26 April 2017

The Health Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep

Top 10 Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

It appears that the pressures of modern life – long commutes, shift work, financial and social stresses – have led to many Irish people being unable to get the sleep that they need each night. However, if you struggle to get your 7+ hours of sleep then check out our 10 tips on how you can sleep tight and wake up ready to take on whatever the next day can throw at you!

Top 10 Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

Most experts agree that in general adults should aim to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night, and failing to do so can have a negative impact on your health. Getting a good night’s sleep has been shown to have a very positive effect on our bodies including helping to fight against heart disease, diabetes and cancer as well as giving us stronger immunity against colds and flus. A good night’s slumber also helps to control weight and of course we all know that waking up tired and sluggish is no way to face the day. Here are our top ten tips to help you to get a good night's sleep.

1. Eat Enough, but Not Too Much

Don’t go to bed hungry or those pangs will keep you awake for ages. But it’s not an idea to go to sleep absolutely stuffed either, you need to find the balance somewhere in between the two. If you do find yourself craving a snack before bed-time then choose something which will make it easier to sleep like crackers and cheese, (no, it won’t give you nightmares!), a low-fat yogurt, walnuts or a banana. Many of these contain melatonin, which is a hormone that promotes good sleep.

2. No Caffeine, No Alcohol, No Smoking.

There are some things which you should most definitely avoid if you want to get a good night’s sleep. Alcohol can help you to drop off initially, but as the alcohol levels in your system decrease after a few hours it’s a signal to the body to wake up. Caffeine is a big no-no as this is a stimulant, so try to avoid coffee, tea or coke after 2pm in the afternoon. Smoking is bad for pretty much everything and that includes healthy sleep. Nicotine is also a stimulant, plus smokers can be woken up by withdrawal pangs in the early hours.

3. Get Comfortable

Apart from what you eat and drink, it is very important to remember the importance of your physical environment. After all, if you decide to use a rock for a pillow this could explain those sleepless nights you’ve been having! Make sure your pillow allows you to keep your neck and back in a straight line so that you can enjoy a comfortable sleep. And there is nothing worse than a mattress that is too hard, too soft, or too lumpy to allow you to sleep comfortably. Generally a mattress should be replaced after about 7 to 10 years, but it depends on how much punishment it has received in the mean-time(!) and sometimes investing in a softer/harder mattress to suit your needs will have a big impact.

Top 10 Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

4. Turn Off Your Phone!

Here’s a problem most of us can recognise (either in ourselves or our partners!) and that is the curse of the smartphone. Any device which emits light will stimulate the brain and stop you from going to sleep, so try to put away that phone at least one hour before trying to get to sleep. And we are all aware of the dangers of disappearing into a Facebook/Twitter/Google/Instagram labyrinth and losing even more hours of precious sleep.

5. Turn Out the Lights & Stay Cool

The recommended temperature for a good night’s sleep is generally between 18 and 24 degrees Celsius, although it varies depending on the individual. Keep the room as dark as possible, and consider investing in some black-out curtains if too much external light is interrupting your sleep. If the display on your electronic clock is distracting then perhaps invest in a different model. And as per the previous tip, keep those phones and tablets switched off!

Top 10 Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

6. Get Some Exercise

Studies have found that people who get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week showed a dramatic improvement in the quality of their sleep. So just 20 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous exercise – cycling or walking for example – could lead to more restful nights. Try to avoid exercising a couple of hours before you plan to sleep though, as the resulting increased body temperature can make it more difficult for some people to drop off.

7. Cut Down on the Liquids

One very common disrupter of a good sleep is the need to get up and go to the loo in the middle of the night. Without dehydrating yourself, try to cut down on the amount of liquids that you are drinking in the couple of hours before bed-time. And it’s always a good idea to keep a bottle of water handy just in case you wake up thirsty in the early hours of the morning, to save having to stumble your way into the kitchen.

Top 10 Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

8. Set Your Body Clock

Try to arrange to go to sleep and wake up at the same times, as this gets your biological clock in synch and allows for better sleep. Of course, it’s not always possible to timetable your sleeping times to the minute, but as a general rule it is a good idea to keep things on a consistent schedule. A regular pattern of light and darkness is also conducive to healthy living, so try to get as much natural light as you can during the day as this has been shown to be connected to how well you sleep at night.

9. Sort out your Blankets

If your blanket or duvet tends to end up on the floor by the time you wake up each morning, then perhaps you need to look at changing your bed-clothes. Sharing a bed can bring its own problems if you’re sleeping next to a blanket-hogger who leaves you out in the cold in the middle of the night! Consider investing in separate blankets to avoid this kind of problem.

10. Don’t Stress!

Of course that is easier said than done, as a lot of us have worries nagging away at the back of our minds that can stop us from falling asleep. Work on managing those concerns before you get into bed, maybe by writing down a plan of action earlier in the evening to organise your thoughts and stop them swirling around your head at night. Some light reading in bed can be a distraction from your worries, as can listening to relaxing mood music.

There is nothing worse than that groggy, run-down sensation which results from a lack of quality sleep. It can make you cranky and sluggish and in the long-term can have a seriously negative impact on your health. Follow the ten steps above to maximise your chance of having a good night’s sleep and you will very soon feel the benefits.

Sweet Dreams!