From 10-16 March is National Sleep Awareness week, so we’re sharing some of our favourite tips and facts from Sleep Well, a new magazine from the makers of In The Moment magazine and Project Calm.
In this new special edition, you’ll learn how to tackle common sleep problems. Discover what’s normal for your age, whether mindfulness can improve your rest, how to tackle night time noise, how hormones affect your sleep and much more.
Sleeping too much is as bad for you as not getting enough
Did you know that more sleep isn’t always better for you? Experts suggest that teenagers need 8-10 hours and adults need 7-9 hours.
A number of studies have highlighted associations between long sleep and various problems such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and even early mortality.
Research suggests that spending long periods of time in bed can result in poor quality sleep.
Visualisation can help you to relax at bedtime
Using a visualisation technique can help you to fall asleep, says Sarah Plater.
“When you imagine something, your body produces the same physiological response as if you were actually experiencing it. So when you focus on an anxiety-inducing thought, you go into fight or flight mode: you clench your fists, feel adrenaline race through your veins and notice your pulse quicken,” she explains.
“Happily, this works the other way around, too. If you vividly imagine a peaceful scenario, your body begins to relax. Try mentally re-living in great detail a relaxing holiday you’ve had, or even touring your childhood home, recalling every detail.”
It’s normal to wake up in the night
Do you often wake up in the night? Don’t worry, that’s perfectly normal according to Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, author of The Little Book of Sleep. Our ancestors used to sleep in two phases and would even use their waking time in the night to talk to friends.
“We still sleep in two phases, but most people think it’s a problem for them to be awake between 2am and 4am – in fact, most people wake between these hours. The problem these days is people wake up, they then look at the time and worry about how many hours of sleep they won’t get if they don’t go back to sleep,” she says.
Worrying about not sleeping makes it harder for you to drop off again.
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Relaxing during the day can improve your sleep
Staying calm in the daytime can help you to have a more restful night’s sleep, says psychologist and yoga teacher Suzy Reading.
“Earth your brow by resting your forehead on something solid,” she says. “Think of Homer Simpson saying ‘Doh!’ and bringing his hand to his forehead. The body is hardwired to do this in times of stress because it soothes the nervous system. Fold your hands on your desk and rest your forehead on the back of your hands – this is instantly calming.
“Or make two fists and gently press the base of your thumbs into your forehead.”
Your head doesn’t need much support when you sleep
One pillow or two? Osteopath Leah Hearle recommends using just one pillow to help you to inhale more oxygen as you sleep.
“While you might feel like you need a lot of support for your head, your spine won’t get the restorative extension it needs if you prop yourself up with pillows,” she explains.
Night owls are born, not made
There is some excuse for staying up late (for some).
Early to bed, early to rise doesn’t suit everyone – research has shown that some people are genetically predisposed to stay up later at night and get up later in the morning. For roughly 40% of us, this is the optimum pattern.
Calm anxiety at bedtime with a simple box breathing technique
If you’re worried about something you have to do tomorrow, Richie Bostock has a simple breathing technique to help calm your nerves at bedtime.
Start with empty lungs and breathe into your belly through your nose for a count of five, hold your breath for a count of five, exhale for a count of five, then hold your breath for a count of five.
Repeat for five minutes until you’ve felt yourself fully calm down.