How to sleep: The five worst bedtime habits which could prevent a good night’s sleep

According to recent research by mattress maker Sealy UK, people in the UK are waking up feeling tired four days every week on average. Eighty-four per cent of participants reported this has led them to be more susceptible to illnesses including migraines, flu and depression. Millennials – aged 25-34 – reported being the most sleep-deprived, admitting to waking up feeling unrested over 60 per cent of the time. But why is the nation feeling so tired? According to Sealy, it could be down to the following five ‘worst’ bedtime habits:

Using electronic devices in bed

As well as the disruptive notifications throughout the night, the blue light emitted by screens on phones, tablets and TVs impacts the levels of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone.

“By allowing yourself a tech-free zone for 30 minutes before bed, you’ll prevent technology from having a negative impact on your sleep and ensure a better night’s rest,” said Sealy Chief Sleep Officer Neil Robinson.

Eating sugary foods within three hours of your bedtime

A recent study found those with diets higher in sugar and saturated fats take longer to get to sleep and are more likely to wake multiple times throughout the night.

“This leads to a vicious cyclical effect, as your body then craves the fats and sugars which are the cause of your restlessness,” said Robinson.

“Instead try some cherries or almonds, which contain melatonin, a hormone in the body which regulates and promotes sleep.”

Drinking caffeine within three hours of bedtime

Caffeine stays in the system for much longer than people believe, which can stop you from being able to sleep at bedtime. Robinson advises avoiding drinking coffee after 3pm.

Drinking alcohol within three hours of bedtime

“While you may find an alcoholic drink can help you drop off to sleep quicker, when it comes to having a deep, restful slumber, alcohol can actually play havoc with your sleeping pattern,” said Robinson.

This is because alcohol causes the body to spend less time in deep sleep, and more time in the ‘rapid eye movement’ (REM) stage of sleep, which is characterised by more bodily movements, more dreams and a faster pulse.

Eating a meal within two hours of bedtime

Eating a big meal before bed can disrupt the quality of your sleep, as your body works through the night to digest the food.

“For a better night’s sleep, try a lighter and more nutritious meal and reap the benefits of the extra vitamins on your health and wellbeing,” said Robinson.

“There is really good evidence that electronic devices can affect your sleep, while caffeine makes you more alert and alcohol affects the quality of your sleep, even if you drop off quickly,” added GP Dr Sarah Jarvis.

“Having a quiet, comfortable sleeping environment with a comfortable mattress and no ticking clocks, beeping mobiles or glowing lights can make a huge difference to your ‘sleep hygiene’.”


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