Five ways to get a better bedtime routine

Amy Sedghi

Getting to sleep can be a struggle, but blackout blinds and to-do lists can help – as can reserving the bedroom for sex and shut-eyeAmy SedghiSun 6 Oct 2019 16.00 BST

1. Go to bed at regular times

Going to sleep and waking up at regular times – even on weekends – will strengthen your body clock, says Dr Lizzie Hill, a clinical sleep physiologist and a spokeswoman for the British Sleep Society. Regular mealtimes are also an important cue for your circadian rhythm. Avoid exercise too close to bedtime, as it can cause restlessness and an elevated body temperature, says Samantha Briscoe, a senior physiologist at the Sleep Centre at London Bridge hospital.

2. Protect the bedroom

Preserve the bedroom as a place for sleep (and sex): there is evidence that the brain forms a strong association with sleep there. A temperature of 16-18C (60-64F) is thought to be ideal for most, according to the Sleep Council, an awareness and support organisation. Blackout blinds or an eye mask can help block out light, while keeping electronic devices out of the bedroom is highly recommended. If you struggle to fall asleep after more than 25 minutes, Matthew Walker – a sleep expert and a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley – suggests getting up and going to read under a dim light in another room. Once sleepy, you can return to bed.

3. Get ahead on the next day

Your night-time routine is an opportunity to make mornings run a little smoother: choose your clothes for the next day when you reach for your pyjamas or pack your bag while brushing your teeth. Martin Hagger, a professor of health psychology at the University of California, Merced, has stressed how routines are linked to the formation of healthy habits.

4. Wind down

Reading a book can help slow breathing and relax muscles, while yoga stretches or even a gentle walk can reduce anxiety, says Briscoe. A warm bath or shower can also help you relax: researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that bathing in water of 40-42.5C one to two hours before bedtime was associated with better sleep.

5. Write down your worries

“If your mind is buzzing from the day, try keeping a journal or worry book,” suggests Hill. The NHS also recommends writing to-do lists for the next day in order to organise thoughts and clear the mind. “If you experience difficulty with sleep over the longer term, consider whether there may be an underlying medical condition,” says Hill. A sleep diary could help you identify any patterns.

Insomnia could be treated with cognitive behavioural therapy, say experts

Posted by Hollie Richardson Published31 Jul 2019

Cure for insomnia

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for good health, which is why this new research on treating insomnia is well worth considering. 

The recent heatwave was enough to cause many a sleepless night across the UK. But, worryingly, an Aviva study in 2017 found that insomnia is a regular thing for nearly 16 million adults. This means that they are getting less than five hours of sleep per night, thanks to finding it hard to drop off and waking up throughout the night. According to new proposed government guidelines, the healthiest amount of sleep is nine hours a night. It reports that “failure to sleep between seven and nine hours a night is associated with physical and mental health problems, including an increased risk of obesity, strokes, heart attacks, depression and anxiety”

But what if you are one of the many people who suffer with insomnia? Well, new research suggests that cognitive behavioural therapy could be used as a treatment for it.

CBT is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. The authors of the study say that although CBT is effective, it is not being used widely enough, with doctors having limited knowledge about it and patients lacking access. A course of therapy would involve a programme of changes to the way an individual approaches and thinks about sleep. This includes staying away from the bed when awake, challenging attitudes about sleep loss and limiting the number of hours spent in bed.

“There is a very effective treatment that doesn’t involve medication that should be available through your primary care service. If it’s not, it should be,” said co-author Dr Judith Davidson.

The research was carried out by experts at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, and has been published in the British Journal of General Practice. The researchers looked at results from four randomised control trials and found that participants fell asleep on average between nine and 30 minutes sooner after completing a course of CBT for insomnia. They also experienced a reduction of 22 to 36 minutes in the amount of time spent awake after going to sleep.

According to The Guardian, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, supports the study and welcomes the idea of rolling out CBT trials in surgeries in the UK.

Insomnia has serious health effects
Insomnia has serious health effects, but CBT could be used to treat it.

“CBT tailored to insomnia has been a first-line treatment option for some time, and we know many patients have found it beneficial, so it is really positive that its effectiveness has been shown by this research,” she said.

However, she also added that access to CBT through the NHS could be extremely difficult and is very variable across the country. But if you suffer with insomnia, it’s definitely something to bring up with your GP. 

Images: Getty

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Hollie Richardson