SleepDrive - Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

SleepDrive is all about increasing awareness of how much sleep you need, quality sleep and how to analyse your sleep levels and how best to overcome sleep issues. How many people has ever stopped and thought, how much sleep do i actually need? What type of sleep is it and is it enough?

This Drive helps you take a closer look at your own sleep needs. Again throughout YouDrive we try to help you stop and not kneejerk but to get to know more about your body, how it works, how to get the best out of you and how to maintain yourself. We don’t want you to guess but to analyse what good looks like so you can compare.

Sleep deprivation in the UK is a major issue and affects a significant number of people. Lack of sleep can affect your mental health and stop you carrying out your normal daily life functions. The NHS carried out a survey and some of the headlines are shown below.

Sleep Facts

The UK’s Mental Health Foundation did a report on sleep, including an ongoing survey of over 6,700 people.  Some of the results from this are shown below.

1
times

as many people with insomnia reported relationship difficulties

1 %
of people

were classified as possibly having ‘chronic insomnia’.

1 %
of people

who said they were in poor health had poorer sleep

1 %
of people

who said they were in good health had good sleep.

of people in the Uk are severely sleep deprived
of people with insomnia reported poor concentration
of people with insomnia reported having it for two years
of people were classified as 'good sleepers'.

The NHS report by Sleepio

The report’s referred to above was carried out by an organisation called Sleepio, and recommendations include the following:
• The importance of good sleep should be highlighted in public health campaigns.
• GPs should be trained on the benefits of sleep.
• Public health strategy should include a specific objective to reduce sleep problems.
• New national guidance is needed on managing insomnia using non-drug treatments.
• People with sleep problems should have access to psychological therapies, in particular cognitive behavioural therapy.

You can do the NHS sleep self-assessment

Sleep Council Tips

  • Create a restful sleeping environment. Your bedroom should be kept for rest and sleep and it should be neither too hot, nor too cold; and as quiet and dark as possible. For more information click here
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable. It’s difficult to get deep, restful sleep on one that’s too soft, too hard, too small or too old. If you’re not sure if you need a new bed, the NBF website has lots of advice 
  • Take more exercise. Regular, moderate exercise such as swimming or walking can help relieve the day’s stresses and strains. But not too close too bedtime or it may keep you awake!
  • Cut down on stimulants such as caffeine in tea or coffee – especially in the evening. They interfere with falling asleep and prevent deep sleep. Have a hot milky drink or herbal tea instead.
  • Don’t over-indulge. Too much food or alcohol, especially late at night, just before bedtime, can play havoc with sleep patterns. Alcohol may help you fall asleep initially, but will interrupt your sleep later on in the night.
  • Don’t smoke. Yes, it’s bad for sleep, too: smokers take longer to fall asleep, wake more often and often experience more sleep disruption.
  • Try to relax before going to bed. Have a warm bath, listen to some quiet music, do some yoga – all help to relax both the mind and body. Your doctor may be able to recommend a helpful relaxation tape, too.
  • Deal with worries or a heavy workload by making lists of things to be tackled the next day.
  • If you can’t sleep, don’t lie there worrying about it. Get up and do something.

The Sleep Council

is an organisation  established in 1995 that raises awareness of the importance of a good night’s sleep on health and well-being.  These are their tips for helping sleep.

SleepDrive 1

These are tips from the Sleep Council. Click on a heading to see what they say.

Your Bedroom

If you’re having trouble sleeping, one of the first things to consider is your bedroom. In order to get a restful night’s sleep you need the right setting, which means a clean, peaceful and welcoming room. Many of us are unknowingly sleeping in a bedroom that’s simply not fit for purpose, and that environment could be the key cause of a restless night.

Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to transform your bedroom into a space that encourages a peaceful night’s sleep. Here are our top tips:

When it’s time for bed, make your room completely dark. This can be achieved with a blackout blind or curtains, an additional window dressing, or even an eye mask.
Maintain an ambient temperature in your room. If you’re too hot or too cold, you won’t sleep soundly. We recommend a cool temperature of around 16-18° C (60-65° F).
A tidy room makes for a tidy mind… and a restful night’s sleep! De-clutter your bedroom and create a space that’s clean, neat and simple. Even just relocating the laundry basket, stacking up some books or blitzing your bedside table can make a real difference.
Say no to technology in the bedroom! That means avoiding televisions and computers. Having access to these will urge you to switch on when you can’t drift off, which in turn can lead to even more disturbed sleep.
LED displays are particularly troublesome when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. When it’s time to snooze, switch off your mobile phone, tablet, and any alarm clocks with a digital display.
Avoid treating your bedroom like an extension of the rest of your house. That means you shouldn’t use it for work, watching TV, eating, and even talking on the phone. Save the bedroom for sleep and sex.
Add special touches to the space, which will help you feel more connected and peaceful. Family photographs, plants, flowers and ornaments will help to create a room that’s pleasant and relaxing.
Avoid using certain colours when decorating. Remember that bright reds, yellows and oranges are jarring, while browns and whites are boring and drab. Instead, choose soft, muted tones that will make you feel calm.
Certain smells can affect your mood, helping you to feel more calm and relaxed. Lavender and germanium are naturally calming, so invest in some essential oils to help you drift off. Remember, these should not be used in pregnancy or children’s rooms.
Take the time to really consider your bedroom. Realise that you have a duty of care to yourself, and should therefore create a sleep area that’s as effective as possible. Boost your wellbeing by making your bedroom more sleep-friendly – you’re worth it! For more information, on how to create the perfect sleep environment, click here!

Your bed

The foundation of a great night’s sleep is a comfortable bed. The right mattress can make a huge difference between a restful and restless night, saving you from fatigue and irritability for the rest of the day. An unsupportive mattress will encourage a poor sleeping posture, which prevents you from good sleep. If you regularly wake up with aches and pains, it’s probably time to change your mattress.

There’s a huge amount of choice on the bed market, which can make selecting the right one difficult. It’s always worth doing your research! Here are some of the factors you should consider when selecting the best bed for you:

Always put quality above price. Of course, there are some perfectly acceptable low-priced mattresses available, but when it comes to your bed, spend as much as you can afford.
The right support is crucial. If your bed is too hard or soft, it will be uncomfortable and unsupportive. Your mattress should be firm enough to support your spine in the correct alignment while conforming to your body’s contours.
Always try before you buy! Lay down on each bed that you’re seriously considering, spending a good 10-15 minutes realising its comfort and support levels. Try several different positions (we all move 40-60 times per night), and remember that if two people will be sleeping on this mattress, test it out together.
Avoid waiting until your bed has ‘worn out’ completely. Research shows that sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress can rob you of up to one hour’s sleep per night, which adds up to a full night’s sleep over the course of a week! You should consider changing your bed after seven years.

Your lifestyle

The 21st century lifestyle is typically fast paced, chaotic and jam-packed with technology. From the moment we wake up we switch on our brains with smart phones, and as our day progresses, we’re presented with even more triggers. The continuous content that’s fed from TV and radio, real time social feeds and our constant checking of emails all make for a non-stop stimulation… It’s no wonder that many of us can’t switch off or fall asleep, then struggle to wake up in the morning and spend a lot of time complaining “I can’t sleep!”

There are simple ways to adjust your lifestyle to promote a better night’s sleep. These minor changes will help you to wind down and relax, removing you from the hectic, technology-crammed world that we live in.

Reduce the intensity of artificial light in your home by using dimmer switches or low wattage bulbs.
Maintain a regular bedtime routine and sleep pattern.
Use a hot water bottle if you get cold.
Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine before bed.
Switch off your tech a couple of hours before bedtime – that includes your phone!
Empty your bladder before bed, and try not to consume too many liquids before you sleep.
Don’t nap during the day.

Stress and Worry

Scientists have found a direct correlation between anxiety and rhythm of sleep. When a person is anxious, their heart rate increases, which causes the brain to ‘race’, too. An alert mind produces beta waves, making you far too stimulated to sleep. To make matters worse, an active brain triggers other worries, so it’s even harder to achieve sleep.

