Can Britain learn to sleep better?

A few weeks ago, I explored Britain’s terrible sleep crisis, and some possible explanations as to why so few of us are getting good enough kip. I’ve been feeling pretty low lately myself, fading in the afternoons and sleeping late into the mornings, so I decided to set myself a sleep challenge and see if any of the suggestions being offered out by medics actually improve your sleeping habits.

The dream

Ideally, I wanted to try and kick my sleep issues by doing everything absolutely perfectly. Before you get your hopes up, I didn’t manage to do everything perfectly but I was relatively strict with myself and got some okay results. If you really want to try and change the way you sleep, here’s a quick recap of the things we should all be doing:

  • Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every night/morning. Regulating your body clock is really important.
  • Don’t use your bed as somewhere to eat or hang out – beds are for sleeping only, and possibly a little romantic activity but then sleep. We’re all too accustomed to using our beds as somewhere to work or watch films and generally be awake, which makes it harder to fall asleep.
  • Try and turn off your laptop/phone at least an hour before going to bed. Unwinding before going to sleep is important for nodding off straight away and not thinking about work or other things.
  • Don’t use your phone or tablet in bed, even when you wake up in the morning. You’re less likely to go to sleep if you’ve been staring at the blue lights of electronic devices, and less likely to get out of bed the next day if you’re browsing Facebook first thing.

Put into practice

Firstly, I have to own up to failing at going to bed at the same time every night. Working night shifts generally mean bed times just never happen, but the few days that I did manage to hit the sack at 10pm and wake up at 8 or 9 the following morning, I did feel more refreshed and generally better geared for the rest of the day.

Putting the phone down was the hardest habit to kick, as I’m so used to watching documentaries or flicking through Instagram before going to sleep at night. For the first few days, I had to force myself not to reach for my phone when I knew I was waiting for a text, or waking up and immediately opening Twitter to see what I’d missed. But I did notice a difference straight away – my eyes stopped aching and hurting almost immediately and I was also falling asleep quicker and getting a full night’s sleep. Without having something to look at first-thing in the morning, I also found myself getting straight out of bed and moving, instead of lounging around texting or watching morning TV.

Worth a try

If you have a chronic sleep issue then these changes are probably not going to fix what ails you, but if you’re someone who just feels like they’re not sleeping as well as they used to, then it’s worth having a go at some of these tips. If anything, you’ll start your day feeling better and brighter, and avoiding phones and tablets late at night really does help to ease sore eyes.

Start off by:

  • Viewing your bed as a sanctuary for sleep. Don’t eat or work in bed, don’t lie in and, if you’re not falling asleep, get up and do something else until you feel tired enough to sleep. Once you stop using your bed as a sofa, falling asleep will be easier and getting up will seem like a positive way to start the day.
  • Putting the phone down for the night. How many of us are guilty of lying awake for a few minutes, then reaching for our phones and spending another hour or so browsing social media? We all need to switch off sometimes.

As technology continues to advance and everyone figures out a way to install a TV in their bedroom, Britain’s sleep problems are surely only set to get worse, so it’s essential that we find small ways to combat them. Even if you only make one change to start with, if you notice an improvement in the way you sleep and feel throughout the day, it must be worth it. Nobody’s saying you can never enjoy a late night out or a Sunday lie-in, but if  changing my routine can stop me nodding off at my desk at 4pm, I’m happy to give it a go.

Have you tried any of the techniques Alex has mentioned? Did they work for you? Or do you have your own tips for a better nights sleep? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us at @KettleMag, we’d love to hear from you.