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Your Top Questions About Sleep Answered

We need sleep. It’s something we all love to talk about and can struggle to get enough of with the busy pace of everyday life. According to The Great British Bedtime Report 2017, nearly half of us lose shut eye as a result of worry and our hectic lifestyles (45%).

All too often when we settle down for the evening, we can struggle to switch off our thoughts from the day, constantly going over things that didn’t get done, and making mental notes of what needs to be achieved tomorrow.

Here are some of your top questions about sleep answered with a few tips to help you through your sleep troubles:

How to fall asleep fast and how to sleep better?

Here are some natural ways to help you drift off quickly and have a better night’s sleep:

  • Lower the temperature – As we fall asleep our body temperature cools down; conversely when we get up it gets warmer. Often, if our room is too warm it can be harder to drift off. So, go against the temptation to keep the heating on all night and fall asleep quicker.
  • Deep breaths – We all know breathing exercises can help ease stress and tension, so why not apply this practise to centre and calm your mind before bed. Have a look back at our article on breathing exercises for some top tips.
  • Make a schedule – many people find having a regular routine of waking up and going to bed at the same time helpful in regulating their sleep. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you when you should go to sleep to begin your calming pre-bed routine.
  • Avoid looking at your clock – clock-watching is common amongst those who struggle to fall asleep but try to avoid this as it may preoccupy your mind. Try to forget about the time, by distracting yourself with meaningless mental lists. Sleep expert Neil Stanley says, ‘think of something else, rather than what’s worrying you – something with a story to it... so you can devote some brain energy to it without clashing into the real world.’
  • Turn off all electronics – Before bed resist the temptation for any last-minute scrolling. Looking at your phone before bed keeps your mind psychologically engaged, and the blue light from your screens can supress melatonin (the hormone accountable for your sleeping cycle).

Why can’t I sleep?

Tossing and turning, counting sheep? Sound familiar? We all know the frustration when we can’t fall asleep. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why you’re not sleeping. Stress can often be the number one enemy of sleep, but it could be to do with a multitude of things from; feeling overwhelmed, too much caffeine, hunger pangs, too much light and even having messy surroundings. Whilst we can’t control all of these factors, make sure you do what you can to ensure a peaceful night’s sleep. Here are a few tips:

  • Write down any concerns you might have before bed in your journal.
  • Don’t consume caffeine after 3pm.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced dinner at least 2 hours before bed.
  • Make sure your blinds or curtains block out as much light as possible, and only use a soft, warm glow side light if needed.
  • Keep your bedroom tidy and in order by dedicating 10 minutes before bed to clearing your space.

Why do we sleep?

Sleep is a pivotal part of our everyday life. It allows our body and mind to rest, repair, restore, and reenergize, and can help when fighting off illness. We are inundated with information about all the things to do for our health; diet, exercise, practices of self-care, and all too often sleep is overlooked. Without it, our brain can struggle to function properly, leaving us with poor concentration, a weakened immune system and mood changes.

How much sleep do I need?

In an ideal world, most adults should aim for around nine hours of sleep each night. However, in the fast-paced world we find ourselves this could be argued is highly optimistic. So, how many hours do I really need? The UK’s NHS website outlines most adults needing between six to nine hours of sleep a night. By planning what time you need to wake up, you can implement a routine into your day to ensure you are getting those six hours (at least) a night.

How to stop snoring

If you are one of the 45% of adults who snore or live with a snorer, you might be in luck. Here are some top natural solutions to help aid a quieter sleep for you (and the rest of the household):

  • Stay hydrated – drink plenty of water, as snoring can get much worse when dehydrated.
  • Sleeping on your side – side sleeping is the best position for those who snore, as it reduces the compression of your airways.
  • Keep your head elevated – if sleeping on your side is not for you, when lying on your back make sure to prop your head up to ease breathing and opening up your airways.
  • Avoid alcohol before bed – drinking a few hours before bed relaxes the muscles in your throat, which often results in snoring, so resist the urge for a late-night tipple.
  • Get to know your sleeping patterns – part of getting your snoring underhand is through gaining a better understanding of your own sleeping pattern. There are plenty of great apps out there such as sleep cycle to aid monitoring your sleep.
  • Try a humidifier – increasing the moisture levels in your room will help lubricate your throat, thus lessening the loud vibrations of snoring.
  • Cut down on inflammatory foods – Singers frequently cut down their dairy and gluten intake prior to a performance, as they can be linked to the inflammation of the tissue in the throat and nose.

What is REM sleep?

There are five stages that the brain goes through during sleep, one of the most commonly known is Rapid Eye Movement (REM). People tend to enter REM sleep within the first 90 minutes of falling asleep, during which your breathing fastens, your blood and heart rate increase and your leg and arm muscles temporarily paralyze. It is understood that most of our dreaming takes place during REM sleep and it is also thought to be responsible for shaping our learning, memory and mood. As we age, we spend less and less time in REM sleep, with adults experiencing roughly 20-25% of their sleep cycle in REM, whilst children spend around 50% of their sleep in REM.

Why do we dream?

We’ve all woken up with a blurred recollection of last night’s dream, but what are their purpose? There are many hypothesises regarding why it is we dream, but no one knows with any certainty.

Some people might think that dreams have no purpose or meaning at all. Whilst others say we need dreams for our mental, emotional and physical well-being.

Check out this five minute TED-Ed for a breakdown of further explanations into why we dream.