Sleep, it’s one of the easiest things in the world. Climb into bed, fall asleep, wake up after eight hours feeling tickety boo. Simples.
You would think.
According to recent research by Silentnight and the University of Leeds ahead of World Sleep Day, a quarter of us Brits are only getting five hours sleep a night or less, and the average person is losing an astounding 15 days’ worth of sleep every year.
What’s stopping us sleeping?
While we know that our pre-bed actions can have an impact on our ZZZs – that sneaky before bed coffee, too many glasses of vino, scrolling social media after lights out – experts believe there are some fundamental sleep mishaps we’re making that are keeping us from getting the shut eye we so desperately need.
Here are the 9 sleep mistakes that are totally sabotaging our ZZZs.
1. Starving yourself
“Eating a big meal before bed increases your metabolic rate and subsequently interferes with attaining deep sleep,” explains Hope Bastine, Simba’s sleep expert.
“But, if you’ve ever woken up with the midnight munchies because you’ve skipped dinner altogether, the hunger pangs can be just as disruptive to your sleep cycle.”
Hope recommends eating a light meal no less than two hours before you plan to sleep which is rich in magnesium, tryptophan, and serotonin such as cheese, mackerel, turkey, cherries, and nuts which all cascade toward melatonin production.
2. Rushing to bed
After a long stressful day, it can be all too easy to shed your clothes and collapse into bed (naked of course!). “But, we need to coax the sleep hormone, melatonin into activity gently if we want to get good sleep,” warns Hope Bastine.
She says we need to dull down our interaction with the environment at least one hour before bed. “Turn down the lights, sit in the garden, or take a long bath to help wind your mind and body down for the night,” she explains.
3. Skipping breakfast
You might think that what you eat when you wake couldn’t possibly have an impact on you’re the amount of ZZZs you get 14 hours later, but not having breakfast is a surprising cause of poor sleep.
“I see lots of people struggle with eating early in the morning but skipping it will put everything, including your sleep out of sync,” explains Silentnight’s sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan.
“Not ‘breaking the fast’ leaves your body running on the wrong kind of energy throughout the day, but by having breakfast you stabilise your blood sugar while activating your body’s circadian timer, which allows it to make more of the sleep hormone melatonin later in the day.”
Dr Ramlakhan says eating something as small as eight almonds and two dates is enough to kick start your body and lead to deep, restorative sleep.
4. Getting up and ‘doing’ something
Believe it or not when you’re wrestling with the pillow and frustrated with your busy-bed-head then getting up to ‘not waste time and accomplish something’ is counterintuitive.
“It’s likely that you haven’t given yourself enough time and space to wind down for the night and you aren’t ready to rest,” explains Hope Bastine.
Instead of tossing and turning, she suggests getting up and going somewhere quiet, keeping the lights low. “Do something that relaxes you like reading a book, or listening to sleep meditation, or an audio bedtime story while resting your eyes.”
According to Hope cultivating the art of doing nothing is the best thing you can do for a restful night’s sleep.
5. Tolerating the snore
Unsurprsingly, discomfort, light and noise are all enemies of sleep. “If you have a partner that snores you can lose up to 6 years of sleep in your lifetime,” says Hope Bastine.
“While your partner may be getting deep sleep, you are suffering which may contribute to feelings of frustration and resentment towards your other half.”
She suggest broaching the subject with your other half and even presenting them with anti-snore devices such as the VitalSleep or The Good Morning Snore Solution.
6. Neglecting your sleep environment
“You might think you are taking every step to make sure you are getting a good night’s sleep but so many people neglect the most obvious thing, their sleep environment,” advises Dr Ramlakhan. “Recent research has shown that nearly half of us are sleeping on old or second hand mattresses and I believe this is dramatically impacting the quality of people’s sleep.”
“A good environment is an essential part of getting deep, restorative sleep and this means everything from the right light and temperature in your bedroom to the right comfort of mattress,” she continues.
“Everyone has different sleep needs, so find something that works for you and turn your bedroom into a calming space that you really want to spend time in, I guarantee you’ll sleep better.”
7. Labelling yourself a ‘bad’ sleeper
You are what you sleep! Deep sleeper, light sleeper, insomniac…we are all different in our unique ways and our sleep needs vary to our Chronotype. “When you give yourself the ‘bad sleeper’ identity, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and you subconsciously behave in ways that support that belief,” explains Hope Bastine.
“It may not, in fact, be that you are a bad sleeper but rather you have a different Chronotype.”
Simba have devised a sleep quiz to help you find out what your sleep animal is. Knowing this can help you be more reflective about adjusting your sleep hygiene behaviours to better suit your genetic predisposition.
8. Withdrawing Into to your cave
When you’re suffering from sleep-loss it can be tempting to shut yourself away from the sleeping-well world, but isolation can actually contribute to low mood and insomnia.
“Even if you are tired and grumpy when you get in from work try just having a cuddle in bed with your partner even if you aren’t up to any other intimacy,” suggests Hope Bastine.
“The human touch from a loved-one released the hormone Oxytocin which not only makes you feel close and satisfied in your relationship but also releases tension and stress making you feel relaxed enough to fall asleep.”
9. Replying to emails in bed
Though its tempting to fire off one last email before bed, this can play havoc with your sleep cycle. “I see so many people who can’t sleep but spend their evenings catching up on emails they haven’t managed to respond to during the day. This is a big mistake, and more often than not the reason they feel tired all the time,” says Dr Ramlakhan.
“When we look at our phone or a computer screen our brain mentally responds to the blue light they emit, waking us up and making it impossible to unwind and prepare for sleep,” she e explains.
According to Dr Ramlakhan checking emails before bed is a recipe for disaster if you want to sleep well.
“It might be a tough habit to break but if you’re serious about getting a good night’s sleep log out of your emails and put down your phone 60-90 minutes before bed to allow your brain to switch off.”
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