Despite being a proven risk factor for prostate cancer, depression, obesity, diabetes, stroke and many other conditions, more than 100 million European adults suffer from ‘poor sleep’ and only 38% of people in the UK say they get the recommended 7-8 hours of good quality each night.
Not only does poor sleep quality increase risk of health conditions, but there’s also a strong link between sleep habits and relationships, car accidents and work performance.
What is good quality sleep?
Experts suggest the optimum amount of sleep is between 7-8 hours each night, although this varies slightly from person to person. Sleep is made up of two different phases – REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and non-REM sleep. To wake up feeling restored and refreshed, we need to complete these cycles several times each night. A good indicator of how well you’re sleeping is to see how you feel 20 minutes after rising - if you’re still feeling groggy, the chances are your sleep quality is not optimum.
There are three important things to think about when it comes to improving sleep quality; preparation, sleep environment and timing.
1. Failure to prepare, prepare to fail.
Like with exercise and eating well, achieving good quality sleep involves preparation and dedication. This means switching off your laptop and TV at least an hour before bedtime, doing something relaxing like taking a warm bath or reading a book, and not eating a heavy meal or exercising in the couple of hours before bed. Try to create a pre-bedtime routine so that your body starts to recognise that sleep is on its way!
2. Your sleep environment
How relaxing is your bedroom? If it’s cluttered and messy, it’s not going to be easy to switch off and clear your mind when you get into bed. The ideal temperature is between 60 and 68˚F (15-20˚C) – and if you suffer from cold feet experts recommend wearing socks to bed!
Filter out any light, particularly from electronic equipment and invest in black out blinds – if this isn’t possible, wear an eye mask.
It is a myth that each hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after midnight. But, getting into a regular routine of going to bed at roughly the same time each night and waking up at a similar time (even at the weekend) has been shown to dramatically improve sleep quality.
So instead of setting yourself a new fitness goal or diet plan this month, focus on improving your quality of sleep – and you may find the rest also starts to fall into place.
Written by Ruth Tongue