Saturday, January 29, 2011

Night-night, sleep well

Photo by Dynamite Imagery
According to the newest study  The Great British Sleep Survey by Mental Health Foundation over 30% of Britons may have insomnia or other sleep difficulties. Unfortunately, their problems with sleep are not limited to tossing and turning in bed or poor concentration the next day.

The rapport also shows that people with sleep problems are 4 times more likely to have relationship problems and 3 times more likely to struggle with low mood.

It is well know lack of sleep can lead to mental health problems, (particularly depression), immune deficiency, and even obesity and Alzheimer's.
In a nutshell: good night sleep is crucial to sanity.

Those who have ever experienced insomnia know how frustrating it is. The longer you toss and turn, the more you realise it's going to be hard to go to sleep. The more you realise, the more anxious you become that you won't have enough rest. So you worry more and try more -  until it's time to get up.
Worse, in the night time seems to slows down, 15 minutes feels like an hour, everything is bigger and blacker. With little to distract us our minds go into the vicious cycle mode and we end up working ourselves up into increasingly depressed states of mind.

Although the survey don't reflect the demographics in Great Britain (e.g. 3 times more women then men took part in the study, while the ratio in the population is around 1:1), more robust studies show that more and more people have sleep problems.

Is there any way of improving your sleep without turning to pills?
Here's my 8 tips for a better sleep:

1. Have a regular bedtime and awakening time. Go to bed every night at the same time. Set your alarm clock for the same hour every day. It is important that your stick to your decision to establish a good sleep pattern.

2. Avoid napping during the day, or if you have to, don't nap for longer than 30-45 minutes. Every nap 'steals' from your precious nighttime sleep.

3. Watch what you eat and drink 4-6 hours before the beddtime. No caffeine, no alcohol, no spicy, heavy food!

4. Exercice regularly during the day, preferably outddors. It's not just the physical exercise that improves your sleep. Being outside, exposed to daylight helps set your biological clock.
Avoid exercise 4 hours before bedtime.

5. Take care of your sleeping environment. Make sure your bed and bedding is comfy, the room is quiet, not too hot or too cold and well aired;

6. Reserve bed for sleep and sex. No reading, no eating, and no TV watching.
Many people say they fall asleep while watching TV. While this may work for some, generally TV is likely to disrupt your sleep, because of violent or disturbing content or constant flickering light.

7. Have a healthy bedtime routine. Children need bedtime routines to 'put them in the mood' for sleep. It's a shame that we as adults forget about the benefits of pre-sleep rituals. They are easy to establish and usually pleasurable: a relaxing bath, light read, light snack, relaxation.

8. Don't take your worries to bed. Probably the most difficult advice to follow (been there, done that). A good bedtime routine may be helpful in putting this in practise

More advice on sleep hygiene from Helpguide.

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