Sleep pod
posted - 20.11.2017

The ultimate list of sleeping techniques

Lying in bed staring at the ceiling at 3am knowing that you have to be up in 4 hours for work, while your partner sleeps soundly next to you, sound familiar? Don’t worry you are not alone. According to a survey from the NHS ‘nearly a third of the population are suffering from insomnia’. This is having a big effect on health and wellbeing, resulting in heightened chances of mental health and relationship issues.

What is insomnia?        

‘Insomnia is difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning’ as defined by the NHS. Insomnia is a common problem throughout the UK and is believed to affect one in every three people on a regular basis.

Insomnia affects people in different ways; if occasional it may come and go without causing any serious issues, for others it can last months or even years. Persistent Insomnia can therefore have a significant impact on your health and quality of life, therefore it would always be recommended to seek advice from a health professional.

What are some common signs of Insomnia?

  • You find it difficult to fall asleep
  • You might wake up several times in the night
  • Lie awake for long periods of time
  • Feeling tired and not refreshed when you get up in the morning
  • Wake up early in the morning and can’t get back to sleep
  • Feeling tired, irritable and low levels of concentration during the day

What are the common causes of insomnia?

  • A poor sleeping environment such as uncomfortable bed, noise, light, temperature etc.
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Lifestyle such as diet, work hours, travel, alcohol/caffeine consumption etc.
  • Mental and physical health conditions
  • Hormones
  • Sleeping with a partner who snores

How much sleep do you need?

Everyone is different and with no official guidelines you need to take more control to work out how much sleep you need. It’s believed the average amount of sleep for an adult is around seven to nine hours a night. Teens, children and babies may sleep for longer than this, whereas older adults may sleep for less. You should monitor your sleep and what hours correlate with you feeling refreshed in the morning as this could be a sign of a good night’s sleep.

British sleep statistic:: 49% of Britons have never taken steps to help them sleep

According to a study from the Sleep Council, ‘49% of Britons have never taken steps to help them sleep, even though 32% admit they sleep poorly’. This is a staggering statistic as almost half the nation could make big improvements to their sleep quality with some tried and tested sleeping techniques. Our team here at herdysleep have put together a list of useful sleeping techniques.

 

A list of sleeping techniques to help you get a better night’s sleep   

The 4-7-8 method

One of the most talked about sleeping techniques is the 4-7-8 method, championed by bestselling author Dr Andrew Well. The aim of the breathing technique is to help you fall asleep in under one minute, by calming the mind and relaxing the muscles. Although you can technically do this exercise in any position, Dr Well recommends sitting with your back straight while initially learning the exercise.

How to do the 4-7-8 method:

Firstly start by lightly touching the ridge of tissue behind your top front teeth with your tongue, exhale completely and then follow the steps below:

  • Breathe in through your nose quietly and count to 4
  • Hold your breath and count to seven
  • Blow air out through your mouth and count to 8 while making a ‘whoosh’ sound.
  • Now repeat the process three more times resulting in a total of four breaths

 

It’s important to remember with this technique that you inhale quietly and exhale audibly through your mouth, while keeping your tongue in the same position the whole time. The 4-7-8 ratio is the most important not the time you spend on each phase, therefore if you have trouble holding your breath you can speed up the exercise but ensuring you follow the ratio for the three phases. Practise this technique every day, use it when something upsetting happens or you feel stressed and of course most importantly use it to help you fall asleep!

Have a warm shower before bed

Studies have taken place to show positive signs of warming your body with a hot shower an hour before bed, then stepping back into cooler air. The rapid decrease in temperature helps to slow metabolism faster and therefore helps prepare your body for sleep, while the shower experience itself can have a relaxing effect.

Don’t count sheep

Illustration of counting herdwick sheep over a farm fence

Although we love nothing more than counting Herdwick sheep, according to a study from the Oxford University, unless a farm full of sheep is a happy place for you it might not be the best option to help you sleep. Insomniacs who featured in the study published in the Behaviour Research and Therapy journal were asked to imagine a happy place such as a beach or a waterfall. The results were very interesting as those who imagined a happy place fell asleep 20 minutes faster than those who were told to count sheep or do nothing at all. Why not try to think of your happy place tonight.

