Everybody's always looking for ways to sleep better. How well did you sleep last night? While most people suffer a bad night every now and again, relatively few know about ways to sleep better – and a bad night's sleep can leave you feeling terrible. I’ve been testing ways to ensure you sleep better every night – how many of these have you tried?
The first thing my sleep consultant asked when I told him I needed ways to sleep better was, ‘What is your PSQ?’ It turns out PSQ stands for Personal Sleep Quotient, the amount of sleep your body needs to function, and it takes a while to work it out. Start by picking a bedtime and a wake up time with eight hours of sleep between them. Stick to it for a week, and note down what time you get up and how you feel. If you need an alarm to kick you out of bed, you are desperate for an extra hour or you still feel tired during the day, add half an hour on and test again. Once you feel alert all day and don’t need an alarm, you’ve found out how much sleep you need – do everything you can to make sure you get it!
If you don’t feel bright-eyed and energetic as soon as you wake up, don’t worry. Needing time to adjust to being awake is completely normal! Biologically, the body is designed to slowly become alert and ready for the day. Birds are the only things that are naturally chirpy in the morning, so give yourself a break and let yourself wake up slowly with a coffee.
A journal published a few years ago suggested that setting an alarm earlier than you actually need to get up could be tested as a way to help people who don’t function well when they wake up. Magazines jumped on it, and before long, everyone was setting their alarm to chime when they had an hour of snooze-time left. For most people, this will do nothing but fragment your sleep, and make you feel rubbish. It’s scientifically proven to compromise learning, creativity, memory and productivity, and it’ll leave you feeling tired too. Set the alarm for when you really need to jump out of bed.
For every two hours you are awake, you need to sleep for an hour to recover. Seems like a pretty easy exchange, right? Well, not exactly. While it’s inevitable that you won’t be able to stick to a bedtime every day, don’t get in the habit of sleeping in later to make up for a late bedtime, or using the weekend to catch up on missed sleep. You’ll just mess up your body clock, and make the morning blues worse. Instead, try to repay any sleep debt by going to sleep earlier, rather than waking up later.
If you are tired in the middle of the day, consider trying to fit in a nap. No, these aren’t just for children – naps are perfectly normal for adults, and can be a great pick-me-up. Just make sure that you don’t nap too late, or you’ll mess up your sleep times, and nap for between 20 and 90 minutes. If it’s after 4pm, try energy-boosting foods instead.
Can you imagine getting through the day without caffeine?! Most people need that fresh taste to start their day, and couldn’t function without it. That’s okay. Just try to avoid caffeine after 2pm, when it starts to interfere with sleeping habits. It’s the biggest cause of insomnia! For reference, the half-life of coffee is around six hours, meaning that six hours after it’s drunk, half is still in your system. Nicotine is the same.
Surprising amounts of people struggle to sleep purely because of their sleeping environment. 65 degrees Fahrenheit is the optimum sleeping temperature, and anything hotter than that could keep you awake. If it feels too cold, try adding blankets, socks or a hot water bottle, rather than turning up the heat. Use lamps rather than main lights just before going to bed, and swap high-watt light bulbs for 45-watts instead. It’ll help lull your body to sleep.
If you find you are having a lot of bad sleep, it’s worth talking to your doctor. Sleep clinics have improved dramatically in recent years, and there is now huge amounts of advice and tests that can be done. There are even relaxation classes that’ll teach you how to switch off. Do you know any ways to sleep better? I’d love to hear them!
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