Bedtime books that help children to sleep better

Kids love to fall asleep after a good story

Sleep experts and child psychologists have known of the years the importance of bedtime rituals. They encourage a seamless transition from the playful day to quiet slumbers. The bedtime story is probably the most potent bedtime sleep aid for children.

Here is a selection of my top five books for parental reading for small ones.

The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

One of the best books for young children in recent years which is topped the Amazon bestsellers list is called ‘The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep’. It’s been written by a Swedish psychologist structured with a focus on design to help to all children into a deep sleep. it encourages the parental reader to vary their voice allowing and leading their child or children into slumber.

How  Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? by Jane Yolen

This is a really enjoyable way to have some fun and make your child snigger before bed. You can’t go wrong with this amusing book that helps them to laugh at themselves and at dinosaurs!

Bedtime for Mommy by Amy Krouse

 A wonderful book about the rituals that we as parents create for our children. This book will appeal to parents all over the world, as it will remind you of what it was like when you were little.

Interrupting Chickenby David Ezra Stein

 This is a wonderful story of children who like to discuss and go through the story and sometimes get so excited if forgotten that the meant to be getting ready to fall asleep. This book is also good for parents who may wish their reading-age children to do role-play, as is great fun taking the roles, including their role as the over eager, interrupting chicken.

 The Sleep Bookby Dr Zeus

 The book begins with a yawning little bug,  and continues as all of Dr Zeus’s books, imaginative classic. And this one is particularly good to read and listened to at bedtime. The only challenge is for parents to stay awake through the entire book without yawning themselves!

Dreamy locations for better sleep

All over the world there is a rapidly growing market for dreamy locations to improve your sleep. Sleep hotels, sleep clinics, sleep retreats, luxury spas dedicated to better sleep are opening up, often in remote or unusual places.

While millions of us are living our usually sleep deprived lives, there is an ever growing number of people willing to travel far and wide for a dream destination, or rather a location where sleep and dreams are the main event, dream vacations for optimal sleep. This is literally the stuff of dreams!

Here are some examples of the lengths that some people can go in their search for better sleep (at a cost of thousands £££££) whereas mostly all they need to do is to follow all the recommendations for sleep hygiene. However some of these dream locations do sound rather wonderful!

I was reading about an example of this as I flicked through a magazine in my waiting-room at my dental surgery. There it was, a sleep programme from Six Senses, the luxury spa hotel group.

The article said they’d created a coordinated sleep programme with the help of the renowned clinical psychologist Dr. Breus who is a member of the Six Senses Integrated Wellness Board. He has pioneered the sleep programme which consists of being met as you arrive by their sleep ambassador, who will assess your sleep requirements and help you to choose the right pillow from a vast array of options for every sleep position imaginable. That’s just the beginning. You would benefit from two years of scientific sleep research at the hotel, using high-tech sleep monitoring gadgetry, touch of a button blackout blinds that descend beautifully, enjoy sheets, duvet cover and pillowcases made from moisture-wicking organic eucalyptus and cotton. You have the choice of wearing bamboo-fibre pyjamas for breathability and comfort, although you could sleep naked. There’s a jasmine spray for spritzing in the bedroom and a variety of relaxing extras to help you to achieve a state of deep calm. Beside the bed is a little Book of Wellness, and earplugs and eye masks for the light and sound sensitive are provided.

Their beds and mattresses are all from the British bedding company, NaturalMat, hand made from natural fibres as the name suggests. All the mattresses are wired to track your sleep, with a pad underneath the mattress connecting to a device called a Withings Aura that will measure every aspect of your sleep. Throughout the night it will record the levels of your sleep cycles: light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. It will also record your average heart rate and temperature, monitor the noise and light and temperature of the room, and track your physiology as the lights in the bedroom dim with red light and the room is bathed in ambient sounds.

A word of warning! When visiting these wonderful sweet retreats, make sure that you are not ruining the experience by drinking too much alcohol if any. Enjoy eating a delicious meal, but remain ideally alcohol and caffeine free, crystal clear mineral water, and not eating too late or too much, should guarantee you a good night’s sleep, as long as you don’t stay up too late over-stimulating your brain with technology, news feeds and so on. The whole idea is to learn how to improve sleep, not to remain sleep deprived. The sleep hygiene list is the key wherever you travel will increase the chances of wonderful sleep every night.

