How to get a good night’s sleep
We’re bang in the middle of National Bed Month 2016, organised by the Sleep Council to promote the benefits of sleep. Here’s how grabbing some quality Zzzzzs at night can reap rewards during the day. Ask any doctor and they’ll tell you that one of the best things you can do for your health and wellbeing is to get a good night’s sleep. But knowing you should do something and actually doing it can be two different things. Many of us don’t enjoy good sleep and, over time, this sleep deprivation can cause problems, both mentally and physically.
Why do we sleep?
What do Margaret Thatcher, Martha Stewart and Google CEO Marissa Mayer have in common (apart from all having names that begin with M, of course)? They, along with many other highly influential people, all get (or got) by on a mere four hours’ sleep a night. So should we all be sacrificing shut-eye for success? Well, no… although after centuries of research the scientists still don’t know exactly why we sleep, they are all broadly agreed that we need it to allow our minds and our bodies to recuperate and recover after a busy day. Not getting enough of it can be a problem, leading to:
- Lack of alertness and impaired memory
- Moodiness and grumpiness
- Increased risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes
- Even a decreased life span
So that’s a fair few good reasons to get your head down.
How to get to sleep
According to a recent report in the Guardian, there are loads of sleeping tips you can use to help you snooze. These range from ‘doing a Pavlov’ and conditioning yourself to fall asleep to a certain piece of music, to keeping a notebook by the bed to write down everything that’s worrying you, so freeing your mind to shut down and relax. Ditching the iPad in favour of an old-fashioned book (we know, so last millennium) is another good idea, as the blue light it emits causes your brain to produce less melatonin, which is the hormone that sends us off to the land of Nod. And while a little nightcap might help you drop off, the alcohol in the drink can interfere with your regular sleep patterns, so it’s best to avoid a pre-bedtime tipple if you want a restful night.
How much sleep
It’s not a perfect science but sleep needs do vary with age. The newest guidelines recommend from 14-17 hours a day for newborns, to just 7 hours for the over-65s. Teenagers and young adults (up to 25) could do with 8-10 hours a day, so when your 16-year-old tells you they really can’t get up at 7am, they might not be crying wolf!
Is your bed giving you nightmares?
If you’re not sleeping as well or for as long as you should be, it could be your bed that’s the problem. Experts recommend that you replace your mattress every eight years, and according to the Sleep Council, simply swapping your mattress can grab you an extra 42 minutes of sleep a night – that’s over 10 more days of slumber a year. So if you’re tossing and turning every night, trying to get comfy enough to get to sleep, or if you find yourself sniffing and sneezing when you’re in bed (dust mites are a major allergy trigger and your old mattress could be full of them), then it’s time for a new one.
Choosing the best mattress for your needs comes down to individual taste. Memory foam mattresses mould to your body while you sleep for maximum support, while pocket spring mattresses are great for those who share a bed with a partner bigger (or smaller) than them as they stop you rolling into each other. You can find out more about what to look for in our handy mattress buying guide.
Like mattresses, the size and type of bed you sleep on are totally personal. In the UK, most of us (48%) plump for a double bed, with 31% preferring the extra room of a king size. Divan beds top the frame charts at 63%, while 33% choose a bedstead and mattress combo for their sweet dreams. Not sure which you’d go for? You can see the full range of DFS beds here. Here our some of our favourite frames:
Fun facts about sleep
- Did you know that how you sleep could reflect your personality?
- Foetal (curled round) – gruff but warm and open hearted
- Log (on your side in a straight line) – social butterflies
- Soldier (flat on your back) – reserved
- Starfish (yup, you’re the duvet hog) – excellent listeners
- Koalas are the laziest animals, sleeping on average 22 hours a day while giraffes clock up a paltry 1.9 hours a day.
- Sea otters sleep holding hands so they don’t drift off from the group while snoozing
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