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Whether you’d consider yourself a sleep prodigy or a night-time novice, at the Sleep Matters Club we know catching the right amount of zzz’s isn’t easy. That’s why we’ve put together the Sleep Health Calculator, with 10 simple questions to measure your bedtime choices and sleep quality, followed by our expert solutions to help you drift off to the land of nod.
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Congratulations, you sleep guru! Looks like you’ve mastered the art of slumber and won’t be needing our help. But if you’d like to further improve upon your sleep quality, read on for some additional advice from our sleep experts!
Turns out you sleep pretty well, but it could be better. Consider making small changes to your daily routine to catch those extra zzz’s. For example, take a look at how many hours of sleep you get, your caffeine intake and the comfort of your bed to achieve a perfect night’s sleep. Read on for some simple solutions from our sleep experts.
Yikes! Your sleep health is significantly suffering and it’s a mystery how you’re still able to function. Whether this low score is due to stress, caffeine, technology or your bed, read on for our simple solutions from our sleep experts to help you get a much needed good night’s sleep!
What Can You Do?
Although you’ve probably heard it many times before, the Sleep Health Foundation recommends getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night if you’re an adult, roughly 8-10 hours for teenagers and around 9-11 hours for children. This allows your body to recover from the day’s activities and restore your energy for the next morning.
There are a small percentage of adults known as ‘short sleepers’ who can survive on 6 hours of sleep or less and do not feel the effects of sleep deprivation, however too little sleep comes with some alarming side effects. For example, sleep deprivation has often been linked to obesity, heart disease and diabetes, not to mention a drowsy day at work.
Even though it’s difficult to set aside extra time for sleep, especially with a busy schedule, try to put sleep higher up on your priorities and schedule roughly 8 hours every night.
You might find this really useful: www.dreams.co.uk/sleep-matters-club/what-happens-to-your-body-during-8-hours-of-sleep-2/
While, for most of us, caffeine may seem like an essential part of your day, it can prohibit a good night’s sleep and could be what’s keeping you up at night.
It’s recommended to avoid all caffeinated products, whether that be coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or caffeinated soft drinks for roughly six hours before you hit the sheets. This is because, once in the body, only one half of your caffeine intake is eliminated after 6 hours. So if you plan to go to bed at around 11pm, have your last brew before 5 and say no to the nightcap.
It’s also important to note that while caffeine is useful for making you feel more alert and blocking the sleep-inducing chemicals in your brain, it cannot and should not replace sleep. So make sure you still pencil in the recommended eight hours.
Here’s a little more info on caffeine before bed: www.dreams.co.uk/sleep-matters-club/6-ways-to-improve-your-sleep-quality/
It’s often hard to say no to our beloved furry friends, but sharing your bed with your pet can have a negative impact on your sleep quality. Studies show that 63% of pet owners who share their bed with their four-legged friend experience poor sleep. Despite the obvious sleep disruptions through the tossing, turning and possible barking, sharing your bed with your pet increases the risk of skin infections. It also has terrible effects on those who suffer from asthma or allergies.
Not to mention, most animals follow a polyphasic sleep cycle, meaning they sleep multiple times around the clock. So it’s very unlikely your pet will remain asleep for the 8 hours you do.
To improve your sleep health, and overall health, try and train your pet to adjust to sleeping alone in their own bed and you’ll soon see the benefits!
You might find this infographic quite helpful: www.dreams.co.uk/sleep-matters-club/7-sleeping-mistakes-infographic/
Although the snooze button seems to be your faithful friend, it can have bad consequences on your sleep health. So even though those stolen minutes may feel great at the time, any extra sleep you achieve after hitting snooze is fragmented, meaning it’s not going to be great quality. The fact you’re also preparing your body for a sleep cycle it won’t finish means you’re likely to feel drowsy throughout the day.
In addition to this, if you sleep after the beep, you’re training your body to disregard your alarm. Although it seems harmless now, it could lead to sleeping through many early morning meetings.
To solve this, set your alarm for when you actually need to get up and force yourself to get out of bed. Also try and set it for the same time each day, so you eventually will be able to wake up at this time naturally without an alarm.
For other gadgets that can help you wake up, see this: www.dreams.co.uk/sleep-matters-club/5-apps-gadgets-help-achieve-natural-sleep/
As another nightcap that we regularly indulge in, alcohol surprisingly prohibits sleep. Although it induces a drowsy effect which actually allows you to fall asleep quicker, even a couple of drinks increase the chance of waking up during the night.
This is because alcohol reduces REM sleep, which is the stage of sleep involved with deep dreaming. These disruptions in REM sleep can often result in daytime drowsiness. This, combined with a hangover, isn’t going to lead to much productivity.