In the mornings, you’ll awaken and after breakfast, you’ll be encouraged to get some sunlight first thing in the morning whatever the weather, participate in morning yoga classes, and later on your sleep stats will be assessed by their sleep expert.

You will next undergo a full health assessment, your bio markers will be measured for sleep, serotonin levels measured, BP, heart rate and variability, cholesterol, adrenaline and cortisol levels (the hormones that are released during stress), diet, weight, toxin buildup assessment and so on…

The day is filled with yoga classes, trips to wonderful restaurants or eating in wonderful restaurants in the spa, walking through woods by the river, meditating to the sound of Tibetan singing bowls, massages all designed to help improve the next night of sleep on the sleep stat review the next day.

Regardless of how exhausted you arrived, how bad your electronics digital addiction was, these breaks of sleep optimization and rest are just what the doctor ordered!

When it’s time to leave you’ll be relaxed, and in the state of oneness and well-being. You will have learned the importance of afternoon naps, no longer than thirty minutes in the early afternoon, your sleep training will have been completed, and you will be ready to return to real life and a sleep optimized nightlife. Available throughout the year. From £334 for three nights plus accommodation. sixsenses.com.

Here are a few other dreamy locations with a very small timezone difference as returning home with additional jet lag issues is not ideal for a sleep optimisation retreat.
Lefay Resort & Spa, Italy. Rediscover delicious sleep at their ‘Sweet Dreams’ sleep retreat with breakfast, lunch and dinner included, as well as acupuncture, moxibustion, foot, body and facial treatments with the focus on relaxation and getting a better night’s sleep. Available throughout the year. From £2,228 per person for five nights, lagodigarda.lefayresorts.com.

SHA Wellness Clinic, ‘sleep recovery program’ in Spain. For those with sleep disorders, this retreat has been designed to help you recover from insomnia, and improve overall sleep quality. The clinical approach with sleep assessment, with doctors consultation, session with a nutritionist, and many treatments over ideally their recommended 7-night minimum but ideally a full 14 night stay to achieve the best long term sleep results. Available throughout the year. From £3,300 for seven nights, shawellnessclinic.com.

I wish you a good night’s sleep.
Max Kirsten
Finally as a free gift from me, why not also download my ‘Better Sleep Drifting’ Relaxation for sleep MP3 download. Visit https://www.maxkirsten.com/better-sleep-mp3-download/

Vampire shoppers and the vampire economy!

There is a new 21st-century phenomenon called vampire shopping, so named because sleep deprived bleary eyed parents, insomniacs and gamers go online to make purchases between 1am and 6am.

Barclaycard has reported that as many as one in three shoppers now spends more money online at night, compared to 5 years ago.

Vampire shoppers spend a third more than normal shoppers, most of whom are people who are not sleeping well, usually 1-4am er’s buying random stuff that they don’t really need, and sometimes even with nowhere to put it. 75% of people don’t send back the last thing they didn’t want!

Nocturnal shopping is a thing of the NOW.

Nocturnal shopping became possible thanks to the evolution of technological devices since the smartphone revolution. The ‘one click’ purchases on Amazon, Ebay, Paypal and other electronic payment systems makes shopping just so unbelievably easy, and therefore waiting until morning completely unnecessary when the sleep deprived make very often impulsive shopping bleary eyed random purchases before bed, or even when they wake up in the middle of their sleep (if they are experiencing bouts of insomnia), buying shoes, clothes, jewellery, and even ‘replacement lithium battery stocks after realising they’ve forgotten something essential, and two out of ten are ordering food shopping online.

And vampire economy is booming and is predicted to grow year on year, even though shoppers are often buying things that they often don’t even really need in a bleary eyed state such as holidays, and large pieces of furniture on impulse!

There are now calls for safety measures to be put into place, such as putting stops on buying habits or behavior from bedtime and to wake-up to curb out of control impulsive shopping habits. Shopping channels that broadcast late at night have known for a long time that there is a very lucrative market in vampires staying up late and feeling compelled to buy something that they’ve seen that they don’t really need, and then regret buying it or them in the morning.

And whether morally right or wrong, retailers are exploiting this new market. As humans and technology evolve driving this new lucrative ‘Vampire Economy’.

