It has been found that one in three of us suffer from poor sleeping habits, and when it comes to our wellbeing, a good night's sleep can be something that we take for granted.
The prioritisation of a healthy sleeping pattern is just as important as eating well and exercising regularly.
Whether it be due to stress, technology or for health reasons, lack of sleep can have a significant influence on your day to day activities and your mood. A continual poor sleeping pattern can have a severe and long-term effect on our health, with experts linking sleep deprivation to diabetes, stroke, heart disease and weight gain.
Follow these seven steps to ensure you get the perfect night's shut-eye.
1. Turn off Your Screen
You've probably heard this before, but seriously, turn off your phone before bed. Research has found that using a phone within 30 minutes of trying to sleep can stop you from being able to sleep, and the blue light emitted from the screen can harm your eyes' retina and restrains the production of melatonin - the chemical that controls your natural sleeping cycle. Using a phone screen in a dark room can be harmful both in the short-term and the long-term, so it's best to switch off and pick up a book instead.
2. Keep Your Bedroom Cool
Your body temperature naturally drops to its lowest temperatures when you are sleeping, so a cool bedroom is considered to be the most comfortable for rest (between 16-18°C). In the warmer months, keep your room well ventilated during the day and evening before you head to bed, either by opening a window or using a fan if possible. The most restless sleep has been proven to occur when temperatures either rise above 24°C or drop below 12°C.
3. Bedroom = Retreat
Your bedroom is best kept as a sanctuary for rest and sleep. Doing your work or leaving unfinished jobs in your bedroom can make it a less inviting place to relax. It's also hard to switch off if you have your laptop nearby. Create a relaxing environment for rest by removing any work documents, moving your laptop or notebooks to another place so that they're not a distraction.
And finally, remember nothing beats the feeling of clean sheets and clean pyjamas!
4. Read Before Sleep
If you struggle to remove your thoughts from the day's events, picking up a book will help you to switch off. Some of our fiction favourites for bedtime reading include The Reader on the 6:27 and Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. If you're looking for something grittier, we recommend Girl, Woman, Other - an uplifting, modern story of diversity and female culture.
5. Sleep Meditation
For those of us that suffer from anxiety or find it hard to switch off in the evenings, using a meditation app to wind down before sleep can have a significant benefit. Apps such as Calm offer a wide range of spoken meditations, such as progressive relaxation, breathing techniques and sleep stories to help you drift off.
You can also try soothing music and natural sounds to transport your mind from the activities of the day to a restful slumber.
6. Scents for Sleep
Not to be sniffed at, aromatherapy can aid sleep significantly by helping your body to unwind, your heart rate to slow and your mind to stop racing. Essential oils such as lavender and bergamot have long been associated with encouraging natural sleep and relaxation. You can add these aromatherapy scents into your bedtime ritual through pillow sprays, diffusers or candles. If you have an eye pillow, try spritzing this with a little lavender for a relaxing effect.
7. Naps are Great - If They're Short
While it may be tempting to grab a quick nap in the middle of the day to re-boot, research suggests that napping for longer than ten minutes can have a negative impact on your overall sleep routine. Findings from The Sleep Foundation state that "a 10-minute nap produced the most benefit in terms of reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance, whereas naps lasting 30 minutes or longer were more likely to be accompanied by sleep inertia - the period of grogginess that sometimes follows sleep." Rather than leaving yourself with that sluggish-feeling for the rest of the day, limit your midday shut-eye to ten minutes maximum.