How to… get a good night's sleep: Expert tips to help you snooze soundly
Who thinks they get enough sleep The Sleep Council says just one in ten of us always gets a good night's rest. So what can we do Here Slumberdown’s sleep expert Phil Atherton to give us his tips.
Avoid food before bedtime as your body will have to digest it, making you feel restless. If you are hungry, have a light snack no later than two or three hours before you nod off, and cut down on stimulants such as sugary drinks or coffee.
Sweet dreams: Follow Phil's advice and you'll sleep well
Nor should you drink too much alcohol. It may help you drift off, but dehydration will disrupt your night and leave you waking in the early hours.
Routine is essential to establish a regular sleep pattern, so eating, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day will get your body and brain used to when it needs to switch off.
Use thick curtains and turn off all lights in your bedroom to create a restful environment. Similarly, remove TVs, games consoles, computers and mobile phones as they can distract you from sleep.
The optimum temperature to sleep in is between 16 and 18 degrees.
GET THE MINDSET
Achieving a relaxed state of mind before bedtime is key. Put aside any worries before you go to sleep by making a list of things to do for the following day, and unwind by taking a hot bath or listening to soothing music.
Exercise should be avoided directly before bedtime as it can keep you awake, but it’s essential during the daytime to burn off all that excess energy. And if you can’t sleep, don’t worry: get up and do something relaxing, such as reading a book.
Forty per cent of people are affected by back pain brought on by poor mattress and pillow choice, or body position. If you have broad shoulders and sleep on your side, opt for a pillow with a ‘firm’ rating for perfect neck alignment.
The longest period a person has gone without sleep is 18 days, 21 hours and 40 minutes
Products with memory foam that mould to the shape of the head will give extra support. A firm mattress is also critical as it will keep the spine straight; too soft and it might exacerbate back pain.
The best sleep position is the foetal shape, or more straightened out but still on your side as this limits strain on your back. Sleeping on your front will cause an arch in your spine and put pressure on the lower back.
The ‘tog rating’ of your duvet indicates warmth. A higher rating of ten to 15 is more suitable in the winter. The filling in your pillows and duvets can affect how much quality sleep you get. In cold weather, a more affordable synthetic filling will reflect the heat and keep your head warm.
Lavender slows the nervous system and promotes relaxation, so an aromatherapy lavender pillow is worth trying if you sometimes struggle to drift off (try Frances Hunt’s aromatherapy pillow, 19.50, franceshunt.co.uk).
For those who wake up hot in the night, there are ranges of bedding which react to your body temperature.
We lose up to 500ml of water a night through perspiration, which means humidity levels rise, leading to disturbed sleep. If you can, leave a window open a crack or keep your door ajar to encourage air flow.
If you sleep in a double bed with someone else, always opt for a queen-size mattress (at least) to give you maximum space, and get an overly large duvet so you don’t suffer from one of you stealing the covers.
Your bed should be four to six inches longer than its tallest occupant and 100 per cent cotton sheets are best. The rule is, the higher the thread count, the better they will feel (though the more expensive they’ll be, too).
During the colder months you may notice dust mites more. This is because central heating and damp conditions mean they thrive. Buy bedding clearly labelled ‘anti-allergy’, which indicates the fabric will have been specially treated to stop dust mites.
One easy way to get rid of them is by washing your pillows, duvets and mattress protectors every month at 60 degrees.
Waking up at a similar time every day will reaffirm your sleep pattern. Don’t think that a weekend lie-in will make up for burning the candle at both ends during the week, as it’s likely to upset your sleep pattern even further.
To stop you dropping off again, use more than one alarm clock, and position it away from your bed so you can’t hit ‘snooze’.
And try to wake your mind up: listen to the radio or put on the news on to engage the brain and get you thinking about the day ahead.
Dark mornings can also make it harder to rise. Putting your bedside lamp on a timer so that it comes on when you need to wake up will give you a fighting chance in the mornings.