How to Sleep Better: Tips from The Sleep Council

Sleep. It's vital to health, wellbeing and happiness, but it's all too easy to neglect. We asked Lisa Artis from The Sleep Council to explain why a good night's sleep is so important and for some straightforward suggestions to help you get a more restful, refreshing slumber.

Common reasons why you can’t sleep

'Stress and worry are the main contributing factors to sleepless nights.  Stress causes the heart rate to go up and in turn the mind starts to ‘race’. This causes the brain to become too alert and stimulated to sleep. We often find that parents’ sleep issues are down to a child not sleeping which in turn affects a family. Partner disturbance is also cited as a common reason why someone doesn’t sleep – that covers everything from duvet hogging to more serious issues such as snoring.

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There is definitely some general practical advice that people can follow in the first instance. It’s a good idea to put into practice these key elements and complete a sleep diary which helps identify what you’ve been doing, what you’ve eaten and where you’ve slept on the days you sleep well to compare with the days you don’t. It could help in finding the answers to some of your questions.

We also have a 30 Day Better Sleep Plan which has been developed, with sleep expert, Dr Chris Idzikowski, to help people wanting to improve their sleep to prevent more serious and prolonged issues. The plan is accessed through our website and users answer 18 questions, from bed times to alcohol consumption to pre-bedtime routines, resulting in a downloadable semi-bespoke ‘next step’ plan.

How to improve your sleep

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One or two nights with disturbed sleep are generally ok (though you will probably find yourself more grumpy than normal!) but skimping on sleep night after night becomes a real problem. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to a number of health issues such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and depression.

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 a regular sleep pattern – going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time. Your bodies and minds will feel much better for it.

What to do when you can’t sleep

If you struggle to get back off to sleep 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 do something relaxing.

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder where people have extreme difficulty in getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning. It's a common problem thought to affect around one in every three people in the UK and needs more specialised treatment.'

www.sleepcouncil.org.uk  01756 791089, leaflet line 0800 018 7923

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