The right mattress and a good quality bed frame are the foundation for a good night’s sleep, but for many of us, even the most comfortable bed doesn’t guarantee a restful night. And if you’re not sleeping well, you’re not alone! A 2012 survey found that 70% of us don’t feel we’re getting enough sleep: that’s a lot of tossing and turning!
You might think that not sleeping enough isn’t a big deal – after all, a bit of coffee in the morning and most of us are on our way, even after only a few hours of shut-eye. But in reality, poor sleep can have a significant impact on our physical and mental health.
Studies have shown that continually going without enough sleep can increase your risk of developing diseases such as breast cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. And the toll of an irregular sleep pattern can even make it more likely that you’ll be overweight or obese, due to low serotonin and melatonin levels leading to an increase in cravings for sugary foods and simple carbohydrates.
All our bodies are different, but most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep a night. You might be able to get by on a little less, or need a little more, depending on your biology and lifestyle. As long as you wake up feeling well rested most of the time, you’re probably getting enough sleep.
As we age, our sleep patterns change and we may find ourselves getting less sleep – this isn’t because our bodies need to sleep less in old age, but rather because it’s more likely we’ll suffer from disturbed sleep as we get older.
The good news is, there’s no law that says all our sleep has to be taken in one chunk! So if you’re consistently getting 5 hours of sleep per night, it’s perfectly healthy to take a nap in the afternoon if you have the opportunity.
Most of us see insomnia as a chronic condition where the sufferer sleeps very rarely, or for a very short amount of time, to the point where they need to seek medical help. But in actual fact, insomnia simply is defined as being awake when you want (or need!) to be asleep – and one in three of us have it!
You could be suffering from insomnia if:
More than three times a week on a regular basis. And/or:
The ideal sleep temperature is different for everyone, but as a rule, most of us will sleep well if the room is between 16-18C and free of draughts. Too-hot temperatures can make you restless, and if your room is too cold or draughty you’ll find it difficult to nod off – so layer up with extra blankets and thick socks if your house runs cold!
When our bodies sense light, they assume it’s time to start the day – which is why so many of us are woken up early in the summer months by sunlight streaming through the window. Install thick curtains or blackout blinds – or simply wear an eye mask to ensure you sleep well.
There’s nothing wrong with watching TV in the evening or using your phone or computer before bed – but try to limit these activities to the living room. Your bedroom should be a place of rest and relaxation only: gadgets can hinder your sleep. Especially since mobile phones and computers both give off blue light, suppressing melatonin and making it hard to get to sleep.
Not everyone likes complete silence when they’re falling asleep, and soft, repetitive sounds or ‘white noise’ can aid sleep. But sudden, loud or ongoing noise is a huge culprit in keeping us awake – so wear earplugs if you live in a noisy area, and try not to fall asleep with the TV on as if the tone or level of your background noise changes it may wake you.
Even if your bedding is comfortable, your room is dark, quiet and cool, and you’ve left the gadgets outside, if you’re not fully relaxed, you may find it difficult to sleep. Try having a sleep routine to help you wind down from the day and trigger sleep mechanisms. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same times every day – even on weekends – to teach your body it’s time to sleep once it gets to a certain time. A hot bath and/or non-caffeinated drink an hour before bed can help achieve this, as can swapping scrolling through your phone for a chapter of a good book.
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