Most people these days understand that a healthy sleep cycle is important to wellbeing – often because they’re not getting enough sleep themselves.
But just in case you weren’t stressed enough already, a recent study* has indicated that too much sleep can be as bad for you as too little. It seems that between six and eight hours a night is about right.
Ironically, these figures are likely to give many people a few sleepless nights, but in fact there are several easy steps people can take to improve their sleep patterns.
In this article we’ll look at what you need for better sleep, as well as common bad habits and sleep positions.
Unsurprisingly, one of the most important factors in a good night’s sleep is the bed. Keeping a mattress too long is a common cause of sleep problems; while modern memory foam mattresses can last 20 years, even the best sprung mattress may be worn out after 7 years.
If a mattress looks or feels lumpy or saggy even after turning, it may be time to think about a new one. Companies like Bedstar offer advice on what type of mattress will suit you, and can even recycle your old one. Online bargains are frequently available.
Regular habits are also beneficial. Try to go to bed at the same time each day, including weekends. A long lie-in on a Sunday seems like a great idea at the time, but if it interferes with Sunday night sleep, Monday morning isn’t going to feel any better.
A pre-bedtime routine is often helpful. Reading for a while is a good idea, but try and stick to a book rather than a backlit screen. TV and computer screens – including smartphones – tend to affect the ability to fall asleep quickly, as the brain is fooled by the bright light.
Bedrooms should be cool, quiet and dark. Try earplugs and sleep masks if necessary, and if you can keep the room between 15C and 19C, do. The “sleep environment” is obviously very important, but it’s something that needs attending to during the day – you’re unlikely to want to get up in the middle of the night to sort it out!
Sleep position is also important. While many people find that they have to adopt a certain position in order to fall asleep, a different mattress can offer alternatives. If your mattress is too firm, you may find sleeping on your side is uncomfortable, even though you’d prefer it.
People who sleep on their backs may find that a too-soft mattress can cause back pain. A good bed store will be able to advise buyers on mattress types and how they affect sleep position.
*The US study was conducted in 2012 on a group of people aged over 45, and overseen by Professor Rohit Arora of the Chicago Medical School. Findings indicated that people who regularly slept for significantly more than eight hours a night doubled their risk of angina. Those who regularly slept for fewer than six hours a night appeared to double their risk of strokes and increase their risk of a heart attack.