Your sleep questions answered

With the clocks changing this weekend, and the subject of sleep on everybody’s mind, we take a look at some of the most common sleep questions.

1) Does looking at your phone in bed make it harder to fall asleep?

Looking at light at night, for example from a phone or tablet, can mean we might not fall asleep as fast as we would like. When it gets dark, our brains naturally produce a hormone called melatonin – known as the ‘sleepy hormone’ – which makes us feel tired. Looking at bright lights can trick our brains into thinking it’s day time, and this stops the brain producing the sleepy hormone, meaning we don’t feel tired. So if you’re on your phone at night, wondering why you’re not falling asleep, you might just need to put the phone down and let yourself drift off.

2) Is it better to be an owl or a lark?

Some of us are natural larks, waking up and going to bed early. And some of us are natural owls, waking up and going to bed late. Neither one is better, but it’s best to try and fit your schedule around your natural sleep patterns. Larks should try and schedule their work and activities for earlier in the day, and owls should do the reverse, planning their activities for later in the day. If your schedule doesn’t fit with your sleep habits, there are some things you can try that might help. For larks, try and delay your bedtime by doing something stimulating in the evening and get plenty of light. For owls, set a morning alarm and switch the light on first thing to help you wake up. 

3) I don’t want to take medication, but is there anything I can buy to help me sleep?

There are plenty of devices and items out there to help you sleep. The most important piece of equipment you can have in your sleep arsenal is a good quality bed. Lots of people underestimate the importance of a quality bed in giving a great night’s sleep, but research has found that changing from an old uncomfortable bed to a nice new one can give you up to an hour of extra sleep a night. Blackout curtains are a great purchase to help keep your room dark. We naturally feel sleepier when it’s dark and blackout curtains can help keep light out of your bedroom, keeping your sleep undisturbed. 

4) How should I adjust my sleep for the clocks changing this autumn?

Daylight saving time ends on the 27th October, meaning the clocks go back and we get an extra hour in bed (yay!). The clocks changing is like entering a different time zone, and this can cause disruption to sleep patterns. You may want to take some measures to ensure you’re still getting a great night’s sleep. The best thing you can do is adjust your waking times gradually over the weekend. Wake up 30 minutes later than normal throughout the weekend, rather than a full hour on Sunday. This will help you ease in to the new timing and feel more acclimatized for the week ahead.

5) Can you really be successful on a few hours sleep?

Throughout history, many well known figures claim to have only slept for a few hours each night. Margaret Thatcher boasted of her ability to function on just 4 hours of shuteye but that doesn’t mean less sleep will lead to success. Depriving your brain of much needed sleep will hamper your ability to think and function effectively. In fact, many of the world’s greatest figures had excessive sleeping habits. Whilst Prime Minister, Winston Churchill took a two hour nap every day, and Albert Einstein slept for 10 hours a night. If you want to function at your best, and have your greatest chance of success, then you should sleep as much as you need.