5 ways to improve your sleep
For many people it’s a struggle to achieve a good night’s sleep. Research by Benenden Health has found that the average UK adult gets just six hours of sleep per day, while more than two thirds of the nation (68%) are failing to get the recommended amount of at least seven hours.
Getting adequate sleep provides the foundation for our physical and mental health. It’s as crucial as eating a good diet and doing regular exercise. Getting your 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night helps the body recover and builds a stronger immune system.
When our sleep is impaired on a frequent basis we are less likely to be able to ward off disease, and more likely to put on weight and suffer mental health issues such as anxiety.
Luckily, there are some easy steps you can take to improve your sleep.
1. Put away electronic devices
Modern life means we can get into the habit of spending hours a day attached to our screens. Looking at blue light too close to our bedtime tricks the body into thinking it is still the day by blocking the natural hormone melatonin that makes us sleepy.
Try to put away any electronic devices that emit blue light two to three hours before bedtime and get into the habit of leaving your phone in another room or in a drawer so you’re not tempted to reach for it.
2. Take a hot bath or shower before bedtime
Research shows that immersion in warm water aids the temperature regulation process that naturally takes place in the hours before bedtime.
3. Don’t eat too late
If you eat too late in the evening your digestive system is still functioning when you are trying to sleep, which can lead to restlessness or sleeplessness. Many experts recommend eating dinner at 6.30pm or earlier, which also helps if you’re trying to lose weight.
In addition, what you eat before bed can also affect the quality of your sleep, so if you're finding yourself slipping into a bad routine check-in on your nutrition habits.
4. Limit/avoid stimulants
Much as we love our cuppas, drinking coffee or tea too late in the day plays havoc with our sleep. Instead, reach for the decaf or a herbal tea. Drinking alcohol at night is also best avoided – as your liver enzymes metabolise the alcohol and the blood alcohol level decreases, you are more likely to experience a disrupted sleep.
5. Try lavender oil on your pillow
Another old-fashioned natural sleep remedy is to sprinkle or spray a few drops of essential lavender oil on your pillow. It will help promote a feeling of calm and relaxation.
How Benenden Health can help
If you're a member of Benenden Health, the Wellbeing Hub on the Benenden Health App has a number of useful resources to help you get a better sleep, including articles and guided meditations. You can call our 24/7 GP Helpline to make a GP’s appointment or call our 24/7 Mental Health Helpline for advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.