Thursday, 9 May 2019

Sleep Tips To Improve Your Mental Health (paid collaboration with Tempur)

13th -19th May is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, and while I think we are all a lot more aware of how common mental health problems are, they're impossible to measure and rarely have a simple fix.

I'm working in a paid collaboration with Tempur, the people who make those incredibly comfortable squidgy mattresses, and they have just released the results of a Mental Health And Sleep Survey looking at what effect quality of sleep has on mental health and wellbeing. We all now know that our mental health is as important as our physical health and needs to be looked after, but how does sleep, and the quality or lack of it, affect us?


Physically, lack of good quality sleep gives us eye bags, it makes us crave carbohydrates and we store more fat. which can lead to weight gain. Among other things it affects growth hormones, testosterone and insulin levels, blood pressure and repair systems in the body. Not getting enough sleep can make you heavier and it can make you ill, and you'll stay ill for longer and find it harder to lose weight.

Mentally, lack of good quality sleep has a huge effect too. We know the obvious signs, we are tired, irritable and grumpy. Lack of sleep also makes it harder for us to learn and remember, it's responsible for lack of libido and motivation. We can feel hungry, clumsy and down, even depressed.

We've all been there, and those days that start like that never do seem to get any better...


In Tempur's survey 1/4 of the 2000 people asked rated their sleep as poor or inconsistent, with 1/3 saying poor quality sleep affected their daily routine. Hardly surprising when 27% of respondents get less than 6 hours sleep on an average night and 9% sleep for under 5 hours a night. The National Sleep Foundation believes all adults should be sleeping 7-9 hours each night.

Around 1 in 5 respondents felt that poor quality sleep affected their diet, their fitness and/or their work life, and 30% of people feel that it affects their mental health. Almost 1 in every 7 of the people who completed the survey have sought professional help for their lack of good quality sleep.

Health has been forefront to us for the past 6 years. Serious physical illness, anxiety and the death of one of our children has taken its toll and our sleep quality has at times been horrific. More than 1/4 of those surveyed said stress and anxiety kept them awake, with money and family worries close behind. We have had more than enough to worry about.


Being unable to get off to sleep, waking during the night, being woken during the night, nightmares and disturbance from physical pain meant we were regularly sleeping less than 5 hours and we were waking often.

We turned to a sleep monitor for help back in Autumn 2016 and the results were fascinating. We learned a lot and found several strategies and simple changes that meant our sleep for the past 2 years has been not only easier to achieve, but also much better quality.

We raised our sleep from 4-6 hours a night on average to a much more sensible 6-7 most nights.

Here are my 10 top tips for a better quality night's sleep:

1. Remove all small screens for at least 20 minutes before you attempt to go to sleep. Looking at a phone or tablet just before sleep affected the quality of our sleep all night and it also took substantially longer to fall asleep.

2. Try different pillows. We had always had soft pillows and I love the feeling of sinking into a big pillow, but I actually sleep much better with a single cool, firmer memory foam pillow - and I don't get any neck pain now.

3. Get the right bed. A mattress will only be at it's best for around 7-10 years. A replacement is a big investment and can change your life. Test everything and think about exactly what you need before you buy. I prefer a softer bed or my hips become sore, my partner prefers a deep but firm mattress. We compromised ultimately with a thick sprung base and foam top. We have since slept on a full Tempur mattress and found it fit the bill even better for us both, and kept us cool, so it's definitely on the wishlist for our next changeover.

4. Have a notepad and pen by the bed and decide what time you are switching off from work, emails or organising. If you think of anything after the cut off, make a note of it ready for tomorrow and then you can instantly forget about it.

5. Keep a routine. It works with children and babies and it also works with grown ups! Have a wind down bedtime routine that follows a similar pattern each night and your subconscious will love it.

6. Avoid caffeine after 3pm. I'm naughty and I don't strictly follow this rule, but I have switched to hot chocolate late at night and cut back on caffeine after teatime.

7. Have some exercise during the day in the fresh air. We all know days out in the countryside are exhausting. I don't have a dog but they're the perfect excuse for a 20 minute stroll after dinner and you will sleep better for it. I sleep better if I walk my children to school and back twice a day than I do on a lazy day off.

8. If you can't sleep then do something else for a short while. Try not to stress over the fact you are awake, go and get a glass of water or a warm milky drink and read a book. Keep it calm, quiet and low key.

9. Sort out the kids! If you have children or pets regularly waking you beyond urgent wee wees or infant feeds, then remember you'll be a much more effective parent or carer if you aren't shattered. Make it uncomfortable for toddlers to get into bed with you and they'll usually give in pretty quickly by themselves. Give them no room and nick the duvet. All of my children regularly crawled into the bed with me until they were around 18 months, or when I'd had enough.

10. If you share a bed, get your partner to join in. Their poor quality sleep will affect your own. It's a win, win, because you'll both reap the benefits.

Top tips for better sleep selfie showing mum and two sons lying grinning on a child's bed


Sources:

Medical News Today

The National Sleep Foundation




This post is a paid collaboration with Tempur, but clearly all words and thoughts expressed within are my own.

7 comments:

  1. Great tips! I will definitely try changing my pillow as I have two big soft ones at the moment!

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    1. It's strange when you first do it, but see how you actually sleep, and how stiff you are next morning - best of luck! :)

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  2. Those are some great tips. I so need to give some of them a go xx

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    1. Definitely try them Susan, it's made such a difference for us to get that extra sleep. We must have had an extra 1000 hours by now!

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  3. I sleep so badly- I can't find a pillow that I like! Interesting that you've managed to improve your sleep though. I do most of the list, but I do need a new mattress so maybe that will be the key.

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    1. Unfortunately that's the expensive one, but it is the biggest. Choose carefully and don't go for the cheapest - hope you find something that helps :)

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  4. Some great tips here. Ones I clearly need to try xx

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