Top zombie hour vampire purchases are usually made on smart phones, tablets and laptops include: birthday presents, children’s toys, baby gear, vacuum cleaners and games consoles. Another popular late-night vampire purchase is an increasing river of new replacement pillows as people becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their sleep set-up.

There is also a growing trend to hide their arriving growing river of packages and daily deliveries in cupboards as the vampire shopping habits begin to cause embarrassment and shame. Others would call this form of late-night shopping ‘compulsive shopping’ leading towards compulsive ‘shopping addiction’.

Even bleary eyed a good question to ask before pressing the purchase button, is “Do I really need this?’ or perhaps a sensible law is to wait until the afternoon before deciding on whether to buy the item sitting in the basket at the checkout.

But maybe we shouldn’t be afraid of the ‘vampire shoppers’, and more worried about the sleepless zombies!

Sleeping cats and dogs!

 

Do cats dream of mice and men?

Cats sleep on average 15 hours each day, which if you think about it is most of their lives spent sleeping. Have you ever wondered what cats dream about?

Cats can sleep as much as 16 hours a day, and older cats spend even more time at rest — as much as 20 hours a day. That sleeping habit is a result of the cat’s evolution, nutritional habits and physiology. In the wild, cats have to hunt in order to eat, and the stalking, chasing and killing of prey burns a lot of energy. Sleeping helps cats conserve energy between meals. Of the time cats spend sleeping, about three quarters of it is what we might call snoozing. In that state, cats can get all the rest they need, but they’re still alert enough to awaken at a moment’s notice. You can tell when a cat is in light sleep because their ears will twitch and rotate toward noises and their eyes will be open a tiny bit. Even when they’re sitting upright, cats can slip into that dozing mode.

Do cats really dream?

The remaining quarter of cats’ sleeping hours is spent in deep sleep, but older cats might spend as much as 30 percent or 40 percent of the time at that level. Cats in deep sleep are usually curled up with their eyes tightly closed. Sometimes, they might even have their tail over their face, like a fluffy sleep mask. Deep sleep is critical for the body’s ability to regenerate itself and stay healthy. It’s also the time when your cat dreams.

By this point if you’re a dog lover, or horse lover, or an animal lover of any other type, you may have decided to switch off and perhaps mentally go to sleep. Aha!

But I will also be asking if dogs dream?

So feline cats sleep the most up to 20 hours on a 24-hour period. I remember being told that humans were the only conscious beings, capable of asking why, and then possibly doing something about it. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed that just as all animals sleep, including humans. As I have watched a number of cats in my own house fast asleep, sometimes I see them dreaming, REM sleep, their eyelids are flickering, often sleeping on their backs, I can see the arms and legs moving slightly responding to their dream. But I have no way of knowing what they’re dreaming about?

In many ways cats are faster than us, more agile than us, and can hear better than us, and can hunt better than us, because their eyesight is so good day or night, and their reactions are quicker than ours!

I was interested in the research by Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman, who is a professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in New England, USA, who said in an article in Metro, that cats definitely dream.

He says that, ‘Cats exhibit all the physiological and behavioural characteristics of dreaming sleep in humans: low voltage fast wave activity, fast EEG activity – where the cerebral cortex (thinking centre) and hippocampus (memory centre) are active in the face of continued behavioural sleep.

‘Behavioural sleep is characterised by the absence of muscle potentials, super relaxed posture, unresponsiveness, and elevated auditory threshold.

‘This is the so-called the sleep of the body, where the mind is still active.

‘The fast wave EEG activity in periods of REM sleep is the dreaming phase of sleep.

What is REM sleep?

REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep is one of the four stages of sleep, and should take place every 90 minutes or so while you’re snoozing.

During REM sleep, your eyes will make distinctive movements while closed. This is when dreaming takes place. REM sleep is associated with maintaining important neural pathways and even learning new information. Your heartbeat during REM sleep will be rapid, which could be a response to the dreams you’re having.

‘These periods alternate with periods of slow wave sleep (the sleep of the mind) in which some muscle tone remains (the body is not totally relaxed) and there is no dreaming.

‘During the former fast wave sleep, rapid eye movements and twitching movements of the limbs, vibrissae and ears are seen.’

