Everyone wishes that the ‘siesta’ would become a compulsory afternoon activity in Britain but unfortunately we’re still waiting for this to happen. So, in the meantime, it’s very important to be concentrating on getting proper sleep when you go to bed of an evening. You may be shocked to hear that one in five of the population sleeps for fewer than seven hours a night. Most adults need at least 7 or 8 hours of sleep per night, although some people seem to need less, and some a bit more. Most of us have experienced trouble sleeping at one time or another. This was most likely during a stressful period during your life such as: exams, a new job, a relationship issue or even possibly when the Spice Girls split up.

About a third of people experience episodes of insomnia. According to the NHS insomnia tends to be more common in women and more likely to occur more with age. Your bedtime habits greatly affect how well you sleep and then how you feel during your waking hours too and so you need to make sure sleep is a major priority.

The Science Behind Sleep

Many important processes happen in our bodies when we are in a deep sleep. Growth hormone is produced throughout our lives, to grow and repair our bodies and you will produce more growth hormone during deep sleep than at any other time of the day. Therefore at certain times of your life such as when you’re short of sleep for whatever reason or if you’re pregnant or after exercising you will take more deep sleep and stay asleep for longer in offer to give yourself extra growth hormone.

Interestingly, body builders once used a drug called gamma hydroxbutrate (GHB) because it increased deep sleep and in turn there is also a release of growth hormone. This meant that cell repair was promoted which was necessary after the stress of weight straining. Unfortunately, the ability of this drug to induce sleep was misused by some who turned it into a date rape drug. Now it’s tightly controlled and available only by prescription for treatment of disorders such as narcolepsy.

Enough of the science of sleep, as it might be actually sending some of you to sleep! With our handy tips to help you sleep better, you’ll hopefully never have to count sheep again!

  1. Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule

Getting to bed at a regular time and waking up at a regular time is one of the most important strategies for achieving a good sleep. It will make you feel much more refreshed and energised. Make sure in the evening to choose a time to go to bed when you normally feel tired, so that you don’t toss and turn.

  1. Napping

If you need to make up for a few lost hours, opt for a daytime nap rather than sleeping late. I’m trying to get the InstructorLive offices to get a ‘napping room’ fitted but it’s not going so well at the moment. While taking a nap can be a great way to recharge, it can often make insomnia worse. If you feel like you must nap, do it in the early afternoon and try and limit yourself to thirty minutes.

  1. Fight after-dinner drowsiness

If you find yourself getting sleepy way before your bedtime, get off the sofa and do something mildly stimulating to avoid falling asleep, such as washing the dishes, doing an InstructorLive class, or tidying your bedroom. If you give in to the drowsiness you may wake up later in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.

  1. Keep noise down

If you live somewhere very loud it may be wise to invest in some ear plugs, it’ll be worth it when you finally get some sleep. If you can’t avoid or eliminate noise then you could try and mask it in various ways such as with a fan, recordings of soothing sounds (some classic whale music usually does the trick during a massage), or white noise – seems a bit strange to me/reminds me of the horror film ‘White Noise’ but some people find it relaxes them.

  1. Eat right and get regular exercise

Your daytime eating and exercise habits play a role in how well you sleep. It’s particularly important to watch what you put in your body in the hours leading up to your bedtime. Avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bed. Fatty foods take a lot of work for your stomach to digest and may keep you up. Many people also think that a nightcap before bed will help them sleep, but it’s actually not true. While it may make you fall asleep faster, alcohol reduces your sleep quality, waking you up later in the night. (Sorry, we’ve just taken away another good excuse to drink wine).

There are of course instances when not sleeping begins to affect your life to a great extent and so you need to see your doctor if any of the following apply to you:

  • Persistent daytime sleepiness or fatigue
  • Loud snoring accompanied by pauses in breathing
  • Persistent difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Un-refreshing sleep
  • Frequent morning headaches
  • Crawling sensation in your legs or arms at night
  • Inability to move while falling asleep or waking up
  • Physically acting out dreams during sleep
  • Falling asleep at inappropriate times

We hope this advice about getting a good night’s sleep has helped and if you’re concerned at all, then going to speak to a doctor about your sleeping problems wouldn’t be the worst idea.