A tip for resolving this, is to avoid alcohol before bed as it takes roughly an hour for a unit of alcohol to be processed. That’s roughly a half pint of beer and just less than a small glass of wine. So try and have your last beverage during dinner.
If you’re still after a night cap, opt for a herbal tea which can be a natural sedative. You might also find this article handy: www.dreams.co.uk/sleep-matters-club/the-science-behind-why-alcohol-is-bad-before-bed/
In this day and age, tech free time seems almost impossible and around 78% of people use a smartphone, tablet or laptop before going to bed. As comfortable as it is to watch television or browse the internet in bed, this can unfortunately result in poor sleep. This is because phones, television, laptops and tablets emit blue light and exposure to this blue light results in a delay of melatonin production, which is the sleep-inducing hormone.
To solve this, give yourself a tech curfew and try to avoid using technology for roughly 2 hours before you go to bed. During this time, you could read, write, meditate, or even play a game with your partner or family. If you want to take it a step further, it’s beneficial to keep technology out of the bedroom while you sleep, just in case your phone goes off during the night.
This article looks at blue light a little more: www.dreams.co.uk/sleep-matters-club/should-childrens-bedrooms-be-no-tv-zone/
Even though it’s convenient on a super busy day, having a late dinner could be the cause of your sleep problems. Studies have shown that eating certain foods before bed can negatively impact your sleep quality and even increase the chances of heart burn.
Sammy Margo, author of the Good Sleep Guide says ‘if you plan to eat a heavy meal, you need a good few hours for it to digest.’ So we recommend leaving it roughly 3-4 hours to let the food clear the stomach.
If, however, you’re still feeling peckish before bed, we recommend snacking on foods which contain tryptophan. For example, yogurt, milk, bananas, eggs and turkey are all high in tryptophan. This helps the body produce serotonin, which in turn makes melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone.
For more sleep-inducing foods, click here: www.dreams.co.uk/sleep-matters-club/5-easy-midnight-snack-recipes-to-help-you-sleep/
An old mattress could be the culprit if you’re suffering from sleepless nights. Aged mattresses eventually lose their support, which often leads to soreness, aches and back pain, consequently keeping you up overnight. Not only this, but an old mattress is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, mould, bed bugs otherwise known as Cimex Lectularius and dust mites. For example, up to a terrifying 10 million dust mites can gather in an old mattress to feed on dead skin cells.
To avoid this fearful fate, we recommend replacing your mattress every 8 years. This can help you keep good mattress hygiene and avoid the structure sagging and dipping, so your pressure points can remain consistently supported and you can get a good night’s sleep.
We also recommend turning and rotating your mattress throughout its lifespan to regularly air it out to maintain its comfort and hygiene for those 8 years.
Here’s some further info: www.dreams.co.uk/sleep-matters-club/what-happens-to-your-mattress-over-time-survey/
The state of your sheets and your sleep environment can also play a huge role in your sleep quality and not changing your bedding regularly enough can contribute to health problems such as allergies or asthma. Because of the dead skin cells that you shed every night, sleeping in unwashed sheets can attract dust mites that feed off of the cells and result in infections or worsened breathing for asthmatic people.
Shockingly enough, in a recent study, one in ten adults confessed to only washing their bedding once a month! However, microbiologist Laura Bowater recommends washing sheets once a week at a minimum of 60 degrees to kill all the bacteria.
Aside from the potential germs, washing your bedding helps you obtain greater peace of mind. A study by the National Sleep Foundation confirms that people sleep much better when their bedrooms are comfortable and clean.
To learn more about bacteria that lives in your bed, read this: www.dreams.co.uk/sleep-matters-club/health-risks-of-an-old-mattress/
Stress is a huge factor in keeping people awake at night and many of us toss and turn due to anxiety. Unfortunately, chronic stress results in less sleep, which in turn releases more stress hormones, so it’s a difficult cycle to break.
As much as we’d like to avoid it, feeling stressed at some point is inevitable. While we can’t get rid of stress completely, there are some measures you can take to ease it. For example, to relieve stress Dr Susan Biali recommends exercising more often. This releases endorphins and triggers a positive feeling in your body. You could also try to avoid having too many coffees throughout the day, as caffeine is a stimulant often associated with anxiety.
Other immediate solutions to ease stress during bedtime include deep breathing, meditation and yoga techniques to help you relax.
Here are some more tips you might find useful: www.dreams.co.uk/sleep-matters-club/reduce-anxiety-better-nights-sleep/
Here’s also an article to demonstrate some helpful yoga positions: www.dreams.co.uk/sleep-matters-club/how-to-use-yoga-to-help-you-get-a-good-nights-sleep/