The secrets to a perfect night’s sleep
CAN YOU MAKE UP FOR A BAD SLEEP THE FOLLOWING NIGHT?
Yes, you can, but do it in small chunks to avoid confusing your internal body clock. Getting 30 minutes extra rest each night for a few days after a poor night of sleep is much better. Sleeping in for more than two hours at the weekend knocks out your natural rhythm, which explains why you often feel a bit tired and confused if you oversleep.
CAN YOU WORK OUT HOW MUCH SHUT-EYE YOU NEED?
It depends on the person but, in general, most UK adults need seven to eight hours of sleep per night. A great method to work out your optimum sleep time is to keep a diary. In it, you should keep a record of the time you went to sleep (try to work this out rather than record when you went to bed) and woke up, how long you slept for and how you felt the next day. After a couple of weeks, have a look back through your diary – the days you felt alert and energised are probably the days you got the right amount of sleep for you.
SHOULD YOU BOTHER WITH A NAP IF YOU ONLY HAVE 20 MINUTES SPARE?
In short, yes. If you can barely keep your eyes open, a brief nap will improve your alertness, performance and overall mood. Even 10 to 20 minutes helps.
DO SCREENS REALLY ALTER YOUR SLEEP PATTERN THAT MUCH?
Yes. Our eyes have light sensitive cells, which tell your brain whether to be awake or asleep. Phones, tablets and TVS all emit a level of light similar to the sun, which if viewed just before going to bed can stop the production of melatonin, the sleep promoting hormone, making it harder to drift off and fall into a deep sleep. Switch off all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before going to bed and dim your lights. Get into the habit of doing this and you’ll soon begin to experience the benefits of great quality, natural sleep.
HOW MUCH SPACE DO YOU NEED TO SLEEP? DOES SHARING A BED WITH A LARGER PARTNER OR KIDS AFFECT THE QUALITY OF YOUR SLEEP?
It totally depends on the person but, yes, it can determine the quality of your sleep. Some love to feel snug in a tight space or hugging with a partner, while others need a little more room to stretch out. It’s not necessarily space you need, rather the right position – whether that’s foetal or starfish! Invest in a big bed to allow you to sleep in the way your body needs.
DOES WHAT YOU WEAR TO BED MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO SLEEP QUALITY? AND IF SO, WHAT SHOULD YOU WEAR?
It’s really important to choose sleepwear that feels comfortable, but also something that helps regulate your body temperature. Wear cotton if you get hot during the night, flannel fabric is good if you feel the cold (plus a pair of socks) and silk is great for comfort.
Is a 10-minute nap worth it? Can cheese cause nightmares? Dr Guy Meadows, from Bensons for Beds and The Sleep School, answers all our burning shut-eye questions…