Nov 29, 2018
Health Chatter: Healthy Sleep
Sleep is something we all do every day, and have done since we were born. It’s important for our health, allowing our bodies and minds to recharge and reset. So why do we sometimes find it difficult to sleep, and how can we make sure we’re getting enough?
How much sleep?
Adults in the UK should aim for around 7-9 hours of sleep each night. You can find out how much sleep you need by monitoring how you feel during the day. If you regularly feel tired or falling asleep during waking hours, it’s likely you need more sleep at night. Getting enough sleep is important because it allows your body to restore energy levels and your mind to organise thoughts and experiences from the previous day.
Benefits of a good night’s sleep
A good night’s sleep is a key part of maintaining our wellbeing. Lack of sleep can adversely affect both our physical and mental health.
Getting enough sleep helps to:
- Reduce fatigue and irritability
- Improve immunity
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Reduce risk of depression and anxiety
- Reduce risk of diabetes
- Reduce risk of heart disease
- Improve sex drive & fertility
Sleep deprivation can also make you unsafe to drive or operate machinery. If you do those things regularly, it’s even more important to maintain healthy sleep habits otherwise the safety of yourself and others could be put at risk.
Trouble falling asleep?
On average, it should take around 10-20 minutes to fall asleep. Any quicker and you might be in sleep debt (where you haven’t had enough sleep and need to make it up), and any longer may indicate a sleep problem.
You can take steps to improve your sleep yourself:
- Make sure your bedroom is completely dark and around 16-18° C for optimal sleep conditions
- Keep your room tidy and free of stimulating distractions – you don’t want to be thinking about putting the washing away whilst trying to drift off
- Avoid taking your phone to bed or having any other screens in your bedroom. The light can make your body think it’s still daytime and stop it producing sleep hormones. Ideally you should turn off all screens 2 hours before you go to bed.
- Consider whether your mattress is helping or hindering your sleep – investing in a good quality, comfortable mattress could make a big difference
- Cut out caffeine and alcohol before bed and make sure you empty to your bladder to avoid night time bathroom trips
- Take care of your mental health – stress and worry can keep us up at night, but taking positive steps to address issues and protect our mental health can improve our sleep
- Take regular exercise, but don’t overdo it. Yoga is a great relaxing activity that’s easy .to do at home.
- Practice relaxation techniques such as mindful body scanning, and deep breathing. If it helps, incorporate relaxing activities before you go to bed such as a warm bath or reading a book.
If you’ve tried all these methods and are still having trouble sleeping, see your GP who can check for other causes or suggest alternatives based on your own circumstances.
If you haven’t fallen asleep after 20 minutes, get up and do something else until you feel drowsy again. This will help you associate your bed with sleep, and may help prevent a cycle of frustration from stopping you drifting off.
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