Here at MHM we’re not fans of health scare stories, they rarely prove to be much more than the fruits of a sub editor’s need for a headline or attention grabbing by some lobby group or other.
But there are some fundamentals to a healthy lifestyle and sleep is one of them, so when we reported that research found that nearly half us struggle to get a good night’s rest we thought it only right that we try and offer some solutions to the problem.
Some or all of these may work for you, but they all work for some people.
1. Take some exercise during the morning or afternoon
Studies have shown that just a few minutes of brisk exercise each day can help you to fall asleep 15 minutes quicker and sleep on 45 minutes more than usual each night.
That’s a whole hour a night added to your rest.
Don’t exercise at night before bed, it will make you tired but not help you sleep.
2. Never nap for more than 30 minutes
Naps are great, and all the research shows that a twenty minute nap will give you more energy than two cups of coffee and will last longer.
But more than half an hour will allow you to slip into a deeper sleep which may rob you of your deeper continuous rest later that evening.
So if you fall asleep in front of the telly, ask someone to nudge you before the half hour is up.
3. Keep cool in the bedroom
The biggest single reason people give for waking up at night is that they feel too hot or too cold.
Remember your metabolism will slow down during sleep so you won’t need to be as warm as you might think.
If you have control over your room temperature at night the ideal sleeping environment is around 18.5C or 65F, probably much lower than you thought.
So think twice before you leave the heating on, or digging out the winter duvet too early.
4. Bring out the bedsocks
The first parts of the body to become cold enough to wake us from sleep are the extremities, by which we mean hands and feet of course.
Bed socks are an ideal way to keep your feet warm and your sleeping partner will forgive you for them unreservedly the next time you inadvertently touch them with a foot that doesn’t feel like the iceberg that sank the Titanic.
For the same reasons, try and keep your hands under the covers while you sleep, they will get cold if exposed to the night air.
5. Less wireless
You might think you’re clearing your mind and relaxing while you watch that film in bed or play something online, but actually you’re making it all the harder for your brain to shut down for the night when you do eventually want to sleep.
Try and make the bedroom a TV, PC, laptop, and tablet free zone, that’s going to be more difficult for some of you than others.
We draw the line at the kindle (or other online reading platforms) because reading has been a mainstay of sleepers for centuries and a proven gentle method of lulling you into la la land.
6. Walk away from the smartphone
We know that for some of you, your phones are like a part of your body.
But we think you’ll be amazed at the relaxing effect of simply not having it in the room.
Just reassure yourself that being asleep is a perfectly acceptable reason for missing that email, tweet, IM, Instagram or latest viral kitten sensation.
The world may be a 24 hour operation, but your body isn’t, and they’ll still be there for you when you wake up.
Oh and if you use it as an alarm...try buying an alarm.
7. Don’t let pets in the bed or the bedroom
We all love our pets and we know they love us so it seems natural to share our living space with them.
The trouble is that your pet will never comprehend your need for uninterrupted sleep; as far as he or she is concerned, their needs are your needs.
Unless you’re happy to adapt your sleeping patterns to match your pet, which would be fine if you had nothing else to do all day, learn to live without them while you recharge your energy so that you can enjoy them all the more tomorrow.
8. Establish a routine, then repeat, and again
It is more than possible to train your mind to anticipate and expect sleep by going through a pre-slumber routine every night.
This might include; lighting a scented candle, some gentle stretching, reflecting on the positive aspects of the day or closing off the negative ones, playing soothing music or a favourite song.
It can be anything that suits you but try and repeat the routine each night before you try to sleep, your mind will finally accept what its senses are telling it... it’s sleep time, shut down for the evening.
9. Don’t think you can catch up at the weekend
You cannot replace lost sleep through the week with a slumberfest at the weekend.
Everyone loves their weekend lie in but you are neither storing up nor recovering sleeping hours that are lost on other nights.
In fact, if possible, you should try and maintain your sleeping routines through every night of the week.
Yeah, we know that’s not going to happen, but we said it anyway.
10. Make it habit-forming
Habits can be good as well as bad and getting into good habits which improve your health can only benefit you in the long run.
The more you become used to your particular strategy for getting to sleep and staying there the easier it will be and the less thought and effort you will expend on achieving that goal.
Habitual good behaviour does not come without effort and strength of will, but once it does, the rest is, literally, easy.
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