Just like humans, cats have periods of deep sleep where they are completely relaxed in their bodies, but their minds are actively dreaming. Dr. Dodman also has some ideas about what cats might dream about.

He says: ‘Like us, cats will probably dream about things that have gone on in the recent or distant past. ‘Maybe stalking a bird or mouse. Maybe being petted. Maybe an altercation with another cat or dog.’

Although dogs sleep slightly less than cats do, with adult dogs getting an average of 12-14 hours sleep a day, Dr. Dodman says that the brain activity present during sleep is remarkably similar.

‘The sleeping patterns of dogs, cats and humans are all very similar.

‘However, the phase length of REM sleep vs. slow wave sleep varies between individuals and between younger and older subjects.’ This means that the amount of dream time you get depends on your individual characteristics and your age. So potentially, cats and dogs could be dreaming just as much as you do.

If you see your cat’s little legs cycling or their ears twitching as they snooze, they’re probably having a satisfying dream about catching the bird that’s always mocking them from a high tree branch in the garden, or getting the better of the neighbour’s dog.

Sweet dreams are made of Miow and Woof!

M

Max helps Jarvis with sleep on ‘Wireless Nights Special 2019′

‘The perfect night’s sleep’ is Jarvis Cocker’s New Year’s Resolution for 2019

In this episode Sleep Coach Max Kirsten helps Jarvis Cocker find better sleep as he continues his nocturnal exploration of the human condition. He often lies awake at night trying, unsuccessfully, to nod off. But, not one to give up, his New Year’s resolution is to crack this habit and attain the perfect night’s sleep. His restless search leads him to fellow insomniac Marina Benjamin, and to even he go inside his own brain with The Sleep Coach Max Kirsten. A surreal experience.

To listen or download the podcast visit Radio 4 https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0001v06

New Sleep Book

I’ve just finished writing my new book ‘HOW TO SLEEP’ – all the ‘do’s and don’ts’ for achieving a truly great night’s sleep. The journey of writing this book began when the publisher Michael Joseph Penguin Random House, asked me if I would be interested in writing my own book on the subject of how to get better sleep. Since I’ve been wanting to write this sleep book for some time, I lept at the opportunity, after having done the deal, I began to write, and write, and write… So it’s been some time since I’ve posted a sleep blog.

During the process of writing intensely every evening and all weekends and then towards the end even more than that, I was immersed in the world of sleep from a conscious point of view. I spoke to sleep scientists, sleep psychiatrists, sleep doctors, sleep experts, sleep technology manufacturers, sleep technologists, sleep surface manufacturers of pillows, mattresses, beds, and nutrition for achieving better sleep.

And although I learned that sleep is a very subjective experience, that we’re all different, and therefore how much sleep we need or get will vary from person to person, and night to night. For many people at eight hours is the ideal amount, some are fine on just seven hours a night, fewer than you think can sleep for less than this without long-term health problems over the horizon, and that obviously children need the most sleep. But the truth is, almost all of us could improve the amount of sleep that we get get, or allow ourselves to have.

And the enemies of sleep, or at least good quality sleep are basically these:

1, Not ENOUGH natural sunlight during the day.

2, Too MUCH artificial light during the evening.

3, Not going to bed at the same time every night.

4, Not waking up at the same time every morning.

5, Too much use of smart phones, tablets and electronics in the crucial hours before bed.

5, Over-stimulation of the mind before bed.

6, Too many stimulants, caffeine, nicotine, sugar affecting the metabolism at night.

7, Not getting enough exercise particularly during the day.

8, Eating too late at night.

9, Not being even close to following a sensible sleep hygiene list.

10, Allowing worries and anxiety free-reign in your brain lying in bed.

12, Not understanding which foods to eat to sleep well?

13, Not understanding the Circadian Rhythm.

I could go on, as I’ve learned so much from writing my sleep book. Now I’m moving on to my insomnia sleep programs, so that when my sleep book is published early spring next year 2019, all my other sleep coaching tools will be ready to help the sleep deprived to become sleep INSPIRED!

As always I wish you a great night sleep,

Maxx

TOP TIPS FOR A GREAT NIGHT’S SLEEP

 

 

The importance of sleep cannot be understated, particularly for us runners. Certified Sleep Coach Max Kirsten takes us through the reasons behind this, and recommends steps you can take to get a better night’s sleep.

