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The key to a good day? A good night

Health & Wellbeing

Sleep deprivation is a subject that’s rarely been out of the news in recent years. And with good reason, because lots of research suggests that we’re becoming a more sleep deprived nation, with potentially serious implications for our health. A recent survey by the Sleep Council says that a worryingly high 18% of us get less than five hours of sleep a night. As mental and physical problems can potentially build up in people getting less than six hours sleep on a regular basis, it’s good to know what you can do to sleep better, look better and feel better.

The Sleep Council has published what it calls its seven practical steps to getting a good night’s sleep. And even if you don’t consider yourself sleep deprived, there’s plenty you can do to improve the quality of the sleep you get...

1. Getting the right environment

The first thing to look at is your bedroom and bed. We all need the right environment for a proper night’s sleep – meaning a bedroom that’s pleasant, inviting and free from distractions, not to mention a bed that’s supportive as well as comfortable. The experts recommend replacing your bed every seven years.

2. Adjusting your lifestyle

Getting to sleep starts with winding down and switching off. And that’s not easy in today’s always-on world. From reducing the intensity of the light in your home in the evenings, to avoiding gadgets before bed, there’s lots we can do to set a regular bed-time routine that’s slow, methodical and relaxing.

3. Destressing

Worrying less is easier said than done. But speaking positive thoughts out loud, rather than worrying about things can help us feel less anxious and stop our minds racing.

4. Eating and drinking

It can be important to help the body to produce melatonin, a hormone that promotes restful sleep. Melatonin is produced from serotonin in the evening. So it makes sense to help your body do this naturally, by sleeping in a dark environment, avoiding stimulants like alcohol and cigarettes, and eating the right balance of foods.

5. Exercising everything but your mind

Physical exercise has twin benefits – it can help you stay healthier overall, and aid better sleep by lowering your body temperature. There’s no real evidence that evening exercise inhibits good sleep, and so it’s better to exercise in the evening than not at all.

6. Relaxing mind and body

Good, restful sleep depends on a relaxed mind as well as a relaxed body. From simple routines that relax separate groups of muscles, to breathing exercises, to deeper-level psychological therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), there’s lots you can do to get yourself into a more relaxed state.

7. Achieving hormonal balance

Sleeplessness can affect around ten different hormones in the body, and these in turn influence everything from appetite to fertility. And changes in hormonal levels can cause sleeplessness, particularly in the years before menopause – so it can help to ask your doctor to check your hormone levels.

To delve deeper into the secrets of successful sleep, you can find out lots more at www.sleepcouncil.org.uk

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