Improving sleep habits in a stressful world


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The Independent Online

According to Dreams beds, the world is steadily becoming a twenty-four hour zone. With the advent of more amazing and accessible technology comes the desire to push it as far as is humanly possible.

When coupled with the economy’s exhaustingly high demands of its workers, it’s easy to see that – now more than ever - the Great British public needs every wink of sleep it can possibly get. But what is it that’s keeping people from their beds?

Research indicates that most fully-grown adults need about eight hours in their beds; babies and children need significantly more, while senior citizens can get by on much less. There is, however, a school of thought which points to pensioners’ daytime napping as playing catch-up to a more restless night than younger people would normally experience.

But as society has advanced, the average amount of sleep in adults has decreased. A study by Griffey estimates that the average amount of sleep per night experienced by people living in the UK a hundred years ago was about nine hours. By 1990, this had dropped to eight hours; and only five years later, another study said that we averaged seven and a half hours’ in our beds. In 2004 it was said to have dropped again to only seven hours.

So what is it that’s made us lose so much sleep at such a quickly increasing rate? Work woes? Money worries? Kids who take liberties by staying up late? As we shift into a more demanding society in general, perhaps it’s time to take back our bedtimes!

The best advice would be to get into a settled routine on weekdays; stretching to weekends would be preferable, but sticking to some simple rules should do the trick.

Don’t eat dinner too late – if you’re gobbling down a TV dinner only a couple of hours before bed, it can take time to properly settle in your stomach, making it harder to relax in bed. If you’ve had a late night at work then don’t just grab some fast food on the way home; eat a light snack as soon as you can so that you have plenty of time before bed to digest it.

Set a strict bedtime; don’t just wait until the late night movie is finished before making a move, you can always record it, or even watch the last few minutes in bed – but don’t make a habit of doing anything other than sleeping in your bed, as it can distract the mind from your bed’s true purpose.

Speaking of which, you’ll want to finally make sure that your bed and bedroom are inductive of sleep: heavy curtains which don’t let the streetlights or last rays of daylight in; a duvet that’s suitable for the temperature, so that your body doesn’t get too cold or too hot overnight, and a very comfortable mattress and pillow. If all goes to plan, you’ll be back to spending a third of your day in your bed – don’t you want it to be a comfortable experience?