Once this pattern sets in, bedtime can become a thing of anxiety. So how can you combat the stress of sleeping?

There are several techniques to banish anxiety and calm your heart rate. Cognitive behavioural therapy is one of them, helping people to ‘unlearn’ thought processes through psychological treatment.

You can also manage your heart rate by placing your hand on your heart and listen for the beating. Breathe in deeply for four seconds, and then breathe out slowly. Repeat this until you can feel your heart rate slowing, which in turn slows down your busy brain activity.

Eliminate your anxious thoughts by practising the speaking technique. This means voicing the thoughts that would otherwise live in your head. Speaking aloud overrides thinking, which stops your negative thoughts in their tracks. Practise by thinking the alphabet in your head, and when you reach ‘J’, start speaking out loud. What happened to the alphabet? Well, you stopped thinking it in your head, because speaking overrode those thoughts. Use this technique when you start worrying in bed: instead of thinking ‘the mortgage is due and I don’t have the money to pay it’, say aloud ‘we will find a way to pay the mortgage this month.’

Diet

They say you are what you eat, and when it comes to getting a restful night’s sleep, the food and drink you consume has a drastic effect. The best foods for sleep include milk, cherries, chicken and rice, while fatty meat, curry and alcohol are some of the worst. Some people choose not to eat after 6pm, as late meals can make it difficult to sleep. However, if you are eating before bed, remember that there three main chemicals that promote good sleep: tryptophan, serotonin and melatonin. Here’s how you can include them in your diet.

Tryptophan

All proteins involve amino acids, and tryptophan is one of them. It is, however, the rarest amino acid, but it can still be found in turkey and chicken, as well as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts and beans. Milk also involves a small amount of tryptophan. When this chemical reaches the brain, it converts into serotonin.

Serotonin

You may be most familiar with this sleep-promoting chemical, which is connected to drugs like Prozac. Serotonin carries messages between neurones and other cells, and when levels are decreased, individuals can feel anxious, depressed and crave carbohydrates. At night time, serotonin undergoes metabolic changes to become melatonin, the chemical that induces sleep.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that helps to regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, promoting a restful sleep. The best way to ensure optimal melatonin production is to sleep in a dark environment. Even low amounts of light can suppress the production of melatonin, which not only affects sleep, but has other health consequences too.

We can offer plenty of dietary advice to help you sleep better:

• Always combine a protein food with a low to medium glycaemic index carbohydrate, which optimises tryptophan levels.
• Avoid stimulants like caffeine and cigarettes.
• Avoid sedatives, such as sleeping pills and alcohol, to help you sleep. They have short term benefits and long term counter effects, such as dependency.
• Don’t buy melatonin supplements online. They are only available on prescription in the UK. Taking prescribed melatonin will disrupt your own natural melatonin production, potentially suppressing your ability to generate this important hormone.
• Don’t stop taking sleep medication suddenly. The best course of action is to speak to a doctor and develop a strategy to slowly wean yourself off in a healthy manner.
• Changing your diet can help you sleep, but it takes time. Start a sleep diary to keep track of your progress, and don’t give up if you see no sudden improvement – sleeping soundly takes practice!

Exercise

Sports and exercise can help you to enjoy a better quality of sleep. Working out effectively can tire your body out gently, promoting a better night’s sleep. Releasing pent up tension through exercise is also highly beneficial, helping to banish stress before bedtime. Exercising also lowers your body’s temperature, which induces better sleep. However, there are several things to keep in mind when exercising to improve your sleeping habits.

• Don’t overdo it. Contrary to popular belief, wearing yourself out physically is not likely to induce sleepiness. In fact, it can often be counter productive, leading to additional alertness when trying to sleep.
• It’s believed that exercising close to bedtime can disturb sleep, however there is no evidence to back this argument. As such, exercising in the evening is much better than not exercising at all!
• When it comes to exercise, the most important thing is to feel fitter and healthier. If you are experiencing sleeping problems, try to exercise a little more or change the type of activities you do. Yoga is renowned for its relaxation and sleep benefits, while moderate-aerobic exercise like walking has been found to help people fall asleep more quickly.

