Sleep Hygiene - The Way To A Better Nights Sleep*

*This is a collaborative post*

My GP recently gave me some literature to read on poor sleep and apparently one in three people have some difficulty sleeping. I wasn't actually that surprised, my colleagues and I often discuss our sleeping patterns and at least two of us have great difficulty sleeping through the night. I tend to wake up at regular intervals so my body is never quite getting the rest it needs. This can lead to many problems ranging from a lack in concentration, irritability to much more serious physical and mental health conditions. 
We all need quality sleep so that our bodies can recover and repair themselves. When discussing my current issue with sleep, my GP asked me if I'd heard about 'sleep hygiene,' to which I pulled a face and laughed. It sounded as if she was asking about the cleanliness of my bed sheets but in actual fact sleep hygiene is the habits and practices that you can put into place in order to have a good quality nights sleep. Go figure... Here are just some of them;

Get Seven To Eight Hours Of Sleep A Night

Do you sleep too much or too little? Although too little sleep can result in poor health and is linked to heart disease and diabetes, too much sleep can also have serious implications on your health. I can't tell you how unhappy I was to hear this, I love my bed and indeed my sleep but according to experts, too much sleep is just as bad for you if not worse than too little. As well as headaches, over sleeping can lead to obesity, depression, diabetes, heart disease and a shortened life. Experts recommend that we strive for about seven to eight hours of sleep a night. 

Resolve Any Underlying Issues

If you're feeling stressed or anxious then this can have a knock-on effect on your sleeping pattern. Many of us have things going on either at home or at work but for some of us this can turn into full blown depression. If you think you might be suffering from depression then you should go and speak to your GP who can help you. 
If you're not suffering from depression but do have terrible trouble switching off, try techniques to help relax you such as mindfulness, yoga or meditation.

Avoid Stimulants

You know what I'm going to say and no I don't always practice what I preach, but alcohol will cause you to have a much poorer nights sleep. It's a well known stimulant and although it might help you to fall asleep more quickly, it will also reduce your REM sleep which is the vital restorative part of our sleep pattern. 
Caffeine is another one to avoid. Definitely don't have a cup of coffee or tea right before bed time. Cola and chocolate also both contain caffeine. According to experts, if we want better sleep then we should avoid any stimulants for six hours before bedtime. 
Drinking water before bedtime appears to divide opinions from the experts. Some say it helps to detox the body, whilst others say it stimulates the kidneys therefore causing us to wake up often to urinate. 
Chamomile tea or milk (warm or cold) about ninety minutes before bedtime seems to be a popular recommendation and can help to make you feel relaxed and sleepy.

Get Comfortable

Your bed should be super comfortable and should give you support otherwise you're going to be fighting a losing battle! If your mattress and pillows have seen better days or if you can feel the springs as you clamber under the sheets, get rid and invest in new. Bear in mind that the cheaper the mattress, the more likely it is that you'll need to replace it a lot sooner. If you invest in a good quality mattress then it should last you anything up to about ten years. There are of course mattresses that will last a lot longer than ten years but you should expect to dig deeper into your pockets for any of these. Do your research to see what sort of mattress you need and try out various before you buy. Once you've decided, check out the latest mattress offers from Groupon.
Bed sheets can make all the difference too. The higher the thread count, the softer the sheets will feel. According to experts, breathability and comfort make the perfect combination for a good nights sleep so a thread count between 200 and 400 is best.

Set The Scene

I talked about this in a blog post a few months ago but it's so important that you create the right bedroom environment. It should be relaxing and quiet, a haven away from the crazy world in which we live. This means no television, no gadgets and nothing that emits blue light. Your bedroom should only be used for sleep and sex. 
Consider other factors such as temperature and lighting. Turn down the lights a couple of hours before bed or turn off the lights and instead light a few candles. This will help your body to produce more melatonin which is a hormone made by our pineal gland that helps to induce sleep. You could opt for scented candles but make sure you stick to scents that help to relax you such as lavender, neroli, rose or chamomile.
According to experts, 16-18°C or 60-65°F is the ideal temperature for sleep. Too hot and you'll spend the night tossing and turning, kicking off the covers. Too cold and you'll find it hard to fall asleep in the first place. 
If you find that the street lamps or early morning light wakes you up, invest in some blackout curtains or blinds. 

Have A Bedtime Ritual 

We are creatures of habit and having a bedtime ritual can help your body to recognize when it's time to go to sleep. 

- Start by incorporating things I've mentioned above such as setting the scene and avoiding stimulants. 
- Write a list of anything that you'll need to do the next day so that you can simply get into bed and forget. 
- Each evening at a similar time, have a warm bubble bath or shower and then change into your PJs or nightwear. 
- Sip some chamomile tea or warm milk whilst you relax in a candlelit room listening to soothing sounds. (You can download various apps for this or you could even invest in a soothing sounds machine.) 

There's a whole host of information on the net about sleep hygiene but hopefully if you try some of the tips above then you'll soon see an improvement in your own sleep pattern. 

*Photos via Pexels

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