The secret to a great night's sleep

Dr Nerina's Better Sleep Tips

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Our research has revealed that a massive 75% of people in the UK are not getting a good night's sleep. And its not surprising - with increasing pressure at home and work, not to mention modern technology making us 'switched on' at all hours of the day, finding time to let go and unwind can be difficult.

As Dr Nerina explains: "We spend approximately one third of our lives asleep, but surprisingly no one really knows why we engage in this mysterious activity. Theories suggest that that we sleep in order to process and file information that was taken in during the day as well as to repair and rebalance the body physically and mentally.

"So what impact does work and lifestyle have on our sleep quality? In simple terms, handling more information daily, working longer hours and fewer breaks can change the dynamics of our sleep resulting in a greater demand for 'information filing' sleep and less time available for rejuvenating deep sleep."

If you feel that your lifestyle is impacting on your sleep start by following Dr Nerina's essential sleep tool kit for the next four weeks.

  • 1) Treat yourself to a good sleep environment

    Keep your bedroom - and your bed - as your sanctuary, free from work and technology.

    Your ideal temperature for sleep is slightly cool, so ensure that your bedroom is ventilated.

    A fan can be a great way to keep things cool, and the white noise can aid restful sleep.

    Lighting is more subjective: some people prefer to sleep with some light filtered in, whilst others insist on black out blinds. A note on the latter: ensure that you open your blinds immediately upon waking, to set you up for the day.

    Aromatherapy oils such as lavender and eucalyptus can help to create a calm and soothing sleep environment.

    Pets, whilst great companions, are better off in their own beds, to avoid disturbing your own precious sleep.

    Invest in a good quality bed and mattress which supports your spine and body contours.

    Mattresses should be changed every seven years… when was the last time you changed yours? If you're struggling to remember it might be time for a change.

     

  • 2) Enjoy a regular bedtime routine

    It's well worth your time to wind down before going to bed - even if this means that you put your head down slightly later.

    Read a book, listen to relaxing music, have a bath and use some relaxing essential oils, such as lavender, to help promote a much better quality of deep sleep.

    If you can, try and switch off from work as soon as you leave the office and avoid checking your emails or social media accounts 90 minutes before going to bed: blue light isn't conducive to sleep!

    Winding down to five or six hours of deep, uninterrupted sleep is a much better proposition for the next day than seven or eight ours of broken sleep.

     

  • 3) Moderate that caffeine... and alcohol!

    Caffeine has a direct impact on reducing sleep quality. The half-life of caffeine is approximately five hours. This means that it can take up to 10 hours to completely remove all of the caffeine from your body if you drink a cup of tea or coffee.

    Consider replacing your afternoon coffee with herbal tea or decaffeinated variants of tea and coffee, particularly if you find that you wake up feeling unrefreshed despite having slept for eight hours or so.

    Alcohol can also impair deep sleep quality so you are likely to wake up feeling tired and fuzzy-headed if you have overindulged the night before.

     

  • 4) Be a power nap pro

    I define a power nap as "10 to 20 minutes in which you will be aware of thoughts, noises and sensations but at the same time will be in a deep state of relaxation; not asleep but not awake."

    The best time to power nap is during the day if you start to feel sleepy or find yourself losing concentration. For example, many people have a natural dip in energy levels around 3pm.

    A power nap needs to be short and effective, so here are my four steps to success:

    Step 1 - get comfortable, but not too comfortable. You can power nap on the sofa, in the car, or even on the floor. Find somewhere where you can physically and mentally relax.

    Step 2 - set an alarm for 10 to 20 minutes later or ask someone to rouse you.

    Step 3 - close your eyes and become aware of your breathing. You'll most likely be aware of external sounds and your thoughts but keep focusing on your breathing and try to slow it down.

    Step 4 - when your alarm goes off rouse yourself gently, slowly open your eyes. After two to three minutes, you should feel more energised.

     

  • 5) Develop a good sleep mindset

    To sleep well, we almost need to let go of wanting to sleep well. Don't fixate on the pressure to get a good night's sleep, because only the very opposite will ensue.

