Are you struggling to sleep? Does your partner keep you awake at night? Perhaps you sleep too much?

Why not have a browse through some of our frequently asked questions…

How much sleep should I get at night?

The average sleep an adult requires or might expect to sleep is around eight hours a night. However there is no ‘normal’ length of time, it is whatever is natural for you. We all feel tired at times but it is important that it is not disruptive to your daily life and general health. Looking at your bedroom environment and video and then assessing if there is anything you can do to improve your quality of your environment might help you to improve on the time you are asleep.

How can I make sure I am getting a proper night's sleep every night?

To ensure you experience good sleep it’s essential to follow good lifestyle habits and to eliminate the factors that are causing you disturbed sleep. For example making sure that your bedroom is the right environment (cool, dark and quiet), that your bed is up to scratch, looking at the lighting in your home, and avoiding foods and drinks that can hinder sleep. Avoid screen time at least an hour before bed and find alternative ways of relaxing like warm baths with calming scents, quiet soothing music, reading, gentle stretching and yoga. It’s also important to establish regular sleep pattern – going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time. Your bodies and minds will feel much better for it.

Are there any products I can buy that help to get a better night's sleep

A bed – many people underestimate the importance of a comfortable supportive bed. Research found that swapping an uncomfortable bed for a new one resulted in nearly an extra hour of sleep a night. Invest in blackout blinds or heavy curtains to keep your room dark. Light suppresses melatonin (the sleepy hormone) that relaxes your body helping you to drift off. If noise wakes you consider purchasing in earplugs.

I struggle to fall asleep, what can I do?

Practise some deep breathing techniques. Spend five minutes indulging in pure relaxation and allow yourself to sink into a sound fulfilling sleep. If your mind is buzzing with things to do, write them down. Don’t try to sleep – it needs to find you. Keep your eyes open and gently resist sleep or try to adopt a carefree, accepting attitude to wakefulness. Avoid clock watching if you can’t get to sleep within 15 minutes from switching light off then get up and go to another room and doing something relaxing.

I wake several times at night, what can I do to stop this?

If you find yourself awake in the middle of the night and unable to get back to sleep, don’t lie there staring at the ceiling. It won’t help you fall asleep; it’s likely to make you more restless. Instead get out of bed, go into a dimly lit room and read a couple of chapters from a book, listen to some soothing music or make yourself a milky drink or chamomile tea.

Are naps bad for me?

Planned daytime naps improve alertness without necessarily affecting nocturnal sleep. Try to limit naps to around 20 minutes – any longer and they may leave you groggy and interfere with night time sleep. However, if you experience insomnia or poor sleep quality at night, napping might make these problems worse.

Is it worthwhile investing in gadgets such as smart phone sleep apps?

There are also a variety of apps and trackers that claim to help improve sleep – but just be careful that they don’t interfere with your sleep and that you don’t rely too heavily on them. They don’t always give a true indication of sleep patterns and may cause unnecessary worry and concern.

Does what I eat and drink affect my sleep?

Certain foods are known to calm the brain and help promote sleep. While we don’t recommend eating a big meal just before bedtime as it can lead to discomfort and indigestion, some people find a bedtime snack a helpful aid to sleep. The best is one that contains complex carbohydrates and protein and perhaps some calcium – which is why dairy products are one of the top sleep-inducing foods. Avoid spicy, hard to digest food and alcohol – if you need to get up in the night to go to the loo – slightly restrict the amount of fluid you drink, also avoid.

What's the best position to lie in whilst sleeping?

We all like different positions so sleep in whichever you find most comfortable – this will depend on all sorts of things. If you sleep ok – don’t try to change!

My partner snores and it's affecting my sleep, what can I do?

Snoring is one of the top complaints of a disturbed night’s sleep when sharing a bed. For some ear plugs can be a huge help but when snoring becomes a significant and ongoing problem, seek help. What starts off as a niggle can become a major issue for many couples – so it’s important to get it sorted. Try visiting the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea site – there is a lot of information and you can diagnose several causes online.

My six year old won't go to sleep and we are exhausted.

There are so many different factors which can affect a child’s sleep so check the obvious causes first such as temperature, noise, hunger or thirst. Other influences are illness (actual or impending), changes or stress in the family, holidays and fear. It is essential to establish and sticking to a regular bedtime routine. Children generally respond well to routine and this is normally along the lines of teatime, followed by quiet play, bath, story and then bed. Bedtime should be around the same time each evening. It’s also important to limit the use of gadgets – TV, computers, gaming machines – in the hours before bed. Instead set aside time before bed to wind down properly. This is a perfect opportunity to read with your child or them to read to you, or talk to them about their day.