The importance of sleep cannot be understated. As a sleep coach, most of my work involves helping people to overcome insomnia. Feeling constantly tired, poor health, difficulty concentrating, anxiety and weight gain, are just some of the classic physiological symptoms caused by sleep deprivation.

I believe anxiety, in particular, is one of the principal causes of difficulty in falling and staying asleep. In order to help the restless sleeper counter this, I teach a mindfulness-based autogenic sleep training technique called the ABC of better sleep at my clinic. However, it is essential that those who sleep poorly identify all possible external causes affecting how well they fall asleep. The sleep hygiene list I take clients through addresses these causes – from sensitivity to noise, light, feeling too hot, bed and pillow comfort, physical pain, partner snoring and so on.

Continue here  https://www.iffleyroad.com/blogs/journal/top-tips-for-a-great-nights-sleep

Main photo: Photo by David Mao on Unsplash

5 Tips For A Great Nap Today

 

Sleep London

Bad night’s sleep? Get Better Sleep. You’ll really want to read this on Power Naps.

If you find yourself lacking in energy and drifting off in the daytime, or you’re someone who often works (or parties) very late into the night, you could benefit from taking short power naps.  Various Medical research shows that sleeping for a burst of no longer than 20 – 30 minutes can improve cognitive function, boost your body’s immune system and lower blood pressure, reducing risks of health problems like cardiovascular disease.

With this in mind, we spoke to ‘The Sleep Coach’/ eve Sleep’s award-winning good sleep ambassador, clinical hypnotherapist Max Kirsten, to glean his top 5 tips for the perfect power nap…

 

1. Darken your surroundings

Naps are best in a very dark room; if this isn’t possible for you, put on a sleep mask or use something like a t shirt to cover your eyes. Less light means your body produces more melatonin – which aids sleep.

 

2. Set your alarm

Set the amount of time that you want to nap for (no more than 20 – 30 minutes) on your mobile phone or alarm clock; sleeping for longer than this in the daytime will in fact have a negative effect making you feel drowsy. This is because after 30 minutes we start to enter a state of deep sleep, causing sleep inertia or grogginess which interferes with the desired positive effect a quick nap can create.

 

3. Cut out blue light

Sleep research has shown that blue light from smart phones, tablets, and computer screens reduces the production of the sleep hormone melatonin that is produced in the pineal gland in your brain. Blue light through the optic nerve tells your brain that it is still daytime. Either switch off all devices a few hours before you want to sleep, or perhaps more conveniently, use Apple’s ‘Night Shift’ filter, which can be switched on in the screen settings for iPhone and iPad. For users of Androids and other phones, ‘f.lux’ is an app that also reduces blue light from screens..

 

4. Get comfortable

Learn simple exercises to relax your body and empty your mind, making it easier for you to drift off peacefully. Try taking three deep slow breaths and after each one concentrate on relaxing your whole body and clearing the thoughts from your brain. To help this process, a good bed works wonders; Max Kirsten recommends eve mattresses.

 

5. Drink coffee

This one may seem surprising, but scientific research has suggested ‘Coffee Napping’ (drinking caffeine then napping immediately) is more effective than a regular mini-sleep. To understand how this seems to work, it’s important to know how caffeine affects the body. After being drunk, coffee is absorbed through the small intestine, passes into the bloodstream and crosses into your brain. There, it fits into receptors that are normally filled by a similarly shaped molecule called Adenosine. Adenosine is a byproduct of brain activity, and when it accumulates at high enough levels, it plugs into the receptors and makes us feel tired and groggy. However with caffeine blocking the receptors, adenosine cannot do so, hence why we feel more awake after a coffee or tea. Sleeping naturally clears adenosine from the brain, so if you drink caffeine before napping for 20 minutes straight away, you’ll reduce your levels of adenosine just in time for the caffeine to kick in. Because the caffeine has less adenosine to compete with, it will be more effective in making you alert when you wake up from your nap. Whoever said caffeine is the enemy of sleep might just be wrong…

(Note: Obviously if you don’t use caffeine regularly, this technique should probably to be avoided, or at least tried with caution, bearing in mind that caffeine effects can last up eight hours so could really interfere with sleep architecture later when you bed down for the night.)

