Some of us shift house or change car more often than we change our mattress or pillows even though our bed plays a major role in the quality of our sleep and lifestyle. Physical discomfort can make falling asleep more difficult and leads to a restless sleep.
Does your mattress provide the support you need? Do you wake up with a back ache? Is there enough room for you and your sleep partner? Do you sleep better, or worse, when you are away from home? These are the questions you should consider carefully while you are choosing your new mattress.
What does your bed mean to you?
If you can fall asleep easily on your sofa or chair, but finds it difficult to fall asleep in your own bed, you may be associating your bed with everything but sleep. Do you use your bed for work? Read your iPad while propped against the pillows? Watch television there? These are all ways to tell your body to be alert in bed, rather than to go to sleep.
Learn to use your bed only for sleeping and follow a regular wake-up schedule. You can restrict your time in bed, initially, to the number of hours you actually sleep. As you begin to sleep regularly during these hours, increase your time in bed by 15-30 minutes per night until you're getting an adequate amount of sleep each night
Reclaiming your bed for sleep
- Use your bed for sleeping only
- Choose a mattress that is comfortable and supports your body.
- Only get into bed when you're tired.
- If you don't fall asleep within 15 minutes, get out of bed. When you're sleepy, go back to bed.
- While in bed, do not dwell on not being able to fall asleep as it will increase anxiety.
- Think relaxing thoughts: picture yourself soothed in a tub of hot water, or drifting to sleep.
Sleep debt can cost you
Does it often take you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep at night? Do you wake up frequently during the night or too early in the morning, and have a hard time going back to sleep? Do you feel groggy and lethargic when you wake up in the morning? Do you feel drowsy during the day, particularly during monotonous situations?
You may have a 'sleep debt' if you answered "yes" to any of these questions.
Sleep debt can affect you in ways you don’t even realise, and you aren’t alone
According to research conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, a majority of adults experience sleep problems. However, few recognize the importance of adequate rest. In addition, most are unaware that effective methods of preventing and managing sleep problems now exist.
Being at risk for poor sleep is much more common than you may think. Virtually everyone suffers at least an occasional night of poor sleep. However, certain individuals may be particularly vulnerable. These include students, shift workers, travelers and those suffering from acute stress, depression or chronic pain. People working long hours or multiple jobs may also find their sleep less refreshing.
What is the right amount of sleep?
Sleep needs vary. In general, most healthy adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. However, some individuals are able to function without feeling sleepy or drowsy after sleeping for only 6 hours. Others can't perform at their peak unless they have slept 10 hours. Contrary to popular belief, the need for sleep doesn't decline with age (although the ability to get it all at one time may be reduced).
How do you measure how much sleep you truly need?
If you have trouble staying alert during boring or monotonous situations when fatigue is often "unmasked," you probably aren't getting enough good-quality sleep. Other signs are a tendency to be unreasonably irritable with co-workers, family or friends, and difficulty in concentrating or remembering facts.
Here are some tips for a good night's sleep. Many people, just like you, found these to be useful:
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in the late afternoon and evening. Caffeine and nicotine can delay your sleep, and alcohol may interrupt your sleep later in the night.
- Exercise regularly, but do so at least 3 hours before bedtime.
- If you have trouble sleeping when you go to bed, don't nap during the day, as it affects your ability to sleep at night.
- Consider your sleep environment. Make it as pleasant, comfortable, dark, cool and quiet as you can.
- Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine that will allow you to unwind and send a "signal" to your brain that it's time to sleep.
- If you can't go to sleep after 30 minutes, don't stay in bed tossing and turning. Get up and involve yourself in a relaxing activity, such as listening to soothing music or reading, until you feel sleepy.
A call to your doctor is another alternative
While many individuals will try an over-the-counter medicine to help them sleep, these should be taken with caution. Your physician or pharmacist can advise on the different types of medications available and the most effective ones for you. If your sleep problems persist more than a week and interferes with the way you feel or function during the day, consult a doctor.
THE BOTTOM LINE...
Adequate sleep is as essential to health and peak performance as exercise and good nutrition.