Always feeling exhausted? 3 tiny changes that'll have a huge impact on your sleep 2 years ago

Always feeling exhausted? 3 tiny changes that'll have a huge impact on your sleep

As a generation, we are pretty darn sleep-deprived, guys.

No, really. And the irony is that there have never been more gadgets and gizmos available to help track and measure and plan our sleep. And yet sleep is just not happening for so many of us. At least not the way it should be.

You see, in terms of hours we sleep, not that much have changed, but according to experts, our sleep quality has taken a nose dive in the past decade.

How so, you may ask? Well, think of it this way – these days; we are bombarded by things that get in the way of our sleep – phones, laptops and tablets are designed to mimic the same wavelength of light that you get with the midday sun. Meaning, that when the sun sets and our bodies are designed to start producing melatonin that'll make us sleepy and ready for bed, we are now holding poweful little mini SUNS in our hands, tricking our bodies into thinking it really isn't that late, and sure Netflix, we're still watching.

Uh oh.

Luckily, I recently got to sit down with Dr Guy Meadows, Clinical Director at the Sleep School as part of Ikea's Tonight is to Sleep event, and got to chat all things sleep with him.

Dr Meadows, being the absolute expert that he is, had tons of great advice for how I could tweak my sleep routine, and having made some of the adjustments and changes he suggested (and seen the results!), here are the top three tips I got:

1. Watch the light

We are extremely sensitive to light and dark, mainly due to cells in our eyes that detect the rise and fall of the sun and instruct our brains when to sleep and be awake.

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"To get good-quality sleep, we have to respect this sensitivity and try to stay in tune with the natural light cycles of day and night as much as possible," explains Meadows. "As the sun rises, the light stimulates the release of cortisol – the hormone responsible for waking us up and energising us for the day ahead. When the sun sets and it gets dark, our internal body clock triggers the release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, to prepare us for nodding off."

What this means is that using gadgets that light up – especially the type of blue light we are exposed to from screens, as it has the same wavelength as sunlight – is not a good idea in the hours before bedtime.

Meadows suggests leaving screens out of the bedroom completely, and if you are currently using your phone as an alarm clock, go buy yourself an actual old-school alarm clock to use instead.

"As well as this, if you like reading before going to sleep, stop using your screens for this, and instead read an actual book."

Blackout curtains or blinds can also be very useful, especially if you live in an urban area, where street lights might be shining in through your windows.

"Dimmable lights arealso  a great way to get yourself ready for sleep," suggests Meadows. "Even better are lights that you can dim and turn on and off from a distance using a remote control."

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2. Clear the air

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Did you know that air quality in your home can have a huge impact on how well you sleep at night? It's true.

One of the main reasons air quality impacts our sleep is that it can be particularly poor in bedrooms. It’s often the room with the worst air quality in the whole home. This is mostly down to room size, as well as having the door to our bedrooms shut a lot of the time for privacy reasons. The bigger the room and the more ventilation there is, the better the air quality will be.

"Air cleanliness and humidity levels can impact your breathing at night and therefore how well you sleep," explains Meadows.

"Ideally, the air should be around 50% humidity. If there isn’t enough moisture in the air, it’s easy for your sleep to be disturbed by a dry mouth and nose – a bit like you may have experienced when on a plane."

However, the air shouldn't be too wet either.

If you dry clothes in your room, this can be a problem, as the air in your room can become very wet, and this can interfere with your sleep, too. High humidity levels are likely to leave you with difficulties sleeping due to feeling uncomfortably sticky, and can promote the growth of mould and dust mites, which in turn can impact how well you sleep.

Meadows sugegsts that you leave the door into your bedroom open during the day, so that air gets to circulate as much as possible. Open the windows during the day too.

Another great tip is to invest in some green plants – especially ones that have been proven to improve air quality, such as Aloe Vera, Snake Plant and Ivy.

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3. Keep the temperature right

Temperature plays a key role in how well we sleep ­– and not just because it can leave us feeling too hot or cold in bed.

For instance, as tempting as it might be to crank up the heating in winter, keeping your bedroom cool is important for a good night’s sleep. Keep in mind that comfort is very personal, and the ideal sleeping conditions will vary from person to person. However, advises Meadows, the optimum temperature is thought to be 16-17°C.

"Our bedding and bedroom environment both play a part in affecting our core body temperature, which impacts how well we sleep at night."

The physical act of cooling down slightly helps send your body to sleep, and then warming up helps wake you up again. It’s partly why we often drift off more easily after a hot bath at night. According to the expert, a 1°C drop is required at the beginning of the night to help you fall asleep, and an equivalent rise is needed to help you feel more awake in the morning.

Think about what you wear to bed and what bedding you sleep in. Around 80 percent of body heat escapes through a quilt, so if you’re prone to feeling cold at night, make sure you have a thick, warm duvet with lots of filling, plus cosy blankets to hand if you need extra layers. Likewise if you are prone to over-heating, make sure you choose a lighter duvet.

Opt for bedlinens in natural fabrics such as cotton or linen, as these will also help regulate temperature and keep you comfortable and asleep. The same goes for your pyjamas or sleep wear.

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