We all need sleep, but many of us don’t get enough of it. Lack of sleep not only makes you feel exhausted, it can also have a negative impact on your physical and emotional health.
Sometimes getting more sleep isn’t as simple as going to bed earlier, or having a lie in the next day. For some, falling asleep is a real problem, as is staying asleep. According to the American Sleep Association 50 to 70 million adults in the USA suffer from insomnia.
So what do you do if lack of sleep is really effecting you? Initially a visit to a health professional might be in order to rule out any potential medical issues. Or, it might just be a case of trying out some different techniques for a better nights sleep.
- How Much Sleep Do I Need?
- 12 Ways To Help You Sleep Better
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
This is very dependent on age;
- New born: 14-17 hours
- Infants: 12-15 hours
- Toddlers: 11-14 hours
- Pre-schoolers: 10-13 hours
- Children of school age: 9-11 hours
- Teenagers: 8-10 hours
- Young adults and adults: 7-9 hours
- Older adults: 7-8 hours.
Source: Sleep Health Journal
12 Ways To Help You Sleep Better
1. Love Your Bedroom
Where you sleep each night should be a welcoming and feel good place. If your bedroom is full of clutter, your mind will likely feel the same. Try and keep your bedroom tidy which means putting away clothes, shoes and having fewer items scattered about.
Even if you have a small bedroom there are plenty of storage options to help you hide away shoes, clothes and other items that can make a bedroom feel untidy.
2. A Bed Fit For Royalty
Luxuriously comfortable beds are not just for princesses (or princes!) You spend a lot of hours in bed – so it makes sense to create the best place to sleep that you can. The investment is worth it because the quality of your sleep is so very important.
Although having a strong and well made bed frame is important, it is the mattress and pillow that will play the biggest role in ensuring your get some quality shut eye. Mattresses should be replaced every 7 to 10 years – maybe a little longer if they have been well cared for. If you have specific health concerns, for example you suffer from sciatic nerve pain, you should choose a mattress that will be best suited for your back.
The perfect pillow is of equal importance to a quality mattress. Again, choosing the best pillow for your sleeping style should be a priority. It might be that you sleep on your stomach and so need a pillow that will best accommodate this. Memory foam pillows are a popular choice as are hypoallergenic pillows.
Once you’ve got your frame, mattress and pillow sorted out, the next steps are comfortable bed sheets as well as the perfect size blanket or comforter. If you have struggle sleeping, or suffer from anxiety, you may well benefit from a weighted blanket which stimulates the feeling of being hugged, releasing feel good chemicals that help you relax and sleep.
3. Keep It Dark
It is much easier for your body to naturally switch off and sleep when it is completely dark. If there is light in the room it restricts your body from producing melatonin, the chemical your body needs to induce sleep. Sometimes its not always possible to sleep when it is dark – perhaps you work at night and need to sleep in the day, or maybe you have light shining through from street lamps. To help darken your room you can put up some black out blinds or curtains. There is now a wide choice of stylish blackout curtains that can compliment the color theme of any bedroom.
4. Sleep In Peace
If the light isn’t keeping you awake, maybe the noise is. If you live on a busy street, or are sensitive to the sounds of the neighborhood (the sound of birds singing is of course cute, but not necessarily at 5am), you might want to invest in some noise cancelling curtains. Thankfully many noise reducing curtains are also thermally insulated as well as sun blockers, so can keep your room dark as well as quiet.
5. The Right Temperature
Some people are more sensitive to temperature fluctuations than others. Maybe your sleeping partner likes a cool room but you prefer it warm? This isn’t ideal if you are relying on a bedroom heater or air conditioning unit to regulate the heat, and so it might be that you need to use either an electric blanket to heat up your side, or a chill pad to cool one of you down.
If possible keep a window open to allow fresh air to rotate through the room.
6. Calming Smells
It is well know that lavender is a great calmer for helping people relax and sleep. You can get the benefits of lavender via a variety of different methods. One way is through an essential oils diffuser, simply pour a drop or 2 into the diffuser before bed time and allow it to waft around the bedroom before you settle down to sleep. You can even drop a little lavender oil under your pillow or buy a lavender scented pillow.
How you behave in the day will likely effect how your body and mind responds at night. Be mindful of what you eat and drink, especially in the afternoon and hours before bed. Try not to eat and snack late at night as your body will be trying to digest it instead of sleeping. Reduce the amount of caffeine you consume, try to stick to only having it in the morning. If you like to have a warm drink in the afternoon or evening go for a herbal option, for the best tea to drink before bed look for ones with peppermint or chamomile in.
On the subject of drinking, although we recommend staying hydrated, try not to drink much liquid in the evening, or you’ll likely need to answer the call of nature mid way through the night!
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol before bed will also hamper the quality of your sleep. You may well fall asleep pretty pronto but your body won’t be resting properly and you’ll likely wake up feeling like you never slept.
Whereas exercise is beneficial to your health, and should definitely be incorporated into every lifestyle, try not to engage in any high intensity workouts too close to bed. Although it doesn’t effect everyone, some struggle to nod off if they have exercised within 2 hours of bed time.
8. A Screen Free Room
Screens have just about encroached on every area of our every day lives. Don’t let them take over your bedroom too! It is true that the blue screen effect too close to bedtime will play havoc with how well you sleep. Whether you are catching up on emails, or aimlessly surfing Facebook, keep any screen activity to a minimum in the evenings. Better still, switch your devices off at least 2 hours before bed and give your mind a break. This is especially important for children and teenagers.
9. Have A Healthy Night Time Routine
Set yourself up so that your body and mind gets accustomed to a routine that signals it’s time to sleep. Create some rituals that become habits. These could include a relaxing bath, meditation, journaling, reading, knitting, whatever really relaxes you.
10. Stick To The Same Bedtime
When possible try and go to bed at the same time every night. Your body will soon get used to when it’s time to stop being active and will naturally start to wind down.
11. Practise Relaxation Techniques
You need to let out any stresses and emotions that have accumulated during the day. Meditation is a valuable tool to learn, to teach your mind to stop being so busy. If you don’t feel confident trying meditation, or you feel that there’s no chance your mind will settle down, try a guided meditation at first. An app like Headspace is a great place to start with their free trial. Other relaxation techniques can include journaling where you can write down the thoughts whizzing through your head. Try and incorporate some positive messages and thoughts within your scribing, listing out at least 3 things you are grateful for that day. Going to sleep with a thankful mind will assist you in having a more peaceful nights sleep.
12. Wake Up Right
If you have followed the above tips you should be in a great frame of mind when the time comes to wake up. If you are lucky enough to wake up naturally each morning, this is by far the best way. Unfortunately not many of us are natural risers and need to rely on an alarm clock to get us up. If you are a particularly deep sleeper you might need an alarm clock for heavy sleepers. Sometimes the fear of sleeping through an alarm is enough to prevent us from sleeping in the first place. If you prefer a gentler method you might benefit from a less intrusive natural light alarm clock.