Sleep problems can have a huge impact on your daytime routines. It is really hard to cope with a busy day at the office when you barely scraped together four hours’ sleep the previous night. In the short term the solution is simple: just drink a lot of coffee to stay awake and then go to bed early to make up the shortfall. If your sleep problems are long term, however, it won’t be long before your quality of life is seriously impacted. So what is the solution to sleep problems?
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
We all need different amounts of sleep. Some people are happy with five hours a night whereas others struggle to cope unless they log at least eight hours of sleep. How much sleep you have over the course of a week is also significant. You can probably get away with a couple of nights of less than optimal sleep as long as you make up the shortfall at the weekend, but if you continually carry a sleep debt forwards, it will cause problems.
Have a Sleep Schedule
Although most of use enjoy having a lie-in at the weekends, it isn’t actually very good for our sleep patterns. Too much sleep leaves us feeling groggy and out of sorts. Waking up at the same time every day will help your body feel more energized and refreshed. If you are tired, take a short afternoon nap instead, but do not stay asleep too long or it will affect your ability to sleep at night.
The Sleep Hormone
Melatonin is the key to a good night’s sleep. Exposure to natural light suppresses melatonin production, which keeps us wide awake during the day. Once daylight fades, melatonin levels begin to rise and our brain begins to feel sleepy. Smartphones, laptops and tablets can all interfere with melatonin levels and make it very difficult to fall asleep at bedtime, so always switch off gadgets and devices at least an hour before bedtime and if you need to wind down, read a book instead of logging into Facebook.
Create a Bedtime Routine
Children benefit from a bedtime routine and adults are no different. Winding down naturally in the run up to bed is the best way to increase your chances of enjoying a good night’s sleep. Have a hot bath and make a milky drink; both will help you to relax. Some people also enjoy listening to soothing music before bed, as this can also help the brain to wind down.
Design the Perfect Bedroom
Bedrooms need to be cool or sleep is difficult. Make sure the heating is not turned up too high in your bedroom and open a window for ventilation [unless it is extremely cold or hot outside]. Choose an appropriate level of bed covers and if your partner prefers a thicker duvet, invest in two so you are both comfortable. Don’t use your bedroom for anything other than sex and sleep. Working in the bedroom is not conducive to sleep, so create a home office somewhere else.
Invest in a New Bed
A comfortable bed is very important. It is really difficult to sleep in an old, lumpy bed that creaks every time you move or sags in the middle. Most beds last around seven years before they need replacing, so if your bed is ancient, it is definitely time to invest in a new one. Head down to a bed store and try a few out. Some people prefer soft mattresses whereas others like a nice, firm mattress. Don’t forget to buy new pillows, too, as the wrong pillow can negatively impact on your quality of sleep.
Diet and Exercise
Diet and exercise can have a big effect on how well you sleep. If you sit at a desk in an office all day, you probably won’t sleep as well as someone who does a physical job. Try and do at least 20-30 minutes of exercise a day. You don’t have to do it all at once – break it up into manageable slots. Diet is just as important. Avoid carbohydrate rich foods just before bedtime as these cause blood sugar spikes, which will keep you up at night. It is also sensible to avoid caffeine and alcohol at bedtime, as well.
Keep a sleep diary to see if there is a pattern to your insomnia, but if none of these tips help you improve your sleep patterns, it is worth seeing your doctor to rule out any underlying health disorders that may be affecting your sleep quality.