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4 common sleeping mistakes (and how to fix them)

16 June 2022

Considering all we need to do is close our eyes and try to relax, sleeping can be much harder than it should be.

Sixteen million adults in the UK, around 31% of the adult population, suffer from insomnia causing them to either struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep for long periods. With figures this high, it’s unlikely that there is a single definite cause, but rather a concoction of several different sleeping mistakes that many of us make. Here are 4 of the most common sleeping missteps and what you can do to address them.

1. Not unwinding properly   

Some people can fall asleep almost in an instant, but for many, it’s a long slow process of gradually winding down the cerebral chatter and preparing for a good night’s sleep.

The problem many have is that they just don’t give themselves enough time or the appropriate environment to wind down in. If you’re working late at home and try to go from number-crunching straight to bed, you’ll notice that the mind is still whirling to the point you can only lie awake staring at the ceiling.

Winding down properly is absolutely vital for a good night’s sleep. Try to put aside an hour before bedtime and either read, listen to music, or try other calming activities that won’t leave your brain racing. Also, don’t spend the last period of the day staring at a screen, it will leave your brain humming and may well contribute to sleeping problems.

2.  A bad bed

If you wake up in the morning stiff and in dire need of a massage, your bed might be the problem. Unfortunately, beds are not designed to last forever and most mattresses are only good for between 7 and 10 years before they begin sagging which can cause the body all manner of issues.

Yet even if your mattress is relatively new, it might not be the best for you. Different sleeping positions often require different kinds of mattresses, not to mention the variety you get for different weight capacities and whether the mattress has one person or two on it.  

But the mattress might not be the only problem. If you have specific issues, such as bad pain or mobility issues, a standard bed probably doesn’t cut it. Instead, why not choose something like the Adjustable Bed Base EB01, which comes with a head adjustment range between 0 and 60 degrees and is perfect to help reduce snoring, sleep apnea, and discomfort during pregnancy.  

3. Coffee and Alcohol

Coffee and alcohol - those two evil temptresses that we love so much, which can, unfortunately, cause havoc to our sleeping.

Let’s start with coffee. The caffeine in our favourite morning pick-me-up stays in our system much longer than we realise and can sometimes take as long as 10 hours to completely clear our bloodstream. This is one area where people vary greatly and no doubt we all know somebody who can throw back an espresso after dinner and sleep just fine, while for others, such a move will leave us wired until the early hours.

Coffee is not a bad thing, and in fact, there are plenty of studies that point to numerous health benefits, but drinking it too late in the day unquestionably hinders a good night’s sleep.

Alcohol is a slightly different story. Moderate alcohol consumption might indeed have some minor health benefits, but by and large, alcohol is seen as a dangerous drug that has somehow managed to fall into a completely different category than illegal drugs.

Alcohol is a sedative, which is why many believe a drink or two before bed will lead to a night of good sleep, but often the opposite is true, especially if that two becomes, five or six. Alcohol before bed throws us deep into sleep without going through the natural cycles before, all of which play an important role in rejuvenating the body.

Another issue is that the effects don’t last, which means the body spends more time in the lighter stages of sleep as the night wears on meaning you are more likely to wake up feeling sweaty and likely regretting that final drink. A few drinks are absolutely fine, but the longer that gap is between that last drink and your bedtime the better.

4. Poor Sleeping Schedules     

One of the biggest problems people face with sleeping has nothing to do with what’s been consumed beforehand and what kind of mattress you’re sleeping on, but rather the sleeping schedule you choose to have.

Sleeping isn’t a complicated science. We know that people need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night to function well and when you subtract too many hours from that for too many nights in a row, you’ll certainly notice it.

Sleep deprivation leads to a catalogue of problems, from the relatively minor tiredness, problems concentrating, and moodiness, to the much more serious high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks, heart failures, stroke, obesity, depression, and reduced immune system function and lower sex drive.  

In short, nothing good happens to the body when you are sleep deprived and yet it has become a cultural badge of honour to try to operate on the smallest amount of sleep possible. We spend hours watching TV, infinitely scrolling, working, or doing just about anything bar the one thing we really need at that time - sleep. A proper sleep schedule is one of the best ways to address insomnia, and while it may take some time to get used to it, the benefits are perfectly clear.

The Bottom Line  

Sleeping is more complex than we think, but it really needn’t be if we approach it in the right way. By sticking to a sleep schedule, getting the right kind of bed and mattress, watching when we consume food, coffee, and alcohol, and unwinding properly in the evening, a good night’s sleep is well within us all.