If you have difficulty sleeping, or if you think you could get a better quality sleep, it could be worth your while to track your sleeping patterns and take steps to make sure you sleep well.
We share some great apps that can tell you about your sleep cycle, plus a few unexpected factors that can help – and hinder – a good night’s sleep.
What Causes Bad Sleep?
There are many factors that can stop us from sleeping properly. A poor mattress, a bedroom that is too hot or cold, and general life worries can all stop us from sleeping properly, as well as medical conditions and distractions we might not even think of.
Conditions like arthritis, diabetes, breathing problems and heartburn can affect our sleep, especially if they are not treated properly. A range of medicines can help, though, and your doctor can advise on the best thing to help you.
There are also things you should avoid before bedtime, as they can cause bad sleep:
- – Using electronic gadgets (like phones, tablets, televisions) close to bedtime – they can confuse the brain into thinking it’s day
- – Vigorous exercise – exercising during the day can help you sleep, but vigorous evening exercise can keep you awake
- – Distractions – especially your telephone (make sure it’s on silent during the night)
Track Your Sleep
It can be a good idea to see what your sleep cycle is really like. There are several apps you can use to help with this:
- Sleepbot (Free for iOS and Android) – tracks body movements and other factors so you can see how well you sleep at night. One of the things that sets this app apart is that it tracks sound, so you can monitor snores, coughs and other noises that might interrupt sleep
- Sleep Cycle (iOS and Android) – monitors motion during the night and has a heart rate monitor
- Sleep Genius (iOS and Android) – helps you discover your best sleep cycle, and has relaxation exercises to aid sleep
If you don’t want to track on a phone then use a low-tech method – keep a sleep diary. It could help you figure out if alcohol or caffeine keep you awake, if you’re stressed, or if medicine is interrupting your sleep.
Try to monitor the following every morning when you wake up:
- – When did you go to bed, and how long do you think you slept?
- – Did you have to get up during the night?
- – Did you lie awake? When, and for how long?
- – How did you feel before you went to bed? Did you take any medicine?
- – What did you eat or drink before bed?
- – Did you exercise or nap yesterday? If so, when?
- – How did you feel before bed, and how do you feel now?
If you need talk to a doctor about bad sleep, make sure you take the diary so they can use it to help diagnose any sleeping issues you might have.
Build Good Sleep Habits
Most adults need to sleep for between six and nine hours every night. It can be as bad for us as to sleep too long as to sleep too little, so quality sleep is incredibly important. Help make your sleep a better one by building a sleep routine.
Interestingly, sharing a bed could be the key to getting a good night’s sleep, new research from Direct Blinds suggests – a survey found stress was a major cause of poor sleeps, and that married couples experience less stress-related sleep loss than singles.
Sleeping with a partner does have its perils, however – snoring partners remains one of the most common reasons for bad sleep, with stealing the duvet another common gripe that disrupts peaceful slumbers.
Whether going to bed alone or with a partner, ensure you have a good mattress and bed, make sure the bedroom is tidy, not too hot or cold (18C to 24C is best), quiet, and dark. Aside from getting dressed, avoid using your bedroom for anything other than sleep (or sex), so it becomes a relaxing environment.
Try incorporating some of the following into your night time routine:
- – Take a warm bath – but make sure it’s not too hot
- – Chase away distracting thoughts by listening to the radio, audio books or relaxation music
- – Read a book
- – Perform some gentle relaxation exercises
- – Plan the next day using to-do lists to help empty your mind of any trivial tasks
- – Spray your pillow with a relaxing scent, like lavender essential oil
- – Go to bed and get up at around the same time every day, even on weekends
- – Cover your windows using thick blinds or curtains to reduce the amount of light getting in, particularly in built-up areas where street lights can disturb sleep
- – If you have your bedroom lights on a dimmer, try reducing the amount of light in your room about 30 minutes before bed to relax the mind
Do you have trouble sleeping? What are your best tips for a good night’s sleep?