Relaxation and other therapies

Many of us lead stressful lives. Demanding jobs, long hours and active families all contribute to a hectic lifestyle, and that’s not helped by the intense media that surrounds us. These elements make it very difficult to wind down, but fortunately there are a few relaxation techniques that can help promote a deep, restful sleep.

Relax Your Body

This method is best done in bed, though it can also be practiced throughout the day if you’re in the right environment. By relaxing separate groups of muscles, you become more aware of your body and able to wind down mindfully.

1. Tense a muscle, for example your bicep, by contracting for 7-10 seconds. Flex it gently – do not strain.
2. At the same time, visualise the muscle being tensed, consciously feeling the build up of tension.
3. Release the muscle abruptly and then relax, allowing the body to go limp. Take a few moments before moving on to the next muscle.
4. Remember to keep the rest of your body relaxed whilst working on a particular muscle.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT is commonly prescribed for depression, but clinical trials have shown it is the most effective long-term solution for insomniacs. CBT helps you identify the negative attitudes and beliefs that hinder your sleep, then replaces them with positive thoughts, effectively ‘unlearning’ the negative beliefs.

A typical exercise is to set aside 30 minutes per day, in which you do your day’s worth of worrying. During this worry period you keep a diary of your worries and anxious thoughts, writing them down in order to reduce the weight in your mind. Once this task is complete, you are banned from worrying at any other point in the day.

Before you go to sleep, you can also write down the worries that you think may keep you awake. Once you are in bed with your eyes closed, you should imagine those thoughts floating away, leaving your mind free, peaceful, and ready to sleep.

Stimulus Control – The 20 Minute Rule

We should all go to bed when we’re tired, but if you’re not asleep after twenty minutes, it’s recommended that you get up and find another activity to do. This should be quiet and peaceful, and not involve your phone or other digital displays. Listening to music, reading or doing yoga are all recommended as great 20 Minute Rule activities.

When you feel sleepy again, you should return to bed. The idea of this method is to build a strong association between bed and sleeping, and eventually you’ll be able to fall asleep quickly.

Sleep Restriction

This technique involves only spending the amount of time in bed that equates to the average number of hours that you sleep. For example, you might only get five hours of sleep per night, even though you spend seven hours in bed. By using the Sleep Restriction method, you limit yourself to only five hours in bed per night.

This technique might make you more tired at first, but it can help you fall asleep faster and wake up fewer times. However, it’s not suitable if you’re only getting a couple of hours sleep per night, and should be supervised by a qualified CBT Sleep Practitioner.

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The perfect sleep environment

Sleep Council tips for good sleeping

An increasing amount of detailed sleep studies and accessible information means that we’re becoming more and more aware of the importance of sleep. People are now making sleep a priority.

Scientific breakthroughs have benefited us all in the sleep department, but at the same time, we’ve been hindered. We’re in an age of the internet, smartphones and non-stop high-pressure jobs, which means most of us are partaking in activities that have a negative effect on our sleep.

In order to enjoy a restful night’s sleep, you must pay some attention to your environment. Here are the top six things that should be considered.

“Laugh and the world laughs with you. Snore and you sleep alone.”
SleepDrive 2
Anthony Burgess
Writer

Next Steps

It doesn’t matter what stage  you’re at – it’s important to be the best you can be.  At the end of the day it’s about taking personal responsibility – You Drive!

It’s really your choice. You can find out more information about the subject, or see other institutions that can help by going to Support. There you will find organisations, training, coaching, self-help courses and other items to support your personal change. We have also started developing a panel of experts to provide info, advice, help and support. 

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See what other things can help

More information

To use the NHS self assessment on insomnia in a new window click here

Sleepstation is a six week online therapy course for insomnia

To see the Sleep Council website click here

The Mental Health Organisation has a report on sleep from 2011 – click here to download

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