Sleep is something we all take for granted, but it’s also something that is not always easy to achieve. With so many of us getting by on minimal amounts of sleep, or having fitful nights, the consequences can be serious, so it’s important to prioritise a good night’s rest and to ensure both quality and quantity.
Things to avoid at bedtime:
• It is easy to get into the habit of allowing pets to sleep on your bed, but sharing your space also means you may be sharing it with dust mites and fleas. Added to this, pets can be demanding, waking you up at odd hours or insisting on disrupting precious slumber by curling up across your legs, on your arm, or in other positions that can be uncomfortable and bad for circulation.
• It can be difficult to sleep in an environment that is too warm, explaining why restless summer nights are so common. Try turning off the heating or keeping a window open to allow air to circulate. A fan can also be useful on particularly hot nights. Another suggestion is to try switching your duvet between summer and winter, and reduce the togs. A thick duvet is unpleasant to sleep in when it’s warm outside. An excessively warm room is not good for general health and can aggravate the throat, eyes and chest, leading to coughs, dry eyes and sore throats.
• Many people with coughs and colds like to suck on lozenges before bed and whilst this habit is an easy one to form, it is also damaging in the long-term. These sweets may soothe the throat and reduce fitful sleep, but in turn, they contain sugar that can attack the teeth. There is also the risk of falling asleep before the sweet has dissolved, which can be a choking hazard.
• Another common mistake is not allowing the body and brain to switch off before attempting sleep. Caffeine, alcohol and food before bed can affect the digestive system and keep you awake. The same goes for heading to bed without first switching off technology or allowing time to relax and unwind.
Some more bad habits:
• On the subject of liquid intake, try to ensure no fluids are drunk in the two hours prior to bedtime and if you need a drink, make sure it’s simply water. Reducing fluids can free up the bladder, making it less likely that you will require the toilet during the night. It’s also a good idea to visit the bathroom before bed to avoid sleep disruption.
• Going to bed before you are ready reduces the chance of getting a great night’s sleep. Tossing and turning all night is frustrating and can lead to further problems like insomnia, depression, memory loss and lethargy. All of this can be avoided by taking time to relax before hitting the sack, whether this is by reading, listening to relaxation CDs, doing breathing exercises or lying in bed with the lights dimmed.
• Whilst exercise can aid a good night’s sleep, it also stimulates the mind and body so should be avoided directly before bedtime and for several hours beforehand if possible. This applies particularly to heavy or strenuous activities and those that require lots of exertion. Gentle exercise like walking, yoga or swimming may help as an alternative if you have little time in the evening in which to fit everything in.
• Ensure your mattress is comfortable – a mattress older than seven years may need replacing. Another thing to avoid is sleeping on uncomfortable pillows. Also, try switching your mattress to a Silentnight mattress, as they contain an EcoComfort Fibre which helps to keep you cooler in the night. Try plumping up pillows before bed as a flat or unsupportive pillow can lead to neck ache, headaches and back strain. A good pillow should be fairly firm, raising the head and comfortable. Pillows also need to be replaced every few years at least, as they lose their shape and attract dust mites.
Our guest blogger is Zoe, a health and nutrition blogger with a penchant for writing on the topic of sleep. Currently, she is writing on behalf of Archers Sleep Centre to help promote the importance of getting a great night’s sleep.