Everyone, at some point, will experience a disturbance in the night and struggle to get back to sleep – whether that’s from traffic noise, neighbours, an animal foraging for food, or something else. If it’s a familiar noise, then you’ll likely fall straight back to sleep otherwise, you might find yourself staring at the clock for a while.
As summer approaches it brings further disruptions to sleep. Lighter mornings, birds tweeting away at the crack of dawn, warm temperatures and rises in allergies throughout the hayfever season – all of which can arouse us from slumber.
Sleep disturbances are extremely common, it’s how we deal with them that matters. Here are some top tips from The Sleep Charity to prevent them waking you up:
It’s important for your surroundings to be consistent throughout the night. If something changes while you are asleep, you’re more likely to wake up fully. With the mornings getting lighter earlier, it is worth investing in some heavy-lined curtains on blackout blinds. Equally, you could hang a towel or blanket over existing curtains. This will keep the bedroom dark until it is time to wake up.
Wearing earplugs can keep general noises at bay while you sleep and reduce any unexpected loud noises.
White/colour noise has proved effective in reducing disturbances as it distracts the mind from things happening around us. This is particularly effective if you work shifts, live in a busy city/town or in flats and apartment blocks. Make sure it plays throughout the night for consistency.
The ideal bedroom temperature is between 16c-18c. If you’re too hot, or too cold, it can disrupt your sleep. During the summer months, keep the windows open throughout the day and invest in a fan to keep you cool through the night. Check the tog rating of your bedding and switch to a lower one, or just use a sheet instead. You could fill a hot water bottle with cold water and place it near your feet to keep you cool.
When it comes to allergies, here are some things you can do:
- Remove flowers from bedrooms (opt for artificial plants instead)
- Wash duvet covers and pillowcases regularly at a high temperature (this kills mites and removes mite faeces)
- If hot washing is not possible, 24 hours in the freezer will kill any mites in a pillow prior to a cold wash
- Leave your duvet turned back during the day
- If you can, take your mattress outside for a good airing and then replace it upside-down and opposite-ways-round to its previous positioning
- Clean the base with a soft brush to remove fluff and dust – if you have to use a vacuum cleaner do so very carefully and with the window wide open
- While the bed is moved out from any walls, vacuum thoroughly under and around the bed – it can yield huge amounts of dust and fluff
- Severe reaction to pollen? Consider a mechanical ventilator – fans which bring in fresh air through pollen filters
And if all else fails, here are some tips if you find yourself awake in the night and struggling to get back to sleep:
- Don’t watch the clock as this can increase stress and anxiety, make sure it’s turned around or covered up
- Try the 7/11 tactic. Breathe in for seven seconds and breathe out for 11 seconds. Do this for several minutes or until you feel calm and relaxed enough to go back to sleep
- Write down anything on your mind to prevent your to-do list and worries from keeping you awake
- Don’t force sleep, let it come to you – otherwise, you will just find yourself tossing and turning
- If after 30 minutes you haven’t fallen back asleep, go to another room to do something relaxing. Keep the lights low and read, listen to calming music or try meditation. Do not turn on any tech as this will impact on how sleepy you feel
If you find that you are regularly waking up in the night and struggling to get back to sleep, it may be time to consider your mattress and pillows. Are they still providing the support you need? Do you often wake up in discomfort? Is it showing signs of wear and tear? If so, take a look at the following information from Bed Advice UK (link to relevant page/blog).
The Sleep Charity has just launched its Understanding Your Sleep eBook. This is a free downloadable resource to help you better understand sleep, common issues and what strategies you can implement to help you sleep better. Download your copy here.
For more information and support on sleep, visit thesleepcharity.org.uk.