When it comes to getting a decent night’s sleep, most of us know the drill: have a relaxing bedtime ritual, create a restful environment, stick to the same sleep schedule every day, avoid caffeine in the evening.
Yet armed with this advice, we still can’t sleep at night. According to a report released earlier this year (Jan 2016), almost half of British women (46%) and 36% of men say they have trouble sleeping.
Our fast-paced, 24/7, technology driven lives certainly don’t help when it comes to switching off. Late-night work emails, Netflix drama binges, disruptive blue-screen light, all conspire to make us feel wired instead of tired.
So as an antidote to the sleep enemies of modern life, we’ve compiled a list of five of the quickest, easiest and most effective science-backed tricks for preparing your mind and body for a restful night’s sleep.
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Taking a relaxing warm bath is the oldest sleep tip in the book. But while it might sound counterintuitive, it’s not so much the toasty-warm feeling that helps to send you off into the land of nod but rather the sudden drop in body temperature that occurs when you leave the bath.
This temperature decline mimics the natural drop in body temperature that occurs during the evening as we move towards sleep, thus acting as a cue for relaxation.
One study of elderly people found that those who had a warm bath before bedtime reported falling asleep faster and more soundly
. And don’t worry if you don’t have time for a luxurious soak, a hot shower will have a similar effect.
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They might not be the sexiest bedtime attire but wearing socks could be your key to falling asleep more quickly.
A study at the Sleep Laboratory in Basel, Switzerland, published in the journal 'Nature', found that as we approach the threshold of sleep, the body’s temperature regulation system redistributes heat from your core to your extremities. Having cold feet demands more from this system and upsets the natural release of melatonin
, a hormone associated with sleep onset.
Chartered physiotherapist and author of The Good Sleep Guide
, Sammy Margo concurs: “You won’t get a good night’s sleep if your feet are too cold,” she says. To avoid the opposite effect (overheating in the night), she recommends investing in cashmere as this has natural heat regulating properties.
Earplugs are great for blocking out noise – ideal if you live in a city or an apartment block. But for those who find them uncomfortable to wear, an alternative option is to introduce a constant ambient sound, or ‘white’ noise, into your bedroom.
Research shows this masks potentially disruptive sounds
by reducing the difference between background noise and ‘peak’ noise, such as slamming doors.
There are plenty of white noise apps available – or, if you prefer to switch off all your electronic devices before bedtime (and, quite frankly, you should
), you could invest in a white noise machine
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If worrying about work or problems in your personal life prevents you from drifting off into the land of nod – or getting back to sleep when you wake in the night – jotting down some potential solutions in a notebook before you hit the sack could be the key to a stress-free sleep.
A study published in 'Behavioural Sleep Medicine
' split volunteers, all with reported insomnia, into two groups. Before going to bed, one group recorded possible solutions to their worries while the second group recorded their worries and completed worry questionnaires. The group that recorded solutions had reduced pre-sleep cognitive arousal (read: whirring mind).
“Sunlight helps the body's internal biological clock to reset itself each day so if possible, wake up with the sun,” says Jade Wells, Senior Physiologist at Nuffield Health
Of course, that’s easier said than done in the dark depths of the British winter. As an alternative, she suggests: “Use very bright lights in the morning. There are even alarm clocks that mimic the effect of the rise, rising to wake you up gently every day.”
The Lumie Bodyclock Starter 30 Wake Up to Daylight Light
helps to regulate your sleep/wake cycle and combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), waking you with a gradually brightening 30-minute sunrise so when you open your eyes you feel awake and refreshed.