How Can I Improve My Sleep?

In the 21st Century, our 'always-on' culture can infringe on one of the most important processes - getting a good night's sleep.  Lack of information and understanding, along with simple bad habits, have created issues when trying to get to sleep, or stay asleep long enough.  

At Swiftdirectblinds we've previously conducted our own study on sleep deprivation, and we've created this guide from fantastic resources, for tips and tricks on how to get a great night's sleep!

Jump to:
🌙 Effects of poor sleep.
🌙 Quick steps to improve your sleep.
🌙 Long term steps.
🌙 Helpful resources.

Almost half of Britons (47%)  say that stress or worry keeps them awake at night.[1]

 

The Effects of Poor Sleep

Unfortunately, as much as we don't understand about sleep, quality and sleep length has been linked to numerous health issues.  Many patients admit that they seldom ask about their sleep, with their own reluctance to ask for help at the forefront of the problem, along with poor circulation of information. 

In the past 35 years, the percentage of men and women who have worsening sleep habits has increased year on year, with the average night's sleep falling from 7.7 hours to 6 hours[2].

The importance of our sleep cycle and the toll on mind and body, has only recently been properly looked at in the past decade, with antiquated views that sleep just equals tiredness discarded.

Poor sleep has been linked to the following in the past decade:
  • Stress
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Depression
  • Compromised Immunity
  • Decreased sex drive
 

Quick Ways to Improve Sleep & Binning Bad Habits

Pie chart showing British habits an hour before bedtime
This is what most people in the hour before bedtime -  from https://sleepcouncil.org.uk/still-hooked-screen-time/
Due to the enormous technological growth in the last two decades of the 20th Century, mobile phones, televisions and computers are a staple of everyday life.  However, this also means an increase in screen-time which can heavily affect your sleep hygiene.

A lot of the habits that are picked up during the tenative teen years are carried through to adult hood.  This is also true of numerous, negative sleep habits, but these can very easily be improved in a few simple steps!  It takes 21 days for a new habit to become...well, a habit.

You can easily improve your sleep by:
  • Remove electronic devices from the room - TVs, tablets and mobile phones have been shown to cause increased brain activity for up to an hour after putting them down.  Your eyes might be shut, but your brain is still switched on!  Remove or turn devices off an hour before bed.
  • Set a concrete time for bedtime - Find what works for you, if you prefer to wake early and sleep late, great!  However, your body likes running like clockwork, so keep a rigid wake/rest schedule for a restful night.
  • Reduce caffeine intake - Energy drinks, tea or coffee can make falling asleep a long process, so take care to avoid these up to eight hours before bedtime.
  • Exercise regularly - Exercise helps a restful night's sleep and increases mental and physical wellbeing. 
  • A balanced diet - Ensuring your body gets enough food and water will reduce night-time interruptions.
  • Temperature and light - Keeping light to a minimum and temperature mild, helps improve deep sleep and reduces the time it takes to fall asleep.
If you are still unsure to increase your zzzs, please follow this fantastic 30 day guide from the Sleepcouncil! 
Light is an issue for more than one in ten Britons (11%), again this is worst for those living in London (15%), suggesting that it’s artificial light/ street light that causes problems, rather than natural light in the early mornings.[1]
London skyline at night
- Photo by Lachlan Gowen on Unsplash

Forward Planning & Long-term Goals

Poster showing 'Twin Beds' - 1942 Film
- 'Twin Beds' - Film poster circa 1942.  Sourced from Alamy: Everette Collection
There are some changes that can take some time to implement, such as changing the rooms decor, swapping the mattress or bed or breaking life-long habits.  We'll take you through the most beneficial! 
 
  • Blackout blinds and curtains - Light sources, either from natural light during the early summer mornings, or artificial light from streetlights, can interrupt an otherwise lovely nights rest.  One of our most popular blinds are our blackout blinds, which block light that would normally stream in, and help create a cool and calm atmosphere.
  • Separate Duvets - This links in a little but with temperature control, as a common reason for waking at night is your too cold or hot with duvet-hogging to blame!  Oddly enough, one duvet shared between two people is very much a western habit, with European countries, especially the chilly Scandinavia, opting for a sing duvet each [5]
  • Separate Beds - Okay this might seem a lil' archaic, but hear us out...Our parents, and our parents parents very much preferred separate beds.  In fact, it was encouraged as a healthier modern option from the 1800s up to the 1950s!  Now new studies are showing more benefits for each partner physically and mentally as well as an improvement in the relationship. [6]
  • Decorating - You may have heard of Feng-sui or other popular decorating guides that state that calm surroundings equal a calm mind.  They are absolutely right.  Avoid loud colours (looking at you red) and opt for cool-toned colours - muted greys, green, creams and blues can be help evoke vitality and calm into your living space.
  • Mattress & Bedframe - Make these comfy, though this seems obvious, a mattress needs to be both comfortable and supportive, as does the bedframe.  If not - change it!  Not only can your sleep surface affect your sleep, it can affect long-term physical health.
  • Health planning - Over 1 in 5 people have admitted to taking tablets to aid sleep, rather than speaking directly to a health professional [3].  Pain and stress are two very common reasons people cannot sleep.  Each year, there are more published studies linking sleep and mental health, and bottom line, both are very important.  We advise to try to make small lifestyle changes where you can and ask for help where needed. Links are down below to helpful resources.
  • Avoid alcohol - This links in with small lifestyle changes that can promote mental and physical wellbeing.  Though it is a sedative, there is evidence that alcohol can actually inhibit sleep, by causing a restless night sleep and frequent waking to nip to the bathroom.
  • Go outside - Though exercise was listed in quick changes as well, going outside for a walk or run actually has more than one benefit.  In Britain alone, around than 74% of the population has low vitamin D levels, with 27% being deficient [4].  Not only do we not get enough sun, we don't get it for long enough to last the year. Going outside during the summer months can help, however its recommended to keep an eye on this with your GP.
  • Bright lights, clocks or LEDs - Yes LEDs artfully mounted on a wall looks cool, but any bright light source can really mess with your sleep.  Move somewhere else if you can.
  • Tidy space - This is a great way to evoke a calm space.  There really is truth behind the phrase "tidy room, tidy mind".  Too much clutter and mess can add unneeded stress that can keep you up all hours.
Photograph showing planner and desk accessories
- Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Helpful Resources

As always, when making a lifestyle change, pace and test out changes first before going all in!  One small change to your routine, can truely improve your sleep and overall health!

We've collected some brilliant resources below to help, and with as any lifestyle change, the best advice is to be kind to yourself and take things slowly. 
 
 
🌱 https://sleepcouncil.org.uk/30-day-better-sleep-plan/
🌱 https://bettersleep.org/
🌱 https://www.britishpainsociety.org/
🌱 https://www.moodjuice.scot.nhs.uk/Stress.asp
🌱 https://www.samaritans.org/
🌱 https://www.mind.org.uk/
🌱 https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/
🌱https://www.thehealthy.com/sleep/
🌱 https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/
🌱 https://www.myhealthtools.uk/
🌱https://www.theinsomniaclinic.co.uk/
 
 
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