Feel good focus: sleep

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Date: 01 March - 31 March 2018
Time: Various


Sleep is an important part of all our lives; we all need sleep and as we spend one third of lives asleep, it's important we sleep well. However, for some, sleep may not come so easily. Whether it be due to stress, mental health issues or deadlines and exams preventing you from sleeping, there are tips and tricks you can use to try to improve your sleep.

What happens during sleep?

You become unconscious, unaware of what's going on around you. As you sleep, you pass through different stages - and there are two main ones:

Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep

This comes and goes throughout the night, and makes up about one fifth of your sleep. The brain is very active, your eyes move quickly from side to side and you dream. Although your brain is active, your muscles are very relaxed.

Non-REM sleep

Your brain is quiet - you are still unconscious - but your body moves around more. Hormones are released into the bloodstream and your body repairs itself after the wear and tear of the day.

You move between REM and non-REM sleep about 5 times during the night, dreaming more towards the morning.

Tips for sleeping

Most adults need around 8 hours sleep each night. Here are some tips to improve your quality of sleep:

Go to bed and wake up at the time every day- even weekends
Going to bed and waking up roughly at the same time every day will help reset your body clock and program your body to sleep better

Improve your bedroom environment
Create a restful and relaxing sleeping environment. You can do this by making sure you the room isn't too hot or cold and controlling lighting and noise. If possible, try to keep your bedroom as a room to sleep- not to study, eat or watch TV.

Make sure your bed is comfortable
Your mattress should be changed every 8 years. A mattress that is too firm or soft for you will also negatively affect your sleep. Also make sure you use a duvet suitable for the time of year to keep you at the optimum temperature. For summer you need a 1-7 tog duvet and 10.5-15 tog in the winter.

Exercise regularly
Exercising regularly is not only beneficial to maintain a healthy weight and reduce stress but also has the potential to improve your sleep. However, try not to exercise too close to bedtime as this may keep you awake.

Reduce your caffeine intake
Caffeine is a stimulate which affects the process of falling asleep and prevents deep sleep. Try not to drink caffeine after 2pm as studies show that drinking caffeine after this time may cause sleeping problems. Remember, tea and colas contain caffeine as well.

Don't smoke
Nicotine is also a stimulant. This means that smokers take longer to fall asleep and often have a poorer quality sleep.

Reduce your alcohol intake
While it may seem that alcohol helps you fall asleep, it actually disrupts your sleep later on in the night and results in poorer quality sleep

Put down your technology in the hour before bed
Blue light from your phone, TV and tablet screens stimulate your brain into keeping you awake. Avoid using technology in the hour before you go to bed to prevent this. Some smart phones and tablets also contain a “night shift” mode which reduces the blue light emitted and uses warmer tones which may help you get a better night's sleep.

Try to relax before going to bed
Whether you like to have a warm bath, read a book or do some yoga, find something to help you unwind your body and mind before bed.

If you try these tips and you still can't sleep, go and see your doctor. You can talk over any problems that may be interfering with your sleep. Your doctor can check that your sleeplessness is not due to a physical illness, a prescribed medicine, or emotional problems.

If you're having trouble sleeping try this short assessment and get your sleep score and an online CBT program for sleep problems.

More information is available via NHS choices.

Cost: Free
E-mail: feelgood@uwe.ac.uk

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