Getting your sleep route right!

April 13, 2015 by  
Filed under The Fitness Bug

Evidence suggests that two thirds of us will experience insomnia at some point in their lifetime. Sleep deprivation has been known to lead to long term health problems and can be disastrous for general wellbeing. Continued lack of sleep can lead to both physical and psychological problems including obesity, depression and type 2 diabetes. Consequently we should do everything we can to maintain a sleep cycle that is fulfilling,restful and restorative.

Are changes in sleeping patterns normal?

As we move between stages of our lives, the amount of sleep required varies. Adults should aim for between 6-9 hours sleep a night, although this may vary person to person. Many people worry if they don’t achieve an undisturbed stretch of 7 or 8 hours, however there is now evidence to suggest that it is normal to sleep for four hours, be awake for an hour or two and then go back to sleep. The best way to ensure that you get the sleep that is right for you is to establish a good routine.

Winding down

Your body needs to understand when it should start preparing to wind down; therefore it is important that despite competing demands, you keep to regular going to bed and waking up times. Winding down is essential for starting off your sleep period in a positive way. There are several ways to achieve this state:

Put thoughts down on paper. People often have trouble falling asleep because they worry about all the things they have to do. Making a to-do list can help to put the mind at ease, bringing some order to your thoughts. It is also a good idea
to de-clutter your bedroom. An untidy bedroom can leave you feeling anxious and inadequate, reminding you of the things you haven’t got round to doing.

It’s not always physical

Although you may have had a physically gruelling day, this does not necessarily mean a good nights sleep. So consider some light stretching or yoga moves to push the body into a relaxed state.

It’s also important to get the temperature in your bedroom right. Research suggests that between 18c and 24c is about right. Keep your hands and feet warm – cold extremities can wake you up or prevent you from falling asleep in the
first place. Try to avoid wearing socks, opt for a hot water bottle instead. Experts also recommend taking a warm bath – this will help your body reach a comfortable temperature for sleeping.

Try not to use any gadgets or electronic devices at least 2 hours before bed. Use of such items affects the levels of melatonin, a hormone which signals the body that it is time to sleep. Some people may benefit from a relaxation
CD that plays soothing sounds or a radio to distract them from chaotic thoughts, but these should not be left on as they may rouse you during the lighter parts of your sleep cycle.

Lighting is a key factor in getting a restful sleep. Melatonin is extremely sensitive to light so make sure your bedroom is completely dark before you get into bed. If needed try blackout curtains or an eye mask would be just as effective.

Avoid alcohol before you sleep. Not only is this counter productive to achieving ‘good’ sleep but it is also likely to wake you up to use the toilet! Emptying your bladder before going to bed is definitely good practice.

Sleep is totally in your control and it can be improved by adopting good habits. If you continuously experience problems with insomnia you should see your GP; he or she may ask you to keep a sleep diary to help identify any habits or lifestyle experiences that may be having an impact on your sleeping routine. Alternatively, one Australian mattress company, OZ Mattress, runs an active and interesting sleep academy blog looking at all things sleep.

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