Worried about getting a good night’s sleep? Constantly lying awake wondering what you need to do to sleep better? Well look no further as today I aim to help you get rid of the worry.
Wherever you look these days there are tips for getting a good night’s sleep – but how many of these things should we be concerned about?
March is National Bed Month in the UK, and there are various Sleep awareness weeks in March around the world, so what better way to end February with this final post of three about health concerns.
Because, without doubt, we worry about the amount of sleep we get – and to some extent, rightly so. It is vital for repairing our bodies and recovering from trauma. This is why when we are ill we default to going to sleep.
There are so many external factors that affect our sleep. Stress is a big one, whether it’s pressure from work, a health issue, an argument with a loved one, or whether it’s starting a new job or going on holiday. Those latter two have got me good several times. It’s the panic of not getting up on time I think.
However, those things tend to be temporary therefore we need to focus on the long lasting external factors that might affect our sleep.
But which ones? There is so much information out there about sleep and “sleep hygiene”, as they call it, it’s hard to know what helps and what doesn’t, so here are 5 tips for getting a better night’s sleep, and 5 things you should stop paying attention to, backed up by advice from sleep experts, psychologist Dr Nick Wignall and Dr Daniel Erichsen.
5 Tips for Getting a Better Night’s Sleep
Make Sure The Temperature Is Just Right
This is the first of the “Goldilocks” assessments and you probably don’t need reminding – if the temperature in your room is too hot or too cold you’re going to find it difficult to sleep. The temperature has got to be just right. In cooler weather, it is probably a bit easier to control, but warmer weather can be more problematic, particularly in the UK, where air-conditioning rarely exists beyond hotel rooms. If you get this right 90% of the time, that’s pretty “cool”.
Invest In A Comfortable Bed
There have been a few occasions that I’ve returned from holiday and wished I could have brought the bed home. I’ve lain on my mattress and wondered why we bought it. Of course, when you share a bed, it can be hard to meet this second Goldilocks test – too hard for you, too soft for them, never just right. It’s worth taking time on this one – the right mattress is a great investment in your health and quality of sleep and the Sleep Council suggest that you can get another half hour of sleep by swapping your mattress.
Shut The Light Out
We don’t do this in our house and there is definitely an impact. As soon as the sun rises it wakes us, which is not too bad in Spring and Autumn, but not wanted in the height of summer. If, like us, you don’t have curtains (long story) then you’ll agree that it affects your sleep. There are two ways to combat this: get decent, heavy or blackout curtains, or use a sleep mask.
Learn What The “Right Amount” Of Sleep Is
No book can tell you this. I can’t tell you this. Only you will know as it is entirely based on your own needs. Plenty of articles about better sleep will tell you that seven to eight hours is what you should be aiming for, but that number itself is based on studies that indicate that is the average. Some people need less, some more. From personal experience, I am good with between 6.5 and 7 hours of sleep, provided it is mostly restful and undisturbed, such as needing to get up to use the toilet. Eight hours is definitely too much for me as I just feel groggy. I work with someone who says he has around 5 hours with no impact on his day and someone else who absolutely must get seven hours, no less.
We’re all different, and even the time we go to bed and get up can have an impact on how long we might need.
Go To Bed When You Are Sleepy
It seems crazy obvious, but think about it; how often have you gone to bed because you should, or because you’ve got a big event the next day? According to the experts, this isn’t the thing to do. If you aren’t sleepy, then it is likely that your mind is too active and getting to sleep will appear difficult. You may have well stayed up and watched another episode of your current box set binge or read a book until you are sleepy.
5 Things You Should Stop Doing
Trying To Get In Enough “Sleep Cycles”
According to The Sleep Council, the average sleep cycle is 90 minutes built on a combination of light then deep sleep. They advise that you should get between 4 and 6 of these. However, if my fitness band is to be believed, I never complete a cycle after the first one. According to Wignall and Erichsen, the sleep cycle isn’t something you should worry about, and like we said last week, you really can’t influence how your body reacts. You just have to go with what feels right.
Trying To Reduce Blue Light
Some studies show that blocking “blue light” may have an effect on your sleep, but the impact is minimal. Of course, the manufacturers of those quite expensive glasses that allow you to watch TV and skim your phone last thing at night don’t want you to know that. The advice from the experts is save your money, and instead ensure that you aren’t making your last thing at night scrolling something that makes your mind too active.
Trying To Go To Bed At The Same Time Every Night
Most of us go to bed at about the same time every night because we have quite rigid routines, but that doesn’t mean we have to stick to that routine at the weekend. If you want a lie-in, have one. Again, this goes back to how you feel. If you don’t feel good after staying in bed too long, that should be the thing you focus on. Your body knows exactly what it needs.
Thinking About Going To Sleep
One of the things that prevent us from getting to sleep is thinking about going to sleep. I am absolutely positive that when I can’t sleep it is because I am thinking about things too much. When I get like this I try the trick from “Children of the Corn” i.e. thinking about a wall. It’s actually a dark wall I try to imagine, and focusing on that is akin to thinking about nothing at all – and if it fails, at least scary blond children won’t be able to read my mind.
Making Sleep Into A Goal
This is a great tip from Nick Wignall. You know me, I love goal setting and, certainly, you should look to give yourself enough time to get the sleep your body needs. However, you can’t force it. By trying to follow all the things that they tell you to do you end up putting too much pressure on going to sleep and waking your mind up wondering if you’ve followed all the steps you are “supposed” to follow. By all means, set a routine that triggers the start of bedtime but don’t make each step an item on a tick list.
There are so many more sleep hygiene guidelines out there that this post could be much longer. If you want to learn more about the key things to focus on, listen to this great episode of Nick Wignall’s podcast “Mind and Mics” as he talks to Dr Daniel Erichsen, sleep expert and coach.
Of course, many of these tips and tricks won’t help you if it turns out you have a genuine sleep disorder, so take a look at this guide, also by Nick Wignall, that will help you to determine if you need further help.
How many of the sleep hygiene guidelines do you worry about? How have you or will you be combatting sleepless nights? Share in the comments below.
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Until next time, remember, if the excess baggage is weighing you down, you can always leave it in lost luggage.