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What keeps you awake at night
“There’s no doubt that we live in an incredibly distracting world. We’re constantly bombarded by artificial light, digital devices, noise pollution and on-demand entertainment – and that’s on top of the stresses of work and family life. It’s all too easy to see how our demanding lifestyles stand in the way of good quality sleep. Take the first step by working out what's keeping you awake, and then learn what you can do to help yourself to better sleep.”
Dr Ranj, Furniture Village sleep ambassador
The factors that can cause you to sleep poorly
Poor sleep can affect every aspect of your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. If you struggle to get to sleep at night and stay asleep, it’s time to work out what’s keeping you awake. Here are some of the main culprits.
Light – usually daylight – tells your body when it’s time to wake up and when it’s time to go to sleep. But too much light in your bedroom, like strong overhead lighting, can interfere with these messages and be what’s keeping you awake.
Night time noise – from neighbours, traffic, domestic appliances, electronics and even members of our own household – can lead to a disturbed night’s sleep, night after night.
An untidy space can weigh on our minds and keep us awake, as it reminds us of unfinished tasks. And if you also use your bedroom for working or watching television, you may be associating your sleeping space with more active tasks.
Our laptops, tablets and smartphones really do keep us awake at night. They emit blue light which can suppress melatonin, the hormone that’s important for regulating our sleep/wake cycles.
If we’re too hot in bed, we find it hard to get to sleep and stay asleep. Even though we all like to get cosy in bed at times, a too-warm bedroom or bedding that retains heat or moisture can keep us awake.
The quality of our sleep has a direct impact on our physical health and mental wellbeing.
The Sleep Council’s tips and tricks for a good night's sleep
We asked The Sleep Council for advice on getting a good night’s sleep and how to deal with what keeps you awake.
Tip 1: Prepare your bedroom for sleep
Your bedroom might well be what's keeping you awake. The right sleeping environment really can make a difference to the quality of sleep you enjoy every night.
- Colour Scheme
- Smell of Room
- Sounds in Room
- Interior Design
Invest in a good bed
Part of getting a good night’s sleep is being comfortable in bed. If you’re buying a new bed or mattress, make sure you think about the amount of support you need. Fabric is important for temperature control when it comes to mattresses, too. Think of it as an investment and try to get the best bed for you within your budget.
Choose appropriate bedding
Choosing the right bedding fabric is essential for restful sleep. Cotton is often a preferred choice for both bedding and nightwear as it’s breathable, wicks moisture and stays comfortably cool against the skin.
Make sure you use the right tog duvet for the time of year. You could even have two duvets, one for winter and one for summer, or use layers of bedding that you can add and take away. If you’re not comfortable in bed – because you’re too hot or too cold – your sleep won’t be as deep as you’ll move about more, leading you to wake up feeling tired and unrefreshed.
Turn down the light
A dark room is most conducive for sleep as light tells your body it’s time to wake up. In darkness, your body releases a hormone called melatonin that helps you to drift off. Sleeping with the light on is definite no.
Switch off the ceiling light before bedtime and opt for mellow mood lighting in the form of bedside table lamps instead.
Avoid over-stimulating colours
Some believe that rich deep colours, such as purple, gold and red as part of your bedroom décor, can be stimulating, resulting in poor sleep. Pastels, in particular blue, green and yellow, are calming shades that can help create a more relaxing environment.
Introduce relaxing scents
Some smells can affect your mood and make you feel more relaxed and calm. Try sprinkling a potpourri with essential oils of lavender or geranium, but please remember that these shouldn’t be used during pregnancy or in children’s bedrooms.
Listen to soothing sounds
Steady low sounds are soothing and help block out other noises. Some people may find listening to white noise or relaxing sounds help them sleep better. Listening to soothing music before bed can calm the mind, making it easier to fall asleep.
Be mindful with interior design
Your sleep space should ideally be somewhere you feel calm, safe and happy. Adorn your bedroom with beautiful things such as photographs of loved ones, artwork that you like, or plants and flowers. It will help you feel more connected to your bedroom and look forward to going to bed.
Switch off the tech
Switch off your smartphone, tablet, laptop and TV at least an hour before bedtime – and that includes your phone. Non-stop stimulation from screens wreaks havoc when we’re trying to fall asleep.
Try an e-reader
Not all screens are created equal. If you enjoy e-books, use an e-reader, like the Kindle, rather than a tablet. These use e-paper tech instead of LCD screens, a technology that’s easier on the eyes in the time before sleep. Or just go for a regular paper book!
It’s much harder to switch off in a messy room. Try to clear things away as you go – fold the laundry and tidy up the paperwork – so that by the time you get into bed your room is distraction-free.
Create a calm and clutter-free bedroom with bedroom furniture that’s both stylish and functional.
Tip 3: Be proactive when you struggle to sleep
Lying awake desperately trying to fall asleep is, as we all know, one of life’s great frustrations. But staring at a dimly-lit ceiling will likely make you feel more restless. Here’s what to do instead to confront what’s keeping you awake.
Get out of bed and do something different – something peaceful and calming – for 15 minutes before trying again. Read a couple of chapters of your favourite book, or make yourself a milky drink or a cup of caffeine-free herbal tea.
Practice deep breathing
Relaxation techniques including deep breathing – and even counting sheep – can be surprisingly successful in hastening restful sleep. Different tactics work for different people, though, so don’t be discouraged if you have to experiment with a couple of different strategies to find the one that’s right for you.
Make a to-do list
If an overactive mind is keeping you awake or you’re thinking about all the things you have to do the following day, get out of bed and make a list. Taking tasks out of your head and onto a piece of paper can free up your brain to accept sleep.
Don’t try to find sleep
It may sound counterintuitive but actively trying to find sleep can make you feel more wakeful. Allow sleep to find you by going to bed only when you feel ready or, if you can’t sleep, by doing something relaxing instead.