Words: Sarah Finley
Thanks to our increasingly busy lives, not to mention technology creeping into our bedrooms, it’s getting harder than ever to get a good night’s sleep. And, with World Sleep Day upon us, it is a timely reminder that we should be getting more shut-eye.
New research from Silentnight and The University of Leeds has found that 25% of Brits sleep for just five hours or less per night – two hours less than the national recommended average. However, it seems there is not just one average to fit all: the amount of sleep we need each night is entirely dependent on our age.
Dr Noia, a senior clinical physiologist in neurophysiology and sleep, told The Independent that this stems from the fact that we probably didn’t get enough sleep as teenagers. Dr Noia said: “When we are young our brains are still developing and the hormone melatonin, which helps us sleep, reaches its peak at around seven or eight years old. “
So, while our parents thought we were just being lazy, it seems as if our teenage selves really did need those 10 hours of sleep after all.
The amount of sleep we get can also have an impact our health. The NHS states that regular poor sleep can put you at risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes. A good night’s sleep, on the other hand, can help to boost your immunity, improve mental wellbeing and even increase your sex drive.
However, worrying can sometimes make the act of falling asleep harder: “People who find it difficult falling asleep often ‘make sleep a priority’. They schedule everything they do, minute by minute, which can be very stressful and actually hinder good quality sleep itself,” added Dr Noia.
Late last year, Gwyneth Paltrow coined the phrase clean sleeping when she (said) told the Daily Mail:
“Sleep plays such a powerful role in determining your appetite and energy levels that I believe it should be your first priority — even before you think about your diet.”
The actor went on to say: “Poor-quality sleep can be unsettling for the metabolism and hormones, which can lead to weight gain, bad moods, impaired memory and brain fog, as well as serious health concerns such as inflammation and reduced immunity.”
Although Dr Noia adds: "The worry of not falling asleep in a ‘schedule’ can bring bedtime tension and excessive worrying about not falling asleep at the right time. People should only go to bed if they feel they are ready to sleep."
They key to getting a good nights sleep
Soak in a warm bath
Research has shown that our body temperature naturally dips just before we fall asleep, so this increased drop in temperature helps us fall asleep even faster.
Have a milky drink
Milky drinks can encourage drowsiness. Scientists believe calcium can help our bodies to relax while tryptophan is converted into serotonin in the body – a natural hormone that helps prepare the body for sleep.
Spray aromatherapy on your pillow
Experts say that lavender helps the body feel calm. Spray some lavender oil on your pillow 20 minutes before you get into bed and let it help you drift off into a deep slumber.
Have a no tech rule before sleep
Researchers have been building on a link between sleep problems and the use of artificial lighting and electronics - or so-called "blue lights" - at night. So turn off that TV, laptop or phone a hour before bed and feel more rested as a result.
Cut down on alcohol
Alcohol, especially an excessive amount, will effect your sleep and leave you feeling exhausted. "Deep sleep is when the body restores itself, and alcohol can interfere with this," says Dr John Shneerson, head of the sleep centre at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge.
Buy a good mattress
A good mattress really can impact the quality of sleep you have. A 2008 study by Oklahoma State University study showed that a new quality mattress provided sleepers with a 71% improvement in sleep comfort and a 62% improvement in sleep quality.
And on that note…..sweet dreams.
Images: Rex Features