At least a third of the population of the UK does not regularly get a good night’s sleep. While the occasional sleepless night will do nothing more than make you feel weary and grumpy the next day, prolonged spells of poor sleep can develop into a significant health hazard.
Sleep patterns vary due to age, gender, lifestyle, diet and a myriad of other factors. The bottom line is, what does a good night’s sleep mean for you?RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
The problems of not getting a good night’s sleep
If you do suffer from insomnia then you will know the symptoms. Nights lying awake waiting for the morning to come. Waking up in the small hours, knowing that you have only had two hours sleep and being aware that the time to get up is fast approaching.
Feeling irritable all day and falling apart at the smallest problem. Feeling as if your body is incapable of performing anywhere close to its best and your mind can’t get beyond 3rd gear.
Then there is the problem of long term mental and physical health issues that arise from perpetual insomnia. When you are tired you succumb to illness more readily. You lose the ability to make rational decisions. Your personal life and sex life can become affected and your relationships with work colleagues, family and friends can become frayed and will suffer.
By contrast, if you are lucky enough to always get a good night’s sleep, then you will reap the benefits. A clear head in the morning, an ability to concentrate at work, feeling alert at the desk, feeling fit in the gym.
Your body will be well-placed to fight the inevitable bugs and illnesses that attack us. Sleep is the body’s recovery time and as we sleep, muscles, nerves and organs will have seven or eight hours to repair cells and rebuild energy levels.
Curse of insomnia
So what simple steps can you take to get a good night’s sleep?
As someone who suffers the odd sleepless episodes, I find that insomnia follows a pattern. Something causes me to feel stressed so I go to bed feeling edgy and unable to clear my mind.
As I lie awake the worry transfers from the initial problem to a new stress – the fact I can’t get to sleep. “I can’t sleep, I will feel rubbish in the morning.”
The following night, the pressure to sleep intensifies and I go to bed feeling anxious about not sleeping – this leads to sleepless night number two.
The third night is make or break; I either manage to get a good night’s sleep and all is okay, or I suffer a third night of insomnia and end up with a cold or worse.
How to sleep better? 4 steps to get better sleep:
Before reaching that stage though, I have also found that taking the following steps can have a positive effect and break the pattern of insomnia.
– Avoid drinks containing caffeine or alcohol in the evening. Alcohol is often seen as the way to getting a good night’s sleep but I have found the reverse to be true.
-Don’t do exercise later in the evening. The adrenaline and raised heart rate means your body remains in a highly invigorated state for a number of hours after the workout. Try to do your exercise in the morning or afternoon if possible.
– Don’t eat a heavy meal late at night. While the general advice is to avoid cheese as a late night snack, I would suggest trying to avoid all food for a couple of hours before bedtime. Whatever you eat, your body will be busy digesting it, so sleep will not be a priority for your body’s systems.
– Try to relax before going to bed by reading or listening to chilled music. Turn computers, televisions and any other electric devices off well before you plan to go to sleep, and don’t leave any electrical advices flashing their green light at you in the bedroom.
Which leads to my final piece of advice: turn your bedroom into a sanctuary. Try to make this the room that you associate with relaxation. This means don’t take work to the bedroom, don’t watch late night television in the bedroom – in effect keep the bedroom for the two things it is meant for.