The demands of modern life and our penchant for resisting the universal, biological need for shut-eye mean we’re squeezing more into our waking lives — but at what cost to our nightly slumber?
Of the 20,000 people we surveyed for our recent sleep snapshot, just 12 per cent said they wake up feeling refreshed — and 75 per cent said they have trouble falling asleep at least some of the time.
If these results are anything to go by, many of us struggle to hit the hay and get good sleep.
But since you’re going to spend a third of your life dozing, it’s worth developing some healthy habits.
Make the right amount of sleep a priority.
It’s important to set aside enough time to get adequate sleep each night.
On average, adults need eight hours to feel properly rested. Some require slightly less while others require a little more — it’s best to listen to your own body.
According to the Sleep Health Foundation, poor sleepers often make a habit of getting fragmented sleep by spending too much time in bed. Unless you have lengthy sleep requirements, you should limit your time in bed to no more than 8.5 hours.
While your experience of sleep changes as you get older, your sleep requirements remain largely the same. Unless a sleep problem has developed, seven to eight hours is the recommended nightly dose for adults aged 65 and above.
Stick to a consistent sleeping pattern.
Going to bed and getting up at about the same time each day is one of the best ways to set your internal body clock’s sleep-wake rhythm.
Despite the sanctity of the Sunday morning sleep in, this directive applies on weekends too. Choose a wake time that works for you and aim to get up within 30 minutes of that time, seven days a week.
According to sleep experts, you should avoid sleeping in, even if you have had a poor night’s sleep.
The extra sleep drive will help you consolidate sleep the following night, and sleeping in late can actually disrupt your body clock.
Soon after waking, seek out morning light. Light exposure helps reset your biological clock, and reminds you that it’s time to get up.
Gently wind down from the day.
Overstimulation of the mind or body before bed can make sleep both difficult and delayed.
Ease the transition from wake time to sleep time by gently winding down with a period of relaxing activities an hour or so before bed.
Steer clear of blue screens, vigorous exercise, doing work or discussing emotional issues. Instead, try to listen to music, read a book, watch television or take a bath.
It may help to set aside time earlier in the day to reflect on any worries or concerns you have and how you might deal with them. This can help you avoid recurring stressful thoughts when your head hits the pillow.
Once you’re in bed, pleasant and somewhat repetitive mental imagery can help soothe an active mind. Practicing meditation can also be very useful.