As part of May's monthly theme 'your experiences of mental health services' we invited the community to send in their questions to be answered by Healthwatch Sheffield. Here, a member of our community asks what to do when the service they need doesn't exist.
Sarah Cummings: Heal While You Sleep – Tips for a Restorative Night’s Rest
Getting enough sleep is one of the most important things we can do to look after ourselves and yet many of us still don’t sleep as well as we could. Here, Sarah Cummings gives us her top tips for getting our heads down.
Boys and girls, I am going to let you in on a little secret – just because your eyes are closed in bed at night it doesn’t mean your body has stopped working. Far from it.
Our bodies, which we mistreat on such a regular basis, are absolutely amazing things. While we snore and drool they are busily repairing and restoring themselves after the punishment we have put them through during the course of the day.
For children sleep is when critical brain development takes place. For adults it’s when our muscles are grown and our tissue and cells are repaired.
But we really don’t help ourselves. As a society we have never slept worse. Fewer and fewer of us are getting the doctor recommended eight hours a night.
A few simple changes in your pre-bed game can have a huge impact on how successfully you sleep. Up the quantity and quality of your slumber and your body will have more time to get you spruced up and ready for tomorrow’s adventures.
Below are my top four tips for a restorative night’s sleep.
1. Ban the blue
Blue light is the devil when it comes to sleep. And unfortunately it’s emitted from all those lovely screens we peer at for so many hours a day.
The problem with it is this – it triggers a response from our brain very similar to that triggered by sunlight. And our brain associates sunlight with being awake and doing things. Which is exactly the opposite of what we want our brain to be doing at bedtime.
What to do? Well that’s simple – why not give yourself a curfew each night beyond which you don’t look at a screen. Say one hour before bedtime. And yes, by screens I mean your smartphone too!
If you really have to – and I mean really really have to – look at screens right up until your bedtime, then there are a number of apps you can download or a number of external light filters you can buy to affix to your screens that alter the hue of the light emitted to something less stimulating.
2. Black out to black out
So many of us settle for curtains and blinds which quite frankly don’t achieve the one job they have supposedly been designed for – keeping out the light.
Ensure your bedroom is pitch black when you hit the sack and the impact this will make on how deeply you sleep will probably astound you. It did me.
Invest in a good pair of blackout curtains or some good quality blinds. And if you haven’t got the cash to splash just now, well then head on down to your local discount store and buy yourself an eye mask.
They may not look fashionable but damn are they effective!
3. It’s called coffee ‘morning’ for a reason
Don’t worry I am not about to take coffee away from you. I wouldn’t dare! But I am going to remind you of something you already know but have decided to conveniently ignore – caffeine is a drug. And a powerful one at that.
We often underestimate just how powerful it is. One cup of coffee can stay in your body keeping you artificially alert for over six hours. So, obviously ensure you don’t have a coffee within six hours of your bedtime.
I prefer to go one step further and confine my daily hit of the brown stuff to the morning.
And remember caffeine is in lots of other things too: tea, sodas, ice cream and chocolate to name just a few favourites.
4. Invest in a good mattress
Another one that boggles my mind. Why do so many of us sleep on old, broken, sagging mattresses. It is affecting our sleep and it is impacting our bodies. Ever woken up with a mystery bad back or a random sore neck?
Well check out your mattress. Chances are the cause is not such a mystery or so random.
We spend a full one third of our lives in bed. Yet the time and attention we pay to what we are sleeping on is miniscule to say how much care we put into buying a phone, a tv or an espresso machine (see tip 3 for how I feel about this).
Yes, I am very aware nothing could be more boring that mattress shopping but it is important.
And fortunately our expert friends over at the Sleep Advisor blog have done some of the hardwork and made a handy buying guide for you to view at your leisure.
Well there we have it – four top tips to help you catch the express train to Slumbertown and wake up feeling rejuvenated.
I’ve written this article in a lighthearted fashion but I am very serious about sleep and you should be too. The power a good night can have on your health really cannot and should not be underestimated.
Now get to bed!