Like proper nutrition and exercise, sleep fulfils a vital role in keeping us healthy and happy. We spoke to Lisa Artis, sleep guru at The Sleep Council, for her expert advice and top tips on how to get a better night’s sleep.
“We need a good night’s sleep to ensure we’re feeling fit, thinking sharply and generally to give us the appetite and enthusiasm to make the most of everyday living.” says Liz Artis, the chief adviser to the Sleep Council.
“However, sleep isn’t taken as seriously by many people, despite poor sleep and fatigue being common problems, affecting millions world-wide.
“If sleep deprivation mounts up, people start getting sleepy during the day. They find it more difficult to make decisions, make more mistakes, have shorter tempers, slower reflexes and so on.
“This can in some instances become dangerous – especially if driving or operating heavy machinery.”
Ten tips for a better night’s sleep
1. Keep regular hours – Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time, all the time, will programme your body to sleep better.
2. Create a restful sleeping environment – Your bedroom should be kept for rest and sleep and it should be neither too hot, nor too cold; and as quiet and dark as possible. Make sure the room is gadget free and tidy away any clutter.
3. Your mattress matters – It’s difficult to get deep, restful sleep on a bed that’s too soft, too hard, too small or too old. Research shows that an uncomfortable mattress can rob you of up to one hour’s sleep per night.
4. Take more exercise – Regular, moderate exercise such as swimming or walking can help relieve the day’s stresses and strains. But not too close to bedtime or it may keep you awake!
5. Avoid stimulants – Don’t end up compensating for lack of sleep by going too heavy on stimulants such as caffeine in tea, coffee or cola – especially in the evening. They interfere with falling asleep and prevent deep sleep. Have a hot milky drink or herbal tea instead.
6. Don’t over-indulge – Too much food or alcohol, especially late at night, just before bedtime, can play havoc with sleep patterns. Alcohol may help you fall asleep initially, but will interrupt your sleep later on in the night.
7. Don’t smoke – Yes, it’s bad for sleep, too: smokers take longer to fall asleep, wake more often and often experience more sleep disruption.
8. Try to relax – Insist on some ‘me time’ before going to bed. Have a warm bath, listen to some quiet music, do some yoga – all help to relax both the mind and body. Your doctor may be able to recommend a helpful relaxation tape, too.
9. Deal with worries – When faced with concerns or a heavy workload by making lists of things to be tackled the next day, and resolve arguments before bed. Ongoing conflicts are not conducive to putting you in the right frame of mind for sleep!
10. If in doubt – If you can’t sleep, don’t lie there worrying about it. Get up and do something you find relaxing until you feel sleepy again – then go back to bed.
For more sleep tips, please visit sleepcouncil.org.uk
About the expert
Lisa Artis is chief adviser to The Sleep Council (an impartial organisation which looks at how you can adopt healthier sleep habits and focuses on raising awareness of a good night’s sleep to health and wellbeing).
As a qualified children’s sleep practitioner and experienced sleep adviser, Lisa has worked in the realm of sleep for more than seven years. Heading up the day to day running of The Sleep Council, Lisa plays a proactive role in national campaigns including Sleeptember (which runs through the month of September to highlight the benefits of a good night’s sleep) and National Sleep In Day in the autumn (it’s the day the clocks go back when we all get an extra hour in bed!), as well as National Bed Month in March.