Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl none of us want to be tossing and turning in the night, attempting to ‘count sheep’ in the hope to finally drift off. You could be committing crimes against sleep throughout the day, without even realising. To help us get a decent amount of shut-eye we have asked our experts for their top 10 ‘sleep deprivers.’
1. Midnight munchies
If you get the late night munchies, try to avoid having a mound of hard to digest food, such as pasta, pizza or chocolate. Instead, if you’re peckish try having a snack of a complex carbohydrate food before bed. “I’d recommend a couple of oatcakes, or some rye crackers with a bit of hummus. This can give a gentle release of energy and helps us to stop waking up hungry during the night,” suggests Nutritionist, Cassandra Barns. If your sweet tooth is hindering you settling into the mind-set of sleep try Slissie (from £39.99), which is the first of its kind as it delivers appetite-suppressing flavourings that instantly help you resist snack temptation. Slissie releases tasty, appetite-suppressing flavours, from vanilla to chocolate, which can help you resist eating things you know you really shouldn’t.
2. Texting a friend before bed
You may think that texting a friend or joining in with a group chat is less disturbing than a phone call, but think again. If you sleep with your phone near your bed then you may be disturbed by a reply, just when you were getting into a peaceful sleep. One in five 13-29 year olds say that they are woken up be a text, phone call or email, at least a few times a week, according to a study. To deter you from being bothered by a friend or family trying to contact you late into the night, put your phone in another room or put it on silent.
3. Being a couch potato
Although you may feel relaxed when snuggled down watching a film, or surfing the web in the hour before bed, you could actually be giving your body mixed signals. “If we don’t allow our brain to switch off or be ‘quiet’, then this constant stimulation can have dire consequences for our sleep – not only how long we’re actually asleep but also our quality of sleep. What’s more, the blue light from our devices actually suppresses melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel sleepy. Without enough quality sleep, our cognitive function (memory, reasoning, thinking etc.) can slow down. This can mean that we may become more forgetful, or clumsier, or just less ‘on the ball’,” explains Cassandra.
4. Not switching off
“It’s common to find it hard to get to sleep because we can’t wind down from a busy day - particularly if work or other activities took us later into the evening. This can keep our mind active and alert, preventing us from feeling tired enough to go to bed. At least an hour before bed, put together a ‘to do’ list. This can prevent you from worrying and thinking about tasks for the next day whilst trying to sleep,” suggests Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist at SuperfoodUK the online shopping destination for health & wellbeing.
5. Exercising late
Getting sweaty with exercise is a great way to relieve stress as it releases feel-good chemicals, but it’s important to not exercise too late. “Try to exercise early in the day. Exercise can be extremely stimulating and some women find it difficult to sleep following a late work out session,” Dr. Marilyn Glenville, author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar.
6. Checking the time
“When struggling to get back to sleep it can be tempting to check how long you have until your alarm goes off, but don’t give in! Checking the time can increase anxiety, so you’re even less likely to doze off again,” says Shona. Try keeping your alarm clock far enough away from your bed so that if you do wish to see the time, you have to make a conscious decision to get up to take a peek.
7. Chugging water
Keeping hydrated is important, but consuming a lot of liquid before bed may lead you to making a trip to the loo in the middle of the night. “Limit how much you drink before bed – ideally keep to no more than one glass of water (or other fluid) in the 2–3 hours before you go to bed. Avoid bladder irritants like caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods after dinner as they can encourage you to urinate more often. Of course, caffeine and alcohol can also keep you awake for other reasons too; caffeine should be avoided after lunchtime if you have problems sleeping, and alcohol limited to no more than one drink if you want an optimal night’s sleep,” suggests Cassandra.
8. Making your bedroom toasty
You may think that by cranking up the heat in your bedroom helps you get ready to snuggle down, but research suggests that sleeping in a cooler room can help decrease certain types of insomnia. To help stop you from tossing and turning, freshen up your bed with cotton sheets. “Good quality 100% cotton sheets are the best things to cover yourself with, as they will allow the air to circulate and are the least irritating thing on your skin,” says Shona.
9. You ignore nature’s tranquiliser
“Many of us experience anxiety and nervous energy, especially after a busy, stressful day and these feelings can feel more prominent at bedtime. Magnesium is also known as ‘nature’s tranquiliser’ so try where possible, to add magnesium rich foods to your diet. These include buckweat, sunflower seeds, fish and leafy green vegetables. I’d also recommend taking KalmAssure Magnesium Magnesium Powder, by Natures Plus (£24.50). This is a naturally chelated magnesium which is very easy to absorb and easily delivered to the tissues,” explains Cassandra.
10. You don’t separate work and play
Avoid leaving work that you’ve brought home scattered around the bedroom and pack your bag for the next day, before climbing into bed. This can help you switch off, and relax in a more tranquil environment. “Establish the mood of the room that you sleep in, making it a calm and relaxing environment. This includes the colour of the walls, bed linen and décor and avoiding very bright, stimulating colours,” recommends Shona.