In October, the clocks will change and for some the adjustment can take its toll. A survey by the sleep council suggests 22% of British adults get the recommended seven to eight hours, with 40% saying they get six hours or less. We all know some individuals can get by on less than seven hours however most of us can’t.
Sleep is supposed to be a time for your body to recharge, a respite from the demands of life or workaday world. Yet, according to the BBC documentary by Dr Michael Mosley (founder of the blood sugar diet), he advises as a nation we are sleep deprived, with many getting less than five hours of sleep per night.
For many, sleep isn't a respite at all but rather has turned into a source of great frustration and stress. If you've ever struggled with insomnia, you know the anxiety that occurs when the clock starts approaching bedtime. Will you be able to fall asleep? Will you lie in bed, awake, for hours, only to fall asleep shortly before your alarm clock goes off.
Dr Mosley suggests setting our biological clock by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day even at weekends. Limit caffeine during the day to at least 4-6 hours before bed and keep alcohol to a minimum. Limit alcohol as much as you can; he advises our bodies need to break it down during the night and it interrupts good sleep.
Create a calm uncluttered bedroom with curtains that shut the natural light out. Studies show we fall asleep more easily in a cooler bedroom ideally at 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Limit screen time before bed, flashing screens intense colour and brightness all stimulate our brain and make it difficult to relax. Turning technology off two hours before bed allows our brain to slow down. The easiest solution is to simply use amber-coloured glasses that block blue light. This way you don't have to worry about installing programs on all your devices or buying special light bulbs for evening use. Once you have your glasses on, it doesn't matter what light sources you have on in your house. Exercise also helps, it can be a gentle stroll earlier in the day or a gentle cycle, dogwalk etc.
The NHS Choices up to date advice 2017 suggests "winding down" after our day is a critical stage when preparing for bed. It recommends the following advice on preparing for a good nights sleep:
- A warm bath (not hot) will help your body reach a temperature that's ideal for rest
- Writing "to do" lists for the next day can organise your thoughts and clear your mind of any distractions
- Relaxation exercises, such as light yoga stretches help to relax the muscles. Don't exercise vigorously, as it will have the opposite effect
- Relaxation music or stories can help consider a gentle narrated script, gentle hypnotic mediation sounds to gently sooth you to sleep
- Reading a book or listening to the radio relaxes the mind by distracting it.
Autumn here in the UK is a time of change; evenings darken and with that restful sleep is very important for wellbeing.
Wishing all a restful autumnal season…
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About Annie Ford
Annie is a therapeutic integrative counsellor in Mid Devon, she has worked extensively in the NHS in London medical school hospitals, hospices and community as a nurse specialist in cancer and midwifery dealing with loss and bereavement. As a lead nurse for health diversity in London she has published in the HSJ on cultural health needs.