We’ve got the low down from the experts on all your snooze-related issues so you can fall asleep in peace
How did you sleep last night? The answer for many of us is not well, it seems, as research shows that half of UK adults aren’t getting enough rest. Alarmingly (no pun intended), 38 percent of people say they lie awake at night fretting, and almost a third confess that they’ve fallen asleep at work. So, we put your sleep problems to the experts to put all your worries to bed (as it were) once and for all.
“It’s normal to take up to 20 minutes to fall asleep,” says Lisa Artis of the Sleep Council (sleepcouncil.org.uk). “However, if it’s taking much longer, it may be worth considering if you’re going to bed at the right time for you. One of the more common reasons why we struggle to nod off is because we have trouble relaxing and turning off our thoughts. Is there something on your mind? If so, write it down – whether that’s worries or even a to-do list. If a racing mind is stopping you from falling asleep, practise some deep breathing techniques. Don’t try to sleep – it needs to find you. Keep your eyes open and gently resist slumber or try to adopt a carefree, accepting attitude to wakefulness. If you can’t get to sleep within 15 minutes from switching the light off, get up and go to another room and do something relaxing.”
“If you’re menopausal, then hot flushes during the day and sweats at night are usually the result of hormonal fluctuations,” explains Alison Cullen, nutritional therapist at A.Vogel (avogel.co.uk). “Taking sage extract, such as Menoforce (£12.99, avogel.co.uk), can help – have it with dinner if night is your main problem time. Eat your evening meal earlier and make it light – have a bigger lunch to compensate. Avoid caffeine after midday and alcohol in the evening, and steer clear of salty or sugary snacks before bed. These are all triggers for hotter, sweatier nights, as well as disturbing palpitations and acid reflux. Make sure you drink plenty of water during the day to compensate for fluid lost in sweats. If flushes and sweats aren’t responding to remedies, check your thyroid function with your doctor.”
“Mid-sleep awakenings often occur during periods of stress and anxiety, therefore it’s important to make sure that you follow a good bedtime routine,” Lisa explains. “Relax fully, avoid caffeine and alcohol, make your bedroom a conducive environment for sleep and ensure your bed is comfortable and supportive. Keeping a sleep diary will help to pinpoint if you’re consistently waking at a similar time and whether it relates to factors such as what you’ve done that day and what you’ve eaten to see if there is any pattern. If you do find yourself awake in the middle of the night, don’t lie there staring at the ceiling. It won’t help you fall asleep, in fact it’s likely to make you more restless. Instead get out of bed, go into a dimly lit room and read a couple of chapters from a book, listen to some soothing music or make yourself a cup of chamomile tea.”
“We fall into two camps – those who are more alert earlier in the day and those who don’t like mornings but can keep going through the night,” Lisa tells us. “If you’re a night owl, chances are you’d struggle to be productive by rising early. There are some steps you can take to help you feel more sleepy in an evening. Develop a maintainable wind down routine and try to keep to a regular bedtime. Your biological clock regulates your wake and sleep cycle but sometimes it can get out of sync, so try using a light box in the morning to help you feel awake. At night, ensure your room is dark – use blackout blinds, heavy lined curtains or an eye mask. Also start dimming lights in the evening, this helps to increase the production of melatonin (the hormone we need to feel sleepy).”