Improve your sleep environment

A common oversight for people who suffer from lack of sleep is to consider the area in which you sleep. Does your bedroom provide the perfect environment to achieve a good night’s sleep? You need to create a welcoming and relaxing room where you can feel fully immersed in your surroundings. Updating your bedroom to create the perfect sleep environment doesn’t have to cost the world, check out our 7 simple tips below:

  1. In the world we live in today technology is at the forefront of our lives – however it’s important to leave technology at the door when getting ready for bed. Using devices such as tablets and phones before you sleep in not ideal as it means your mind will be active and therefore disturb your sleep.
  2. Darkness is your best friend when it comes to sleeping aids; make sure your room is as dark as possible. You can achieve this with blackout blinds & curtains or even a quality eye mask.
  3. Avoid using brash colours such as bright reds, yellows and oranges. Go for more muted tones that help create a warm and calm feel.
  4. They say a tidy room makes for a tidy mind, the perfect mantra for any bedroom. Having a cluttered or messy room can create a stressful environment, therefore try to keep your bedroom tidy and don’t forget the bedside table!
  5. The bedroom should be seen as a haven for sleep and love making! Other activities such as eating, working and watching TV should be carried out in their respective rooms.
  6. The temperature of a room can play a big part in guaranteeing a good night’s sleep. Although this will be heavily dependant on personal preference, a recommended temperature to heighten a sound sleep is 16 – 18o
  7. Certain aromas are believed to affect your mood, in particular Lavender is naturally calming, although it’s advised not to use for children or if you are pregnant.

Keep your toes toasty at night     

Swiss researchers conducted a study published in the Nature journal to see if warm feet and hands were a factor for rapid sleep onset. Participants placed a hot water bottle on their feet, which they found widened blood vessels on the surface of the skin, resulting in increased heat loss. Moving blood flow from your core to your extremities cools down your body, working in unison with melatonin (a hormone which helps control your sleep and wake cycles). Why not invest in some cosy bed socks to see if it helps you sleep soundly tonight.

Hide your clock

Clock watching is something we are all guilty of from time to time, whether it be waiting for home time at work or counting down the minutes until your dinner is ready, one place you shouldn’t take notice of your clock is in the bedroom. If you are struggling to sleep and you constantly check the time you will only heighten your stress levels, remember there is no gain in knowing the last time you checked the time before you feel asleep.

Move to London!   

According to the Sleep Council London is the best place to live if you are looking for a good night’s sleep. 29% of residents in the Big Smoke say they sleep very well most nights, whereas in Wales only 19% say they sleep well. Although we think the soaring house prices are enough to keep many awake at night, so maybe don’t pack your bags just yet…

Can food affect your sleep?

You might be surprised to hear that nutrition can be a big factor as to whether you will have a good night’s sleep or not. Numerous scientific studies have taken place that suggests your diet can have a direct effect on how well you sleep. Not only does a healthy lifestyle have a positive impact on your overall health and wellbeing, it’s also very important for aiding sleep. There are three main chemicals that help promote good sleep, they are tryptophan, serotonin and melatonin.

Tryptophan:

Tryptophan is an amino acid that is one of the ingredients necessary for the body to make serotonin, this is the neurotransmitter best known for creating a calm feeling and making you sleepy.

Serotonin:

Serotonin is what we would call a neurotransmitter; this means that it’s responsible for sending messages between nerve cells and producing responses. Many researchers believe the chemical is responsible for maintaining good mood balance.

Melatonin:

Melatonin is a natural hormone made by the pea sized pineal gland located just above the middle of the brain. It’s essentially your very own internal clock that controls your natural cycle of sleeping and waking hours.

These chemicals can be found in certain foods, you can check out some examples below:

Foods you should eat to help you sleep including cherries, turkey, almonds, milk, whole grains, honey and oats.

Foods you should eat to help you sleep:

  • Cherries
  • Turkey
  • Almonds
  • Milk
  • Whole grains
  • Honey
  • Oats
  • Bananas
  • Sweet potato
  • Pumpkin seeds

What foods should you avoid before bed?

As well as foods that aid sleep there are of course foods that you need to avoid.

Alcohol:

Despite the many affects and health risks that drinking alcohol can present, many often associate drinking alcohol with the sensation of making you feel sleepy, which some believe is a method to aid sleep, however this isn’t necessarily the case. Alcohol can cause frequent awakenings limiting the ability to fall into a deep sleep.

Spicy food:

The consumption of spicy food before bedtime can result in digestion issues, therefore causing an unrestful night’s sleep.

Cheese:

We have all heard the legend that eating cheese before bed can give you nightmares; while you might not be convinced; there is scientific evidence to suggest avoiding cheese before bed. Hard cheeses contain high levels of the amino acid Tyramine, which makes the brain feel more alert, therefore potentially affecting your sleep.

