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Bed down for the night and sleep like a baby

Published 30/11/2016

Caught napping: sometimes a good sleep is elusive
Caught napping: sometimes a good sleep is elusive
Snoring can disturb slumber

More than half of us have trouble nodding off - and tiredness is not something we want in the run-up to party season. Kate Whiting seeks expert advice for getting those Zs back on track.

Sometimes, falling asleep isn't the problem - but staying in that dreamy deep slumber is a different matter.

If you often wake up thinking it's morning, only to find it says 02.30am on your radio alarm, you're not alone. According to a new survey by bed company Dreams, 56% of women and 49% of men are bad sleepers.

It could be a car alarm, a bad dream, or that old chestnut where your partner's gone for a wee and woken you on their return - whatever the reason, you're now doomed to stare at the ceiling until your alarm does actually go off a few hours later.

Thankfully, there are ways to limit broken nights and prise open the gates to the land of nod once again.

We all love a furball to snuggle up to, but Dreams reveals that 58% of us are woken by pets sleeping in the bedroom. As hard as it might be to give up that living hot water bottle, try and train cats and dogs to sleep in another room, establishing your bedroom as strictly off-limits.

It's so common - as many as one in four people in the UK snore regularly, say Dreams, with men twice as likely to be culprits. They recommend sleeping on your side, rather than your back, to alleviate gravitational pressure on the airway. Snoring can signal underlying conditions, so consult your GP if it's becoming problematic.

Who doesn't like a night cap? But many of us (it's estimated that around 7.9 million people in the UK use alcohol to help them sleep, apparently) don't realise it actually makes the quality of our sleep worse. Dreams recommends "avoiding alcohol for at least four hours before bedtime, to avoid suppressing melatonin (the sleep hormone). Try not to stay up past your usual bedtime, as this only increases alcohol's sleep-depriving effects".

In just seven years, your bed has deteriorated by up to 75% from its 'as-new' condition, say Dreams. So it might be time for a change, and to treat your tired body to a proper medium-firm bed and mattress. Dreams suggests: "Spend time selecting the right mattress - firmness can put stress on pressure points, while an overly soft mattress can harm soft tissue."

More than 80% of people who have restless leg syndrome (RLS) also experience twitchy legs while asleep, according to the research. If this affects you, massage your legs, or try doing some light stretching or yoga before bed. Take a warm bath, or apply a hot compress to your legs to help relax the muscles.

According to a YouGov poll, one in five people in the UK suffer from anxiety most or all of the time - and the middle of the night is a hard time to banish bad thoughts.

Dreams says: "Resist the urge to keep checking the clock - this will only heighten the anxiety of being awake. Distract your mind with a mug of hot milk or watching traffic outside until drowsy again."

TOP TIPS FOR GETTING BACK TO SLEEP

If none of the above apply to you and you're still finding it hard to get back to sleep in the middle of the night, try one of these tips from Dreams.

n If you can't get back to sleep within 20 minutes, get up and do something low-key, such as reading or listening to music.

n If you do get up, keep the lights down low. Also, avoid using backlit devices such as TVs, tablets and smartphones in bed.

n Relax your mind and body with some deep-breathing exercises or meditation.

n Record your sleep patterns and habits and talk to your GP about them to see if you can devise a strategy for sleeping better.

 

Belfast Telegraph

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