    A successful way to re-train your mindset is to tell yourself that you're going to get some "rest" as you lie down, rather than labelling the action as "going to sleep".

     

  • 6) Be smart when waking at night

    If you wake up during the night, try to avoid looking at your clock and registering the time. If you do this, it's likely that you'll fret about when you're due to wake up - which, in turn, will prevent further sleep.

    Instead, lie on your back make a conscious effort to relax each part of your body starting from your toes and working up to your head and face.

    Breathe deeply from your diaphragm and tell yourself that it doesn't matter if you don't fall asleep and that you will just use the time to rest and relax.

     

  • 7) Take regular daytime breaks

    Taking regular breaks during the day is one of the most effective ways to improve the quality of your sleep.

    If possible, take a lunch break away from your desk or work environment for at least 20 minutes: use the time to recharge mentally and physically… which means you should avoid using the internet or checking your emails!

     

  • 8) Exercise at least a little

    Regular exercise is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress hormone levels (mainly adrenaline), thereby facilitating a deeper sleep. 

    The American College of Sports Medicine guidelines recommend three or four sessions of aerobic exercise (swimming, cycling, jogging, fast walking) for 20 to 30 minutes per week.

    It's worth noting that intense exercise will stimulate endorphins, which can prevent a restful sleep: as such, consider delaying your bedtime for 45 minutes after this sort of exercise, if you're more inclined to hit the gym late on an evening.

     

  • 9) Harness positive thinking

    If you're lying in bed and you can't sleep, cast your mind over your day and think about all of the small positives things that have happened.

    Similarly, when you wake up in the morning don't head straight for your mobile phone or laptop: it pays dividends to spend a few minutes being thankful for what they day will bring. 

     

  • 10) Define work and home boundaries

    Talking about your work when you get home can be an effective way of seeking support from family and friends.

    However, it's very important to set boundaries with work-related conversation, so that it doesn't usurp your family time.

    Write your to-do list before leaving work, instead of at the beginning of the day. This stops you worrying about work in the evening and will make it less likely that you wake up in the middle of the night worrying about your workload for the coming day.

    If you are planning to take work home, make a commitment about whether you are really going to do it or whether you're going to put it off all evening creating guilt and anxiety.

    Weekend working is often best done first thing on Saturday morning so that the rest of the weekend is available for rest and relaxation.

     

  • 11) Do you need eight hours?

    It's important to note that individual sleep requirements vary from person to person.

    I quite regularly encounter people whose anxiety over their sleep stems wholly from their perceived lack of it, based on a notion that they "must" be sleeping for at least eight hours per night.

    For most of us, living in this age of information overload, the challenge is to achieve efficient deep sleep rather than a certain quota of hours.

     

  • 12) Improve your diet

    Diet and nutrition is essential to us leading a happy and healthy lifestyle, which includes getting a great night's sleep.

    To help us sleep as well as possible, we need a good balance of the hormones serotonin and melatonin in our system.

    Eating foods such as chicken, cheese, tofu, tuna, eggs, nuts, seeds and milk will help to boost these hormone levels. A glass of milk before bed is a great way to induce sleep.

    Eating breakfast within 30 minutes after waking up is one of my golden rules. So many people who struggle to get out of bed skip breakfast and become reliant on caffeine to get them through the day. Eating breakfast within 30 minutes of waking sends a message to the brain that there is adequate food in our environment and creates the ideal internal chemistry for optimal sleep.

    The ideal breakfasts for good sleep include things like porridge topped with nuts and seeds, eggs with wholemeal toast or natural yoghurt with muesli and fruit.

    Snacking during the day on yoghurt, fruit, nuts, seeds, lean meats or hummus will help to keep your blood sugar level stable.

    Avoid a heavy meal before bed time. If you often wake up in the night feeling hungry then try having a very small snack before bed.

     

At Silentnight, we know the secret to a great night’s sleep

You have the total reassurance of knowing you are choosing a quality product from the UK’s biggest bed manufacturer with 70 years of bed making heritage