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How to sleep better: Top tips to help you get the rest you need

how to sleep better header man waking from his sleep

Not getting your 40 winks can be detrimental to your physical and mental health, we look at changes you can make to improve your sleep

According to the first-ever Expert Reviews Sleep Survey, we are a nation of bad sleepers. Our results revealed that 45% of respondents get less than the minimum seven hours per night recommended by the NHS for people aged 18 to 65. Of these, 44% are only getting three to six hours of sleep, and 1% don’t even manage three hours.

A decent night’s sleep can make or break your day – impacting mood and affecting cognitive function – and a continual lack of sleep can lead to higher stress levels, less motivation to be physically active and unhealthy food choices, all of which increase your risk of life-limiting conditions, including hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression and heart disease. A terrifying thought, and one that is hardly going to help you drift off into gentle slumber. Making sure you’ve got the best mattress for you is a good place to start, then try out the solutions listed below.

It’s no surprise that 77% of those who took part in our survey said they would sleep more if they could. So, here are some simple and easy tips from the experts who tackle the golden question of how to get better sleep, professionally.

Breathe freely

One thing often overlooked is how well we breathe when we sleep. Jane Tarrant is a breathing coach and the founder of LiNK BREATHING, educating and retraining people in their breathing habits and how to tackle some common sleep disturbances, including sleep apnoea – a potentially serious sleep disorder where your breathing stops and restarts many times while you sleep – mouth breathing, fast breathing, snoring and waking up unable to breathe or feeling breathless. She explains: “One of the best and fastest wins for improving your sleep is training your tongue position during the day. This then trains it to stay in place at night”, adding that she has a video on her website demonstrating exactly how to do this.

The correct position lifts our tongue out of our throat, which means we are less likely to suffer from sleep apnoea or snoring – both of which can disrupt our sleep, as well as the sleep of others. Lifting our tongue also blocks off mouth breathing, which can leave us dehydrated, and encourages nose breathing instead.

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Fresh air

Our nose is better designed for ‘processing’ the air we breathe. It not only helps filter out viruses, bacteria and allergens but it also “…warms, moistens and pressurises the air, preparing it for our lungs and reducing irritation and illness”, Tarrant shares. However, we can take action to improve the quality of the air we’re breathing in simply by opening a window to reduce the amount of excess carbon dioxide in our bedrooms.

If you live in a city or by a busy main road, if you can’t sleep with a window open, or if you suffer from seasonal allergies, consider using an air purifier to boost air quality.

Tarrant also advocates regularly checking for and cleaning away mould, mildew, excess dust or animal fur.

Environmental awareness

Where we sleep is often just as important as how. Rosey Davidson is an author, a sleep consultant, and the founder of Just Chill Baby Sleep, offering guidance to sleep-deprived parents. She shares that the bedroom is one of the first things she looks at when asked how to sleep better.

“Black-out blinds are very useful in the summer, and to block out street lights. Aim to keep the room cool, when you can. Invest in a comfortable mattress and bedding, and consider using white noise or earplugs if you are likely to be disturbed by street noise or your partner snoring”, she advises. Choosing the right bedding for the season can help keep you cool at night; as can your choice of mattress.

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Limit screen time

Our bedrooms need to be a sanctuary from modern life, a place where we can wind down and switch off, and that means trying to stop habitually taking our devices to bed with us. As Davidson says: “The blue light from your smartphone, device or TV can interfere with your production of melatonin, one of our sleep hormones. This light tells our body it is time to wake up, rather than to feel sleepy.”

She recognises, though, that it’s a difficult habit to crack and not always practical, adding: “If it’s not possible to limit them, you can use blue light filters or night mode.”

You might consider the type of lighting you use in your bedroom too. For example, using smart lighting to change the colour and intensity to fit the mood of your space – and it can always be used alongside more traditional, functional lighting for activities such as reading.

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