A bad night sleep might leave you grumpy and tired the next day, but it can also severely damage your health.
The process really is crucial to the health of both body and brain.
After one bad night, our immune system suffers and we struggle with concentration and memory.
And studies show a prolonged lack of sleep increases the risk of Alzheimer’s, heart disease, stroke, obesity and depression.
Lisa Artis, 38, a sleep adviser at The Sleep Council, said: “Sleeping is not a passive process – it is highly complex and has both mental and physical functions.
“It regulates your mood, it improves your memory and plays a part in maintaining health, weight and energy levels as well.
“It would be dangerous to underestimate what poor sleep can do to your health.”
Ahead of National Sleep Day on March 15 Lisa tells how to get a better night’s shuteye and boost your health in the process.
Ditch the weekend lie-in
Keeping regular hours is one of the key things to sleep better. We have an internal body clock and our bodies thrive on routine.
Even at the weekend it’s better to wake up naturally at the same time you do during the week rather than trying to cram in extra hours. Studies have shown lie-ins do not make up for being sleep-deprived from Monday to Friday.
If you’re still tired, napping is better for making up for lost sleep than a lie-in.
Far from giving you nightmares, cheese is a really good bedtime snack. It contains calcium, which promotes sleep as it helps reduce stress in our body’s nerve fibres, including those in the brain.
Dairy, cherries and chicken are also good foods for sleep as they contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which turns into melatonin – the sleep hormone – through a chemical process when it reaches the brain.
No Netflix bingeing
Not only will staying up later than your normal bedtime cut your sleep short, but TVs give off blue light. This affects your melatonin levels, making it harder for you to sleep.
You need darkness to get a good night sleep, so if there’s too much light in your room think about changing your curtains.
Blackout blinds or heavy lined curtains help make your room cool and dark, creating which creates the right environment for sleep.
Most of your body heat is lost through your head and your feet and if your body is cold it has to work harder to warm up. Bed socks will immediately warm up your whole body and it’s a quick fix to make you ready for sleep.
Bin the takeaways
Spicy food and fatty foods that are harder to digest can often lead to discomfort.
When your body is struggling with indigestion or heartburn , not only will it mean you sleep badly but you could be up and down to the toilet as well.
Lose the sleep trackers and apps
Fitbits and sleep tracking apps have been great at educating people to be more sleep aware.
But you need to be careful as they’re not always accurate and can make people obsessive about sleep. Everyone needs a different amount of sleep, so instead of getting hung up on the numbers on your app, judge how you feel – that’s the best indicator of whether you’re getting enough sleep or not.
You have to be comfortable. Springs poking out of your mattress, for example, obviously won’t do you any favours.
Not only look at your mattress, but also your pillows and duvets to make sure whatever you’re sleeping on is providing the best support and comfort.
If you’re waking up with back or neck ache, your mattress or pillows are probably to blame.
Wind down before bedtime
Stress and anxiety are one of the biggest contributors to a bad sleep. Eliminate that by working out what helps you relax – whether it’s a warm bath, a book, essential oils like lavender or soothing music –- and make this a regular part of your nighttime routine.
If you do that for 30 minutes before bed, your body will recognise that it’s winding down.
Get a bigger bed
If you share a bed with a snorer, a duvet hogger or a wiggler, this can make it hard to get quality sleep. Partner disturbance accounts for 50 per cent of why people don’t sleep well. A double bed only gives people the same amount of space a baby has in a cot, so upgrading to a king size would give you extra space and make all the difference.
Or, in extreme cases, sleep apart. You can still have intimate moments of sharing a bed before you go asleep, but then go off into your own beds.
It’s better for your health and can boost your relationship too.
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