A better night's sleep

Supporting a healthy sleep cycle

Good sleep is as vital to your physical and mental health as a balanced diet and regular exercise, but the NHS reports that one in three of us are struggling to achieve the rest our body needs. Consistently poor sleep can have disastrous consequences for your wellness, increasing your susceptibility to serious health conditions, such as diabetes and health disease, and shortening your expected lifespan. High-quality sleep is needed to keep your body functioning at the highest level. The hours you spend asleep at night gives your body and brain much needed time to restore, repair and rejuvenate in order to best prepare for the following day.

We turned to sleep consultant, Frankie from www.sootheandsleep.com, who helps families all over the world achieve the best possible quality of life, to answer your burning questions about sleep...

From our users

"I've always struggled to get good, consistent sleep. I started drinking these a few weeks ago and have a lovely routine now. I drink this an hour before bed and feel more calm and seem to drift off easier."
- Bev P

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Our Q&A with Frankie

I struggle to fall asleep at night, what can I do to help drift off faster?

There are a few things you can do throughout the day and just before bedtime to help you fall to sleep soundly. During the day stay hydrated and try to get some form of exercise in, even a short walk would be good, not only for the movement but to get exposure to daylight. This will help regulate your release of melatonin in the evening which is the sleep hormone which helps us to feel sleepy. Avoid drinking too much caffeine and especially in the afternoons/evening and just before bed try to wind down without any screen time which exposes you to blue light. I personally find that listening to a guided sleep meditation in bed a lovely way to round off the day and ease into better sleep. There are some great apps like calm, headspace and insights timer (which is free!) you could check out. Another thing to consider is your sleep environment - is the room too hot? Could it be darker? Have you got comfortable pillows and bedding? Getting your bedroom set up in the right way should lead to a nice restorative sleep.

I suffer with insomnia; how can I better cope with this?

Insomnia can be a debilitating problem but there are things you can do to treat it. Start by looking at the ways you can improve your sleep; have a fixed wake up and bedtime each day, don’t be tempted to lie in after a bad night or sleep in the day. Check your sleep environment and use a mask if the room is too light and ear plugs if noises are distracting you. Try not to eat a big meal too close to bedtime. Switch off from all tech for an hour pre bed, take a bath or read instead with a sleep tea in hand. Exercise and avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. If after making all these changes you are still struggling, then consider getting CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) to deal with the deeper cause. I’d recommend everyone even those without insomnia consider these tips to improve sleep.

I think I am getting enough sleep, so why am I still tired throughout the day?

Adults on average need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, and children much more at an average of 12 hours overnight not including naps! So firstly, check if you’re getting to bed early enough and getting the right amount asleep for your individual needs and lifestyle. If you’re getting plenty of sleep but still feel tired, it could be due to psychological causes which could include depression, anxiety, stress and emotional shock. If you suspect this is causing you to feel constantly tired please seek medical support from your GP. Before you head to the GP it could be useful to sit down and write out the things that have be happening in your life which could be causing this feeling of tiredness, such as a breakup, losing a job, having a baby or a bereavement. There could be physical cause at play, such as sleep apnoea, but these tend to effect 2-9% of the population. Lifestyle factors such as alcohol, smoking, lack of or too much exercise, caffeine and naps can interfere with sleep causing you to feel tired.

Why do I wake up frequently throughout the night?

Throughout the night most adults will move through 4 to 6 sleep cycles. Which last about 90 minutes on average. You can use your smartphones or smartwatch devices, such as a Fitbit to track your sleep cycles and see how often you are waking and how much light / deep sleep you’re getting, this is often referred to as NREM and REM sleep. Most adults will move through these sleep cycles without realising they are technically ‘awake’ during the night however others may fully wake up and not be able to get back off.

If this is happening to you consider this checklist:
Your bedroom: the room should be around 18 degrees, dark (think of 7 out of 10 if 10 was pitch black, so that you can’t see your hand in-front of your face) and quiet.
Your bladder: it could be that you wake in the night to use the loo, if that’s the case try to cut back your fluid intake in the evening and hydrate well during the day. If this is a persistent issue seek medical advice.
Your lifestyle: did you have a big meal? Drink alcohol? Smoke before bed? Try to limit these.
Your medicine: some medicine an interfere with sleep so always check the side effects and try to take early in the morning to avoid this.

I work nightshifts, what can I do to sleep better during the day?

Working nights can mean that you are working against your circadian rhythm (these are 24hr cycles which are governed by light and dark) and as such it can be much harder to get good restorative sleep. You will be trying to stay alert during the times your body is wanting to sleep and then trying to sleep when your body wants to be awake. Where possible try to still get a good block or 7-9 hours of sleep as soon as you can after your shift. Don’t delay sleep / force yourself to stay up. Ensure you’re hydrated and have eaten something so you’re not woken with thirst or hunger. Try to get friends and family to not disturb you and definitely invest in some black out blinds or curtains and ear plugs. Try to expose yourself to light during your working hours even though it’s dark outside and then make your sleep/home environment dark to support the release of melatonin.

Anxiety is keeping me awake at night, what can I do to shut off my mind?

Aside from thinking about all the tips above if you’re suffering with anxiety it would be a good idea to find a relaxation technique which works for you and use it not only before bed but during the day too. Making this a regular and daily practice will not only improve your sleep but also your mood and ability to cope with your anxious feelings. Most of these techniques will get you to focus on your breath and encourage you to take long and deep breaths and this can often be accompanied by a body scan to notice where you are holding tension and to release it. You can also use visualisation techniques to take your mind to an imaginary or real setting that relaxes you. Why not do some research and try a few different things until you find the one that clicks with you.