'Ditch Your Weekend Lie In' - Expert Tips On How To Improve Your Sleep

man comfortably sleeping in his ...
man comfortably sleeping in his ...

For most of us dashing between the office and home, looking after kids or recovering after a night out, sleep is a secondary consideration that we try to fit in where possible. But after new research was published suggesting sleep could reduce the risk of diabetes, scientists found that three night's of 'catch-up' sleep improved the body's insulin response and helped to clear sugar from the bloodstream - it seems we must take it more seriously than we currently do.

A poor insulin response can result in type 2 diabetes, which affects almost three million people in the UK.

Like eating, sleep is not a luxury or something that it optional - it is essential for your body to repair itself and do all the maintenance work. We asked sleep experts for their response and Professor Colin Espie, co-founder and professor in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neuroscience at the University of Oxford said: "These are very interesting findings, particularly as we know, from previous research, that people with insomnia are at relatively high risk for developing diabetes compared with a peer group of good sleepers.

"If it turns out that, by improving sleep, we can protect people from diabetes then it could signal a renewed interest in the importance of sleep in everyday medical care."


Daytime effects of poor sleep

Poor sleep can occur on its own but, in the majority of people, it co-exists alongside mental and/or physical health problems and can itself be a risk factor for developing future illness.

Good sleep delivers good daytime wellbeing, affecting our energy, concentration, mood and personal functioning - without good sleep our lives, our relationships and our health can become compromised.

A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry highlighted the following areas of day-to-day functioning to be affected by poor sleep: energy, concentration, relationships, ability to stay awake, mood, and ability to get through work (1).

Results from the Great British Sleep Survey, a study of the UK’s sleep conducted by Sleepio, support these findings, showing that many of the worst effects of poor sleep are felt during the day, both physically and emotionally, with poor sleepers being five times as likely to feel alone, twice as likely to suffer from daytime fatigue and three times more likely to struggle to concentrate. (2)

How to improve your sleep

1. Give up your weekend lie-in

At the weekends, we disrupt our body clocks with late nights and morning lie-ins. A weekend lie-in, or afternoon catnap, will make it harder to sleep at night as it lowers ‘sleep pressure’ and may even reduce the time spent in deep sleep the following night.

You should aim to save your sleep for bedtime and nap for around 10-15 minutes only if you are really sleepy.

2. Stop binging on alcohol

Although it may help you fall asleep when you first hit the sack, alcohol may cause you to experience lighter sleep and more awakenings as it is metabolised and cleared from the body.

It can also make you thirsty and need to get up and go to the loo more often!

3. Write a ‘to do’ list

Put the day to bed before you put yourself to bed. Think about the day, plan tomorrow and set your mind at rest. If you’re fretting about how much you have to do, write down a realistic 'to do' list before you go to bed to help you let go of the worry once you are in bed.

4.Only go to bed when you feel sleepy

The number of hours’ sleep you need is as individual as your shoe size. Don’t assume you need the often-quoted 7-8 hours; in fact, a shorter sleep may mean a better quality sleep.

5. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

If you are struggling with chronic, or long-term poor sleep, research shows that the most effective solution is ‘CBT’ or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT for short, trains people to use techniques that address the mental factors associated with insomnia, such as the 'racing mind', and to establish a healthy sleep pattern.

Visit to begin your own, personalised sleep improvement programme grounded in CBT techniques.

Are you making any of these sleep mistakes?

Sleep Mistakes


[1] Espie, C., Kyle, S., Hames, P., Cyhlarova, E. & Benzeval, M. (2012). The daytime impact of DSM-5 insomnia disorder: Comparative analysis of insomnia subtypes from the Great British Sleep Survey. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 73 (12), e1478-1484.

[2] Espie, C.A., Kyle, S., Williams, C., Ong, J.C., Douglas, N.J., Hames, P. & Brown, J.S.L. (2012). A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of online cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic insomnia disorder delivered via an automated media-rich web application. Sleep, 35(6), 769-781.