- Wear night clothes such as pyjamas or a large T-shirt to keep you warm. Natural fibres such as wool, cotton or silk will keep you warmer than synthetic materials.
- Have a warm bath just before you go to bed. This will gently warm and relax you to help you feel sleepy.
- Have a warming, milky drink.
- Try to take some exercise which will get the circulation going to help keep the body warm – but don’t do vigorous exercise too close to bed time as you may feel too invigorated to sleep.
- Keep the bedroom warm, but not too hot, and free from draughts.
- Look for a mattress which has a thicker side for use during the winter. A soft sleeping surface is a better insulator than a flat one. Use a fleecy underblanket to retain the heat.
- Choose a duvet with a high tog rating or use several layers of bedding rather than one single layer. Layers will trap warm air and are easily removed if you get too hot.
- A hot water bottle is an ideal way to keep warm once in bed. Make sure it has a cover on it to avoid scalding and also so that it won’t feel cold in the middle of the night. Electric blankets are ideal. Underblankets will warm the bed up before you retire for the night, while overblankets maintain a constant temperature throughout the night.
Sleep is the mysterious shift in consciousness that our bodies require every day. It’s vital for our health and wellbeing, and not only do we function less well when we don’t get enough quality sleep, but it can lead to long-term health problems. That’s why we need to do all that we can to ensure that we enjoy quality sleep and deal with any sleep problems.
The Sleep Cycle
During sleep our heart rate drops, our body temperature falls and we experience complex changes in brain activity. An EEG (electroencephalogram) gives us an insight into the brains electrical activity when we sleep:
- When we first fall asleep we enter non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. NREM is divided into three stages: – NREM1 – NREM2 and – NREM3, each stage becoming progressively ‘deeper’.
- Stages 1 and 2 are light stages of sleep from which we can be easily roused.
- Stage 3 is a deeper stage of sleep from which we’re more difficult to rouse, and some may feel disorientated if woken from this stage of sleep.
- Generally, after going through the NREM stages, we enter stage 4 which is known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which the EEG shows as being similar to wakefulness or drowsiness. It is during the REM stage of sleep that we dream.
- Each cycle lasts around 1½ hours and we need to experience all four stages in order to wake up rested.
- A good night’s sleep consists of five or six cycles, whereas disturbed sleep consists of far fewer.
Sleep is largely controlled by sleep pressure, and the circadian rhythm, or our body clock, which is a 24 hour cycle that regulates all our biological and physiological processes. It anticipates environmental changes around us so that our bodies can adapt to them.
In ideal situations, the circadian rhythm will naturally rise in the early morning, promoting wakefulness and alertness, and will reach a peak in the evening. After a waking period of around 15 hours the pressure to sleep becomes greater and greater, in other words, we get tired. With the onset of darkness, the circadian rhythm drops to the lowest level and helps to maintain sleep.
To ensure you experience good sleep it’s essential to follow good lifestyle habits and to eliminate the factors that are causing you disturbed sleep. For example making sure that your bedroom is the right environment, looking at the lighting in your home, and avoiding foods and drinks that can hinder sleep.
When the clocks change it can be a nightmare for parents. Children’s bedtimes and wake times change and it can take anything from a couple of days to a couple of weeks to get back in sync.
Here are some top tips on how to overcome some of the problems of the clocks going back an hour on Sunday 30th October.
• Delay the start of your child’s bedtime routine, at least a week before the clocks change. Aim for around 10 – 15 minutes earlier every few days until bedtime has moved by an hour. Don’t worry if they still wake at the same time in the morning, it takes a couple of days to establish a new sleep pattern. Hopefully by the time the clocks go back on Sunday 30th, your child will have adjusted to the clock change.
• Toddlers still having a nap in the day should be encouraged to take the nap later or to be slightly longer so that they are able to go to bed that little bit later. Alter babies’ naps in the day.
• During the day before the clocks change, keep young children active – lots of fresh air and exercise – so they sleep well. But don’t totally wear them out as over-tired children are harder to get to sleep.
• If they wake up at their usual time you should encourage them to remain in bed – half an hour is probably your limit! If you don’t already have them, black out blinds or really dense curtains will help to keep morning light out.
• You may be gaining an hour but don’t go to bed an hour later than usual as chances are you won’t get the opportunity to lie-in!
It is worth noting that children with good sleep routines tend to cope better with the changes in time as they know what to expect at the end of the day. A good bedtime routine – teatime, followed by quiet play, bath, story and bed is typical. Ensure the environment is right for sleep – it should be cool, quiet and dark and make sure the bed is comfortable and supportive.