rendan Street, Clinical Lead for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy at Nuffield Health explains how to get better sleep
No matter what research we read, Brits are not getting enough sleep – nowhere near enough. In fact, nearly half of us are getting six hours or less of the good stuff a night.
We all need our sleep, it helps us to function better as human beings, look better and generally live better, according to research by the National Centre for Social Research and Oxford Economics for the Sainsbury’s 2017 Living Well Index. The study found that sleep was the strongest indicator of living well, more so than having four times as much disposable income.
But there is no need to suffer in pitch black silence anymore, how exactly can we stop the cycle of bad sleep?
“Most of us will experience a lack of quality sleep at some time, and for some this endures over the long-term,” explains Brendan Street, Clinical Lead for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy at Nuffield Health.
“Getting to the root of the problem is important, and small adaptations to your lifestyle can make a big difference to your sleep too.
“There are two main interventions – stimulus control and sleep hygiene.”
Street believes there is a step by step process to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Sleep – The bed should be reserved for sleep and sex only. To strengthen the connection between the bed and sleeping you need to associate it with sleeping. The more things you do in bed – such as read, eat, use a smartphone, watch TV – the weaker that connection becomes.
Observe – Whilst in bed observe the feel of the mattress and the comfort of the pillows – try to make all the sensations associated with the bed and sleep as vivid as possible.
Unable to sleep – If you can’t sleep after 15 minutes, apply the quarter of an hour rule. Get up, get out of bed and go to a different room and do something not stimulating for 20 minutes, then return to bed. Repeat this until you sleep.
No napping – Ban any daytime napping to strengthen the connection between night-time and sleep.
Decide a routine – If you go to bed at 11pm, always have a fixed rising time no matter how well you sleep.
Alcohol and nicotine – Both will interfere with sleep so limit these before bed.
Sleep environment – Make sure the bedroom is dark enough, comfy enough and quiet enough for you to sleep well, with good air quality and an appropriate temperature for sleep.
Leave it out – Leave laptops, smart phones, television and paperwork out of the bedroom.
Exercise regularly – Around an hour of exercise a day will help but leave a buffer period of at least 2 hours before bed.
Eat a balanced diet – Wakefulness can be caused by hunger but going to bed too full can cause wakefulness. Make sure you consume a balanced diet and leave at least 2 hours after eating a large meal before going to bed.
Plan for sleep – Children sleep well when they have a routine associated with bedtime and so do we. Try to develop a wind down routine at least 60 minutes before bed and have a bath or listen to relaxing music.