Guest blog by Sam Hadadi
We all know that getting enough sleep is key to a healthy, happy body and a restful mind. Yet with hectic schedules, ever-growing work pressures and a lack of “me time”, far too many of us are waking up angrily to an alarm clock buzzing far too soon.
If you wake feeling less than refreshed (and, let’s face it, we’ve all been there!), then there are plenty of things you can do to help you drift off. Here are our finest Lucy Bee tips on getting that blissful eight hours – and why you need it.
It’s no wonder that sleep deprivation was so often used as torture – it can wreak havoc on even the healthiest, fittest bods around!
Amazingly, though, even some of the smartest people on the planet still aren’t agreed on why we sleep. Some think that it’s to conserve energy and recuperate (although this can amount to just 50calories over eight hours), while others believe that sleep is important in helping us to function properly. This means being able to think, speak, and remember.
New studies1 have even shown that sleep lets the brain cleanse itself, even getting rid of harmful toxins overnight.
While those clever science types have no idea exactly why we need our shut eye, it might seem a little obvious to those who have had a bad night. New mums and dads and parents of tricky toddlers in particular will be nodding their heads in frantic agreement…
You see, a lack of sleep can make things seem more than a little, well, bleary the next day. It’s almost as though you’re in a drunken haze. When you don’t sleep, your brain’s ability to function properly is seriously affected. You’ll not only be grouchy but you’ll also be groggy, irritable and, most likely, forgetful.
A lack of sleep can also seriously affect our memory and concentration span (this is why drivers need to get a decent amount), while a sustained lack of sleep can cause the mind to shut down. Scarily, go just 17 hours with no sleep2, and you can expect the same drop in performance as you would after two glasses of wine.
Not enough sleep can also wreck our ability to make huge decisions and rational judgments, as well as mess with our emotional and physical health. Those who don’t sleep enough can suffer depression, higher levels of stress, high blood pressure and even obesity3.
We all know that age-old advice that we should be getting eight hours of kip a night. But is it true? And, if not, how much do we really need?
Truthfully, there’s no magic number. Different people need different amounts – it’s all about finding what works for you. Generally, however, it’s advised that us adults get between seven and eight hours a night.
Pre-schoolers should be aiming for an hour of sleep in the day (if possible – we know what they’re like!) and up to 12 hours at night. By the age of five, kids need 11 hours of solid sleep, dropping by 15 minutes every year until they hit 14, by which time they should be getting nine hours.
No matter how much you toss and turn, throw off the duvet or down chamomile tea by the bucketload, some nights, sleep just wasn’t meant to be. Yet if you don’t want to revert to counting sheep or staring into the darkness in frustration, there is more you can do to help get some decent shut eye.
Here are some top Lucy Bee tips on how to get to sleep:
Enjoy a Solid Routine
When you’re a kid, you’ll do anything to avoid that dreaded bedtime – yet sticking with the same bedtime routine can help you to drift off. Try to always go to bed and get up at the same time each day (yep, even on weekends!) so your body clock can adjust and knows how to zone out. This also means no hitting the ‘snooze’ button!
Avoid Caffeine Before Bed
Endless studies have also shown how disruptive caffeine can be to a good night’s sleep, with researchers5 even showing that coffee or tea consumed six hours before bed can shatter sleep quality.
Take a Soak
We all know that taking a hot, soapy bath (or try our Lucy Bee recommended Epsom salts bath6) before bed (especially when infused with sleep-inducing scents) can help to relax you enough for sleep. This is because your temperature naturally dips at night. Studies7 show that by soaking in a hot tub, your temperature rises, but the subsequent fast cool-down instantly relaxes, putting you into a deep sleep. You could also try pulling on a pair of warm socks – research shows that cosy tootsies promote good sleep.
Shut Out the Light
Wherever possible, keep your bedroom fuss and stress-free and make sure you’re able to keep out the world – even the smallest glow8 from a phone or clock can disrupt your shut-eye. Consider investing in black-out curtains or blinds (or use an eye mask for a cheaper option), and consider buying ear plugs if you live in a noisy city or area.
Keep the Temperature Right
Too hot or too cold can mean a bad night’s sleep – you need it just right. Experts say that the temperature of your room can affect not just the quality of your sleep, but also how long you can stay sleeping for. There’s even evidence to suggest that those who struggle to sleep may have warmer body temperatures, since they can’t cool down as well.
The perfect temperature for a good night’s kip? Check that thermostat out - most studies agree that a temperature between 15 to 19 Celsius is perfect for a great night9.
Indulge in Aromatherapy
Certain scents are perfect for helping you to relax and unwind. Mums and nans across the globe have always told us to spritz lavender oil on pillows – and for good reason! Studies have shown that a quick sniff can lead to deeper sleep10.
With the rise of social media (and ever-growing demands at work), it’s difficult to switch off the phone and step away from emails or Instagram. Yet looking at screens – and, yep, that includes the TV too – can trash your sleep habits, especially in teens. You see, the blue light emitted by screens can prevent your brain from releasing melatonin, our sleepy chemical11.
Write a List
We’ve all struggled to sleep because we’re too fired up, or busy thinking of the mammoth tasks we have to plough through the next day. Try writing out a to-do list for the next day to save you stressing or over-thinking, or simply try keeping a worry diary of any niggling thoughts. Clearing out that mental clutter will pave the way to a deeper, easier sleep.
If you’re finding it tricky to wind down, you could consider trying Yoga or meditation, or even saying a prayer. These peaceful, quiet activities can slow down breathing and lower heart rate, ready for a restful night.
If that’s not for you, then try taking some simple, deep breaths – studies show they trigger the body’s naturally-calming stress reliever, the parasympathetic system12.
Paint Your Bedroom a Relaxing Colour
Find a shade that relaxes you and paint your bedroom that same colour. Whether it’s a calming, soothing blue, or a happy yellow, your bedroom should be somewhere you can relax. Whatever you do, make sure it’s a matte paint, rather than a high gloss, to aid maximum rest13.
Get Out of Bed
If nothing will work, then don’t stay in bed fretting and getting anxious. Instead, get out of bed, do something relaxing, then climb back in once you’re feeling sleepy.
What helps you rest? Share your favourite tips and advice with us on social media, or check out our handy blog3 on sleep, which explains the different kinds of sleep – and why we need it.
12. Just breathe!
About Lucy Bee Limited
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The views and opinions expressed in videos and articles on the Lucy Bee website/s or social networking sites are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect those of Lucy Bee Limited.
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Sam Hadadi is an ex-BBC journalist and now a freelance writer specialising in fitness and food.