Move aside clean eating, sleeping better is now the fastest growing health ambition among UK adults. According to a recent survey, over a third (37%) of adults in the UK say they don’t get enough sleep – more than any other country surveyed – making us some of the worst sleepers in the world.
Of course we’ve all experienced the cranky, irritable behaviour that accompanies tiredness, but regular poor sleep can also have an impact on our health. We asked Dr Tim Paget for his top six tips for a better night’s sleep.
1. Eat well
What you eat and drink can affect your sleep. Some foods such as fatty, fried or spicy foods can tax or upset the stomach and keep you awake at night. Eat light foods in the evening and avoid stimulants like alcohol or caffeine. And don’t eat or drink alcohol close to bedtime!
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2. Adopt a routine
Bedtime routines aren’t just for kids. Have a regular bedtime that will fit with your body’s internal clock and its daily variations in temperature and cortisol levels. Unwind before bed with a daily routine such as a relaxing drink, meditating – even writing down worries and reminders for the next day so they don’t plague you at night.
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3. Meditate for sleep
Studies show that by paying attention to the present through mindful practices we can cultivate position emotions which in turn help us sleep. Before bed, foster mindfulness with a simple meditation exercise by taking a long, deep breath in through the nose, then slowly releasing the air through the mouth. Far from being for monks and hippies, meditation is widely used by the world’s most successful people.
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4. Avoid alcohol
Drinking alcohol may induce sleep but it can radically reduce the quality of sleep. Aside from being a diuretic and making you prone to night-time toilet trips, studies show it affect reduce rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, an important regular part of the sleep cycle, during the course of the night. Drinking also relaxes the muscles in your throat leading to snoring and so wakefulness.
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5. Switch off
Modern devices such as phones and energy saving light bulbs emit blue light which can interfere with the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and trick our bodies into thinking it’s time to be up and about. To maintain your sleep pattern, dim the lights and implement a techno-curfew an hour before bedtime. You may also want to turn your clock away from you to stop obsessing about time.
6. Create a zen den
The bedroom needs to be a place you can retreat to and find your inner calm. To create a room that helps you enjoy the best night’s sleep, take a long, hard look at your space. Is it noisy? What’s the air quality like? Is there clutter and dust in every corner. Do you get hot and sweaty or shiver like a leaf all night? Sometimes it’s the simplest lifestyle adjustments that have the biggest impact on our life.
Dr Tim Paget is a physician and coach. He believes taking time for your physical and mental wellbeing is an essential ingredient in personal success and happiness.