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Beat insomnia and ‘semi-somnia’ with the perfect sleep environment

Kim Hookem-Smith
Yahoo Lifestyle
26 November 2012


Millions of people in the UK will suffer with insomnia at some point in their lives and new research has suggested that even more of us deal with its nagging younger sibling – semi-somnia.

Semi-somnia is defined as a chronic over-tiredness caused by hectic lifestyles and being on the go 24/7. If you regularly wake up feeling unrested, find it hard to nod off, or find yourself cutting down on sleep to fit in other things then you might be a sufferer.

There’s plenty of advice out there for helping you get a better night’s sleep but many of us don’t have time to heed it or let other things in our life take over. But chronic tiredness has been linked to everything from marriage breakdown to driving accidents.

For many of us, it’s all about making small changes a little at a time. We teamed up with Time4Sleep to talk to Lisa Artis from The Sleep Council to find out how to get the first thing right – the bedroom.

She revealed how important it is to get your sleeping environment right, taking into consideration all your senses and their needs.


[Related: Five ways to sleep well this winter]


Here are her Top 5 tips for getting your bedroom set for a blissful night’s sleep:

Sight


Keep the bedroom clean, clear and distraction-free. It is not a dumping ground for the rest of the house; it should be a haven of calm and relaxation. Darkness is conducive for a good night's sleep because light signals to your body that it's time to get up. When it's dark, your body releases a hormone called melatonin which helps you to relax and drift into a deep sleep - one reason to be thankful for those dark autumn nights!

If light pollution is an issue, hanging dense curtains or blackout blinds can help. Otherwise, an eye mask can be used to block out that sleep-stealing light.

Hearing

As part of your mission to create the perfect sleep environment, you should eliminate noise as much as possible. This may mean ensuring the windows in the bedroom are double-glazed as sudden loud noises disrupt sleep. Or there is a cheaper option: a pair of ear muffs or foam ear plugs work well to shut out noise.

Low, steady sounds are soothing and help to block out other noises, so unwinding with relaxation tapes or specific ‘white noise’ tapes could help you to sleep better.

The things you find relaxing might surprise others - footballer Wayne Rooney was famously quoted as saying he liked the sound of a vacuum cleaner or his wife’s hairdryer in the background to help him drift off to sleep – so experiment to discover what works for you.


[Related: The real reason you're tired all the time]


Touch

You need to get the temperature right if you want to sleep well. Ensure your room's not too hot or too cold, too stuffy or too draughty as you'll end up struggling to drop off or waking up in the night.
 
A comfortable bed is vital. Make sure yours is not too soft, too hard, too small or too old - The Sleep Council recommends changing your bed every seven years. The right bed will offer the correct support and comfort level, and will give you the space you need.

Once you're in your ideal bed you will wake less often in the night, you'll move about less because you won't have to keep trying to get comfy, you'll be less disturbed by your partner and you will be less likely to wake up feeling tired or achy.
 
Don't overlook your bedding; make sure it provides enough warmth for the time of year and that your pillow is both comfortable and supportive. 

Taste

Chamomile tea is a good natural aid to sleep as it is renowned for its calming properties, but a warm milky drink or other caffeine-free herbal tea may help you to drift off too. Don't drink alcohol in an attempt to get to sleep quicker - it may cause you to drop off but it'll only interrupt your sleep later. 


[Related: Six things not to do before bed]


Smell

The relaxing smell of lavender could help turn your bedroom into the perfect environment for sleep. Consider lavender scented candles or oils, but bear in mind that lavender should never be used during pregnancy - like many other oils - so check with a health care professional before incorporating them into your night time routine. And obviously make sure you blow out any candles before you drop off - the scent will remain for a while so you will still get the benefit.

There are plenty of other changes that can help you sleep better, such as avoiding back-lit screens in the hours leading up to bed and writing down your worries before you turn out the lights to prevent you dwelling on them. But creating an environment where all your senses are happy gives you the best head start to a restful night.

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