Oh, sleep…it seems to come so easy to some people, doesn’t it? And for others…well, it just seems to be a bit of a nightmare. If you are part of the 45% of our population that are officially sleep deprived, you may be far too used to tossing and turning into the small hours, waking up bleary eyed and feeling more knackered than you were when you went to bed. In this blog post, we’ll let you in on our top tips for getting the best night’s sleep that you can!
Sleeping is one of the most common questions GP’s get asked about. Getting that elusive 8 hours of rest is something that really stresses people out – understandably, because sleep deprivation (in its extreme form) is literally a form of psychological and physical torture. It causes chronic fatigue, memory loss, and even impaired thinking and judgement.
Studies have shown that getting adequate sleep is more closely associated with longevity and quality of life than both diet and exercise, which is remarkable considering how little we hear about it!
And sleeping isn’t just about hitting the “off” button; lots of really important things happen when we sleep, which allows for the repair and regeneration of our wonderful and hardworking minds and bodies.
So, with all that in mind, what can you do on a practical level if something is coming between you and your rest? Read on for our best tips to eliminate those pesky bad habits and circumstances that are undermining your best efforts to get some shut eye.
- Stick to a sleep schedule that doesn’t change, even on weekends – This might sound like a drag when you crave a lie-in after five early mornings, but this helps to regulate your body’s internal clock and gets you into the habit of going to sleep at a regular time.
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual – A special “chilling out” routine right before bedtime, conducted away from bright lights and the hustle and bustle of everyday life, helps separate your sleep time from activities that cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, or stay asleep! After a while, you will love this routine and look forward to it all day!
- Avoid napping, especially after lunch – Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating those little catnaps may help. And, if you work full-time, take comfort in the fact that putting your head down on your desk for a few zzz’s isn’t the best look for you anyway!
- Exercise daily – Aerobic exercise is best, but even simple light exercise is better than no activity (anyone up for a brisk lunch-time walk or a few laps of the park with the kids to wind down after work?). Exercise at any time of day, of course, but not at the expense of your sleep, as exercising less than two hours before you plan to sleep can be counter-productive.
- Assess your sleeping space – Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be nice and cool, and free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Playing white noise through an app or on a white noise machine can help deal with a noisy neighbour or barking dog. Consider using blackout curtains to keep your room nice and dark. An eye mask or ear plugs can also be useful.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows – Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy – about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Investing in some comfortable pillows and making the room attractive and inviting for sleep can help more than you might imagine.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening – Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can disrupt sleep by “revving” you up. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort due to indigestion that rears its ugly head when you lie down. If possible, avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime. Try a light protein based snack 45 minutes before bed if you’re still hungry.
- Wind down – Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading; a lost art that can be hypnotic. For some people, using an electronic device such as a phone or laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating the brain.
- If you can’t sleep after 30 minutes, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired – Rid your room of work materials, computers and televisions; they don’t belong there, and this will strengthen the association between bed and sleep. Keeping it simple like this really works.
- If you’re still having trouble sleeping – don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor, who can give you some advice. You may also benefit from recording your sleep in a Sleep Diary to help you better evaluate common patterns or issues that might be affecting your sleep.
If sleeping is becoming an issue for you, your GP will be able to assess why you may be struggling so much with getting a good night of rest. If nothing you seem to do is changing your struggles with sleeping, and you’re looking for a private gp London Doctors Clinic is here to help you.
By Melissa Dillon