How to get a better night's sleep
PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 February 2016 | UPDATED: 14:00 12 February 2016
Snuggle down and make the most of your time between the sheets, writes Paul Mackenzie
It’s February and love is in the air. The shops are full of heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, restaurants have special offers on romantic meals for two and your thoughts turn, not unreasonably, to beds. After all, who doesn’t like a good, long, deep sleep on these cold winter nights?
But there are people all over Yorkshire who struggle between the sheets. Maybe they’re worrying if the card they bought with a picture of a fluffy kitten and the words “You’re the one fur me”, is appropriate for their husband of 20 years, or perhaps they’re kept awake by the impending threat of disciplinary action at work over that none-too-subtle gift for the new woman in the office.
But whatever it is that’s preventing these poor souls getting a satisfying night in bed, help is at hand.
The Skipton-based Sleep Council provides tips on how best to get to sleep, the ideal conditions for an uninterrupted eight hours and what to sleep in – that’s the bed, they won’t advise on whether you should wear that skimpy number you were bought last Valentine’s Day.
Lisa Artis has worked for the Sleep Council for five years and is proud to say she always sleeps well. She also said: ‘I don’t think people always realise the importance of sleep. Our main objective is to promote the benefit of a good night’s sleep to health and well-being and to provide helpful advice and tips on how to improve sleep quality and sleep hygiene.’
The Sleep Council was formed 21 years ago and is funded by the trade body, the National Bed Federation, but a good night’s sleep is about more than the bed. Literature produced by group shows the impact that lifestyle can have on sleep patterns – and vice versa.
‘People are very busy these days, they often don’t take time to stop, take stock of the day and have a proper wind-down time before bed,’ the mum-of-two added.
‘We recommend at least an hour before bed to relax with no internet, television or facebook. A relaxing warm bath – not a hot bath – is good, and a milky drink. Eating anything too spicy can affect sleep quality, but on the other hand we don’t want people waking up hungry in the night. A bedtime snack is ok and there’s nothing wrong with eating cheese before bed, it’s a myth that it gives you nightmares.
‘The lights from mobile devices can affect circadian rhythms and tell your body not to sleep, so we suggest removing mobile phones and tablets from the bedroom and if there’s a street light outside your bedroom window, you should have blackout blinds or heavy curtains because light coming in to the room can wake you.
‘If you’re regularly getting less than six hours sleep you are at greater risk of health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. Most people think they need between eight and nine hours sleep a night but some feel fine on less than that. People who don’t have enough sleep can be grumpy and irritable and they don’t always make the link between mood and a lack of sleep.’
While the small team at the Sleep Council are not on 24-hour call to help those who are sleepless in Settle (or anywhere else for that matter), their website could be useful. It includes the rather wonderfully named nodcasts, downloads of soothing music which can help sufferers drift off to Dreamland.
And so to the bed – there’s an almost endless choice, so which is right for you? That’s one sleep related issue Lisa and her team won’t tell you.
‘People contact us to ask which bed they should buy and that’s impossible to say because what is good to one person might not be to the next,’ she said. ‘A good bed helps and we suggest changing your bed every seven years or so. There is evidence that a new bed can increase sleep by an extra 42 minutes.
‘We suggest, if it’s a double bed, that you shop together and try it out properly, you can’t judge the comfort in a few seconds. Brits are quite reserved, but we recommend you don’t just perch on the edge, but lie down in the position you sleep in and make sure it’s comfortable. And buy as a big a bed as you can afford and can fit in your bedroom. Partner disturbance is the number one complaint we hear – they kick, they pinch the duvet and they snore.’
The A-ZZZZ of good sleep
* Change your bed every seven years or so and buy the one that’s best for you (and your partner, if you’re sharing).
* Relax. Take time before bed to wind down and don’t go to bed stressing about the day just gone or the one that lies ahead.
* Don’t eat too close to bedtime, but don’t worry about a bedtime snack of cheese and biscuits. It won’t give you nightmares.
* Keep your room dark by using black-out blinds or heavy curtains to block out light and don’t have your mobile or tablet blinking at you all night.
* A cool room is best for a good night’s sleep, aim for between 16 and 18 degrees.
* Try to make sure the room is as quiet as possible and free from disturbances such as pets.
* For children, try to establish a calm bedtime routine with a warm bath and bedtime story to get them nicely relaxed for sleep.
* If you’re still struggling, visit sleepcouncil.org.uk