Do you struggle to get enough sleep? Follow our tips to switch off and enjoy a peaceful slumber
Do you take the opportunity to grab 40 winks while you’re a passenger in the car? Or do you find yourself waking up in front of the TV, having nodded off?
That probably means you’re not getting enough sleep.
The Sleep Council found that men are far more likely to get a good night’s sleep than women, with a third saying they sleep well most nights.
And chronic lack of sleep affects women much more severely, according to researchers at Duke University Medical Center, in the US.
Sleeping badly doesn’t just leave you in a bad mood and struggling to focus. It’s more likely to put women at risk of heart disease, depression and type 2 diabetes.
And it also accelerates how quickly you age.
Dr Elizabeth Blackburn and Dr Elissa Epel examined telomeres, biological markers found at the end of each piece of DNA in our bodies. Longer telomeres mean cells renew more quickly and keep you looking more youthful.
They found good sleep can mean the length of your telomeres — and your youthfulness and health — remains stable over the decades, rather than eroding with age.
Here’s how you can banish the bedtime blues with our simple tips…
Have a routine
If you struggle to wake up in the morning or feel too awake at night, it could be your internal body clock that’s the problem.
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, Silentnight’s resident sleep expert, says: ‘Winding down properly and getting five or six hours of deep, uninterrupted sleep is far better than seven or eight hours of broken sleep.
‘Our circadian rhythm is at its lowest between 9pm and 5am, making this the optimum time for good-quality sleep. Even if you get a good amount of sleep, going to bed late is likely to lead to a large amount of your sleep being highly inefficient and without health benefits.
‘If you go to bed earlier and get those valuable hours before midnight you’ll be able to wake up at five or six in the morning feeling refreshed and ready for the day ahead.’
She adds: ‘Any sleep after this time is nice but it isn’t restorative.’
Regular eating times and sleeping times help it to stay on track, as does exposure to natural light in the day.
Reading, listening to soothing music, or using relaxing essential oils, such as lavender, will help promote a better quality of deep sleep.
Dr Ramlakhan says: ‘Lavender is proven to slow the activity of the nervous system, improve sleep quality and promote relaxation.’
But something you might not have considered is yoga.
This can calm the nervous system, which can be a big help if you are feeling over-stimulated from the day, according to Dr Ramlakhan.
She’s devised a simple routine which takes only five minutes.
Start in a seated kneeling position then take a deep breath. On the exhale, bend forward bringing your head down to the mat or bed. Rest for several minutes.
After this, lie on your back with your bottom close to a wall, then stretch your legs straight up against the wall. Close your eyes and breathe for a few minutes, then release.
Finally lie flat on your back with your legs straight and your arms about six inches from your body, palms facing up. Let your feet drop open, allow your body to feel heavy then release each body part.
Organise your room
It’s important to make sure that your bedroom is a sanctuary for rest and relaxation. If you’re a sensitive sleeper, you may benefit from some noise at night.
Professor Paul Gringras, a scientific advisor for Leesa mattresses, says: ‘We did not evolve to need absolute quiet. A background noise that makes us feel safe is great at masking other noises, such as a creaky floorboard or heating system.
‘For some people it’s a talk radio show, and others classical music. Anything that is calming, predictable and monotonous works.’
He also suggests apps such as Pink Noise, which plays calming sounds.
Professor Gringras, who also leads the sleep medicine unit at Evelina London children’s hospital, recommends an ancient technique used by our ancestors.
‘The “cave principle” is to keep the bedroom cool, quiet and dark — try to aim for a bedroom that is thermally neutral so your body doesn’t have to shiver or sweat to keep warm or cool down. Between 18.5°C and 20°C is ideal,’ he says.
He goes on to say: ‘Good blood flow contributes to warm hands and feet, which helps our sleep — wear some thermal socks, cosy underwear and a warm hat.’
Banish your phone
The bright screens of TVs, tablets and smartphones can prevent a good night’s sleep.
Professor Gringras says: ‘These bright and often blue-light sources switch off your brain’s production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, and it will take longer to fall asleep.
‘If you can, leave electronics outside the bedroom, or turn them off at least an hour before your bedtime.’
If you can’t bear to be parted from your phone turn it to night mode or try an app which alters the light it emits.
Edited by Phoebe Jackson-Edwards