Fatty foods:

It’s best to avoid fatty foods before bed as they are harder to digest; therefore these food types are more likely to cause digestion issues that could keep you awake at night.

Listen to music

In 2008 a study was carried out that involved students aged 19 – 28 to see if listening to music could aid with sleep. The students who listened to relaxing classical music for 45 minutes before bed showed significant improvements to their sleep quality and decreased symptoms of depression. It doesn’t necessarily have to be classical music; it’s advised that you listen to music that has a slow rhythm of 60 to 80 beats per minute.

Blow some bubbles

So this suggestion might seem a little unusual, it comes from Professor Rachel Marie E. Salas who conducted a study on blowing bubbles and their effects. The visuals of bubbles are almost hypnotic and the process of the deep breathing process needed to blow can help calm your body and mind, plus it’s a silly activity so it can help take your mind off any sleep-preventing thoughts.

Acupressure  

Acupressure is a traditional Chinese cure for insomnia, similar to acupuncture without the needles. This alternative medicine technique is based on the Chinese medial theory that a network of energy flows through specific points around the body. It is believed pressing on these points will restore balance, while regulating your mind, body and soul. There are a number of pressure points on the body which are believed to help with sleep, some of the main ones can be found below.

Acupressure points to help with sleep:

  • Using either foot look at the top of the foot between your first and second toe where there is a depression. Press the area for a few minutes until you feel a dull ache.
  • There is a small depression between your eyebrows on the level of your brows, right above the nose. Gently apply pressure to that point for around a minute.
  • Another great technique is to massage your ears for around a minute.
  • There is another great pressure point on the sole of your foot. The best way to find it is if you image your foot has three sections, beginning at the tip of your toes and ending at the back of the heel. Roughly one-third back from the tip of your toes, press on the sole of your foot for a few minutes.

Avoid blue light

Not only can the use of devices just before bed keep your mind active, the artificial blue light emitted by the screens can greatly disrupt preparations for sleep as it stimulates daytime hormones. It’s best to avoid using devices such as smartphones and tablets in bed before you are about to go to sleep. It’s appreciated that many of us like to unwind after a long day by watching our favourite TV shows. A great tip is to dim the brightness of the screen at least one hour before bed, you can do this manually or use an automated program to take care of it for you.

Become a yoga nidra pro

The chances are you have heard of yoga, but have you heard of the practice known as yoga nidra? Although yoga nidra is designed to pull you down into the deepest state of relaxation while remaining fully conscious, it can be adapted to help you fall asleep. Also known as ‘yogi sleep’, the exercise is used to achieve a sleep like state by lengthy meditation. You can give it a go by following the beginner’s tips below.

Beginners yoga nidra tips:

  1. Find a comfortable, quite space in your home and use accessories such as cushions, blankets, an eye mask etc. to increase your comfort.
  2. Lie down in a position that you can easily stay comfortable in for a prolonged period of time.
  3. Either use a recording of your favourite meditation or do this manually. If using manual meditation, you should systematically switch your attention around the different parts of your body. Start at your fingertips and travel slowly up your arm, onto your torso and down one side of the body. Once you have done this then repeat for the other side.

Don’t worry if you fall asleep this is normal for beginners. Fit this into your daily routine for at least 3 times a week and you will be sleeping soundly in no time.

Choosing the right bed for you

As a bed maker it would be fair of you to think we are bias when it comes to this technique, however we can’t stress enough how important having the right mattress for your requirements is. Having perfect sleeping posture can be the difference between a good night’s sleep and a bad one. The trick is to ensure your spine is perfectly aligned, which helps relieve pressure points.

When your spine is in a neutral position, it means the heavier parts of your body such as shoulders, knees and hips are correctly supported. It’s very important to make sure you select the right comfort tension i.e. firm, medium and soft to ensure perfect spine alignment. If the mattress is too soft your spine bows downwards, creating pressure around your lower back and hips. On the other hand if your mattress is too firm your spine will arc upwards and create pressure around your shoulders, hips and knees. You need to find a mattress that has enough ‘give’ to ensure your spine is not curved upwards, whilst still keeping the body fully supported. Our herdysleep mattress is a medium to firm tension designed to suit the majority of the population. If you need additional advice please contact us we are more than happy to help.

Walk your way to waking up feeling fresh

Exercise and sport can help you have a great night’s sleep, however contrary to popular belief excessively exercising before bed to try and tire your body can be counterproductive, as it can result in increased alertness. It’s all about exercising at the right time to help increase your chances of a quality sleep. It would be recommended to moderately exercise for 20-30 minutes between 4pm – 7pm.