sleep a night. Invest in blackout blinds or heavy curtains to keep your room dark. Light suppresses melatonin (the sleepy hormone) that relaxes your body helping you to drift off. If noise wakes you, consider purchasing  some earplugs.

I struggle to fall asleep, what can I do?
Practise some deep breathing techniques. Spend five minutes indulging in pure relaxation and allow yourself to sink into a sound, fulfilling sleep. If your mind is buzzing with things to do, write them down.  Don’t try to sleep – it needs to find you. Keep your eyes open and gently resist sleep or try to adopt a carefree, accepting attitude to wakefulness. Avoid clock watching if you can’t get to sleep within 15 minutes from switching light off then get up and go to another room and doing something relaxing.

I wake several times at night, what can I do to stop this?
If you find yourself awake in the middle of the night and unable to get back to sleep, don’t lie there staring at the ceiling. It won’t help you fall asleep; it’s likely to make you more restless.  Instead get out of bed, go into a dimly lit room and read a couple of chapters from a book, listen to some soothing music or make yourself a milky drink or chamomile tea.

Are naps bad for me?
Planned daytime naps improve alertness without necessarily affecting nocturnal sleep. Try to limit naps to around 20 minutes – any longer and they may leave you groggy and interfere with night time sleep. However, if you experience insomnia or poor sleep quality at night, napping might make these problems worse.

Is it worthwhile investing in gadgets such as smart phone sleep apps and fitness trackers to improve my sleep?
There are also a variety of apps and trackers that claim to help improve sleep – but just be careful that they don’t interfere with your sleep and that you don’t rely too heavily on them. They don’t always give a true indication of sleep patterns and may cause unnecessary worry and concern so use them a base line indicator.

Does what I eat and drink affect my sleep?
Certain foods are known to calm the brain and help promote sleep. While we don’t recommend eating a big meal just before bedtime as it can lead to discomfort and indigestion, some people find a bedtime snack a helpful aid to sleep. The best is one that contains complex carbohydrates and protein and perhaps some calcium – which is why dairy products are one of the top sleep-inducing foods. Avoid spicy, hard to digest food and alcohol – if you need to get up in the night to go to the loo – slightly restrict the amount of fluid you drink.

What’s the best position to lie in whilst sleeping?
We all like different positions so sleep in whichever you find most comfortable – this will depend on all sorts of things. If you sleep ok – don’t try to change!

My partner snores and it’s affecting my sleep, what can I do?
Snoring is one of the top complaints of a disturbed night’s sleep when sharing a bed.  For some, ear plugs can be a huge help but when snoring becomes a significant and ongoing problem, seek help. What starts off as a niggle can become a major issue for many couples – so it’s important to get it sorted.  Try visiting the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea site – there is a lot of information and you can diagnose several causes online.

My 6 year old won’t go to sleep and we are exhausted?
There are so many different factors which can affect a child’s sleep so check the obvious causes first such as temperature, noise, hunger or thirst.  Other influences are illness (actual or impending), changes or stress in the family, holidays and fear.  It is essential to establish and sticking to a regular bedtime routine.  Children generally respond well to routine and this is normally along the lines of teatime, followed by quiet play, bath, story and then bed.  Bedtime should be around the same time each evening. It’s also important to limit the use of gadgets – TV, computers, gaming machines – in the hours before bed.  Instead set aside time before bed to wind down properly. This is a perfect opportunity to read with your child or them to read to you, or talk to them about their day.

I’m a new mum and sleep deprived, help!
Fragmented sleep for weeks, if not months, following the birth of a baby can leave new mums feeling bad tempered, tearful, forgetful and depressed. If you struggle to get back off to sleep practise some deep breathing techniques or if your mind is buzzing with things to do, write them down. Throughout this phrase, try to remember it won’t last forever. Sleep when the baby sleeps and make sure you get some ‘me time’ and wind down properly before bed. Take a warm foamy bath, read a book or listen to some soothing music.

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