Between our devices blinking lights and our work-heavy lifestyles, it’s rare that we get enough sleep. But did you know that lack of sleep can have long-term health effects? We all know the grumpiness and gritty eyes, but some effects are more insidious. For example, lack of sleep can increase your risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, shorten your life expectancy, and damage your fertility.
Some medical conditions can affect sleep, but the main cause of lack of sleep in the UK is poor sleeping habits.
How much sleep do I need?
Generally, most people need about eight hours quality sleep a night to function well the next day. However everyone is slightly different, so you may need less or more – the important thing is to find out how much you do need. As a rule of thumb, if you feel sleepy in the afternoon, or irritable, you probably need more sleep.
How do I get this good sleep, anyway?
There are several things you should do to try to ensure a good night’s sleep:
- Try to develop a sleep schedule that works for you, and stick to it. Yes, even at weekends. Avoid napping in the afternoon; even a short nap can interfere with a normal bedtime.
- Create a relaxing bedtime ritual. Turn your computer and phone off at least an hour before bed. Have a soothing, non-caffeinated hot drink. Consider indulging in a warm bath or reading for a bit.
- Do some exercise during the day. We need to be physically as well as mentally tired. But don’t exercise vigorously just before going to bed – it may well get your blood up and make you more wakeful!
- Think about your bedroom. Environment is very important for good sleep. Your bedroom should be cool, quiet and dark. Turn off devices on standby, and make sure you have good curtains to cut out outside light. Keep your bedroom for sleep. This strengthens the subconscious link between bedroom and sleep and can help avoid insomnia.
- Buy the most comfortable mattress and pillows you can afford. Physical comfort is really helpful. A mattress should support you, and pillows shouldn’t give you neck ache! If you suffer from allergies, consider non-allergenic pillows or duvet.
- Alcohol, caffeine and heavy, spicy meals should be avoided just before going to bed. All of these things can act as a stimulant, or give you indigestion – not helpful for a good night’s sleep!
I can’t sleep! Now what?
If you still can’t sleep, the best thing to do is to get up and go and do something else until you feel tired. Don’t stay in the bedroom – head into another room. Try not to turn on your computer, or start to work.
I feel like I haven’t had a really good night’s sleep for ages. If I go to bed early one night, will that catch me up on my sleep?
One night won’t be enough – it can take several weeks to recover from the effects of prolonged poor sleep. Just try to add an hour each night, starting on a weekend, perhaps. Go to bed when you feel tired, and wake up when your body wakes up. You may well find yourself sleeping 10 hours or more at first!
Still having sleep problems? Are you sleeping a lot but still feeling tired and fatigued? Speak to one of our certified Medical Experts today.