LIVE WELL Are you getting enough sleep?
WE ALL KNOW WHEN WE'VE BEEN BURNING THE CANDLE AT BOTH ENDS AND NEED A FEW EARLY NIGHTS, BUT IS YOUR SLEEP ROUTINE GIVING YOU THE REST YOU NEED?
When it comes to sleep we’ve been told for years that the magic number is eight (hours a night, that is). Yet a recent survey by the Sleep Council found that only 22% of us sleep between seven and eight hours a night and over 40% of us regularly get less than six.
Of course our sleep needs are as individual as we are and some of us feel better with more, while others feel top of the morning with less.
If you’re not sure whether you’re a more or a less person, the National Sleep Foundation recommends giving yourself a week to sleep without an alarm clock (probably best to do this while you’re on holiday unless you have a particularly understanding boss!). Make a note of how many hours sleep you need each night and by the end of the week you can average them out for your personal magic number.
The idea is that you can then take yourself o to bed at the optimum time and, apart from when you fancy a night out, do away with your alarm clock for good.
For those of us who nd the idea of leaving our wake up time to chance a little unnerving, it’s certainly worth trying to break the alarm habit, as many studies have found that an alarm-free wake-up is better for our health.
Research by scientists in Japan found that waking up abruptly can cause higher blood pressure and increase your heart rate, as well as inducing stress by getting your adrenaline rushing. The study concluded that waking up to natural light is best for your body – easy to do in the summer, but not very practical in the depths of British winter when it stays dark until eight o’clock. For mornings when an alarm is unavoidable, soft music or soothing sounds are, unsurprisingly, your best bet for rousing yourself gently from your slumber.
For some of us, it’s not waking up that’s the issue, it’s getting to sleep in the rst place. According to the NHS, insomnia regularly affects around one in three people in the UK.
Search the internet and you’ll nd more sleep tips than there are bedtime hours in the week, from the well known (avoid caffeine, alcohol and blue light before bedtime) to the slightly wacky (ever tried rubbing your belly in a circular motion?).
While unfortunately there is no cure-all there are many techniques that have been shown to help improve sleep: a warm bath, mindful breathing (in through the nose for the count of four, hold for two, then exhale slowly through the mouth), a 20-minute walk or a run rst thing in the morning (the early morning light should help reset your internal clock, making sleep easier) and keeping to a routine (that means no binge sleeping at the weekend).
To send you o to the land of nod, we’ve gathered some of our favourite sleep aids on page 38 to help you drop o , sleep soundly and wake up feeling energised and refreshed.
“The amount of sleep required by the average person is five