I'm a new mum and sleep deprived. Help!

Fragmented sleep for weeks, if not months, following the birth of a baby can leave new mums feeling bad tempered, tearful, forgetful and depressed. If you struggle to get back off to sleep practise some deep breathing techniques or if your mind is buzzing with things to do, write them down. Throughout this phrase, try to remember it won’t last forever. Sleep when the baby sleeps and make sure you get some ‘me time’ and wind down properly before bed. Take a warm foamy bath, read a book or listen to some soothing music.

How important is a good night's sleep?

Sleep, regardless of age, is extremely important to a healthy lifestyle and should not be taken lightly. It is a basic and fundamental human requirement and has restorative functions. As we sleep, tissue grows and repairs itself and the immune system is strengthened. The brain also repairs itself during sleep and researchers believe sleep is critical to healthy brain function. In fact, researchers also believe the brain performs actions vital to learning and memory during sleep. Sleep also affects the levels of hormones and other important chemicals circulating in your body. Getting too little sleep disrupts all of that.

Are we getting less sleep than we used to?

In a report The Sleep Council did in 2013 we found that a third of the population (33%) now get by on five to six hours sleep a night compared to 27% in 2010. And the majority of people (70%) sleep for seven hours or less.

What are some of the effects we could feel from sleep deprivation?

Just one bad night’s sleep affects our mood, concentration and alertness while long-term sleep deprivation has far more serious consequences: it’s been linked to a number of serious health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

What are the most common reasons we aren't getting enough sleep?

Stress and anxiety – whether it’s a jam packed pressurised work schedule or worrying about finances. Stress causes the heart rate to go up and in turn the mind starts to ‘race’. This causes the brain to become too alert and stimulated to sleep. Bad habits also play a huge part – from not eating well, not exercising enough, alcohol and caffeine consumption, irregular sleep schedules and over using technology in the hours before bed.

How does getting a better night's sleep impact me the next day?

A good night’s sleep makes you look better, feel better, behave better, perform better and think better! What more could you want.

What's the best temperature for your bedroom whilst you're sleeping?

Most people prefer to sleep in a slightly cool environment and a room temperature of around 16-18°C (60-65°F) is usually sufficient for getting a good night’s sleep. Lowering your core body temperature by about ½ °C will switch on your “sleep switch”. Anything over 24°C (71°F) is more likely to cause restlessness and temperatures around 12-13°C (53-55°F) are usually too cool to be able to drop off. Older people and young babies/children may need a warmer environment – there are helpful room thermometers appropriate for all ages to guide you to the best temperature.

How important is a good bed?

The foundation of a good night’s sleep is a comfortable, supportive bed. It’s difficult to get deep, restful sleep on an old, uncomfortable bed. A bed with the correct support, comfort and space will ensure you wake less, move about less, are less disturbed by your partner and are less likely to wake up feeling tired or aching. Make sure you use adequate bed clothes and pillows too. If you’re not comfortable in bed your sleep won’t be as deep.

What factors in our bedrooms help encourage good sleeping habits?

A restful bedroom environment should be cool, quiet and dark and free from distractions – that means removing computers, tablets, mobile phones and even TVs. Avoid screen time at least an hour before bed as the blue light that emits from these devices messes around with your body’s circadian rhythms by suppressing the sleep inducing hormone melatonin. To ensure you experience good quality sleep it’s essential to follow good lifestyle habits too such as diet, caffeine and alcohol consumption and exercise regimes. Small changes can have a huge impact on how you sleep.

Can you catch up on sleep at the weekend?

Sleeping in on the weekends doesn’t fix all the deficits caused by workweek sleep loss. A few days of lost sleep can have adverse effects including increased daytime sleepiness, worsened daytime performance, an increase in molecules that are a sign of inflammation in the body and impaired blood sugar regulation. Recovery sleep over a weekend may not reverse all the effects of lost sleep during the week and if it disrupts your normal go to bed – get up routine that could also impact on sleep quality.

Is it true that an hour before midnight is worth two after?

While this isn’t strictly true, it is based on the fact that the first third of your sleep is the most restorative. It is the deepest part of sleep where we are least likely to be disturbed and wake up. If you go to bed late then it is likely that your deep wave sleep will be cut short.

As you get older, do you need less sleep?

It is a common misconception that sleep needs decline with age. It’s not about needing less sleep, but unfortunately as we get older sleep quality declines and we experience a change in sleeping patterns – whether that’s more frequent wakings in the night, loss of non-REM sleep or more daytime napping. There are all sorts of ways in which older people can help themselves to a better night’s sleep – f mostly it’s just a case of adjusting daily routines as sleeping patterns change – and trying to limit the cat naps!

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