 

The eve Nap Station is based in The Old Truman Brewery until Sunday 10th July; providing a comfortable, free-of-charge co-working space for Londoners.

Interview courtesy of http://www.redonline.co.uk

How Alcohol Affects your Sleep

According to new insomnia sleep research, one in seven of us (and one in four insomniacs) are using alcohol as a sleep aid. Though reaching for the bottle may be an easy way to fall asleep, alcohol before bed can be detrimental to getting a great night’s sleep.  Even at comparatively low levels, the more that we drink, the more alcohol affects our sleep and how we feel the following morning.  Here’s why.

Natural Sleep vs. Alcohol Induced Sleep

Most of us would agree that a few drinks seem to help us fall asleep just fine. However there is a massive difference between falling asleep under the influence of alcohol, and falling asleep naturally which will in fact result in a much better night’s sleep.

Alcohol Disturbs Your Sleep Pattern

Though alcohol has a sedative effect, it interrupts what we call your ‘sleep architecture’. This is the pattern of sleep your brain waves follow overnight. And, it’s by sticking to this pattern that we end up feeling refreshed in the morning. It involves getting the right balance of REM sleep (dreaming sleep) and non–REM sleep (including deep sleep).

Sadly, alcohol disturbs this pattern. Alcohol enhanced sleep means the brain is no longer able to perform its natural restorative processes.  Instead of balancing out, the portion of non-REM sleep increases, while the portion of REM sleep decreases. But, the real problem begins during the second half of the night, when your REM sleep reduces. At this point, your sleep becomes much more disturbed. You may not feel it at first, but when the pattern breaks, you’re heading into a restless night of tossing and turning.

Other Negative Effects

Additionally, alcohol increases your body temperature, dehydration, and feelings of restlessness.  This is down to the toxins produced by the body – as it tries to break down the alcohol in its system. Alcohol can also cause breathing problems overnight. Even small amounts of alcohol can result in slower breathing.  The lining of your throat becomes more swollen, and the muscle tone in your airways is reduced.  As a result, breathing problems including snoring, and sleep apnoea are much more likely to set in. The oxygen deprivation that results can cause you to feel heavy and un-refreshed in the morning.  It can also lead to unwanted weight gain as your metabolism slows down.

Alcohol Before Bed = A Slipery Slope

Some sleep specialists claim that having a single glass of wine before bed is a good approach for insomniacs (but not for the general population). Though this approach may be beneficial for some people with severe sleep problems, I would argue that it’s a ‘slippery slope’.  Think about it. The more alcohol you drink regularly, the more your body becomes immune to alcohol’s sleep inducing qualities. The benefits eventually wear off, leaving you to deal with just the negative impact it has on your sleep. 

Natural Sleep – The Best Kind of Sleep

The best type of sleep involves the natural processes of your brain and biological sleep cycles. It is very different to the sedative state induced by alcohol, which suppresses the natural activity of your brain. So if you want a refreshing, wonderful night’s sleep, it’s best to avoid that nightcap!

As a sleep coach, I recommend learning my completely natural ‘ABC of better sleep’ technique. It teaches you to relax sequentially, and give up ‘trying’ to sleep. Learn to let go of your thoughts, and drift off naturally into deep, refreshing sleep. You can learn more about the ABC sleep app here.

I wish you a great night’s sleep.

Max

10 things that stop a good night’s sleep

No one wants poor sleep, difficulty falling asleep, waking repeatedly in the night, or having chronic insomnia. If going to sleep has become something that you dread, here are 10 things to keep in mind and to practice before turning out the lights.

Work out your pre-sleep routine

Most of us enjoy getting ready for sleep. But, poor sleep preparation can lead to having a restless night.

So here are some things that you can do.  Research shows that taking a hot bath is very helpful.  In fact, it’s more effective at helping you to physically relax than even taking a shower. Feeling clean, with a hot body that cools slowly when you get into bed, is a wonderful feeling, and should help you to settle after a hard day of work.

Snuggly bedclothes, pyjamas, an old t-shirt or whatever else makes you feel comfortable (hey, you’re never to old for that favorite stuffed animal!) will also help.

If you are prone to cold feet (most older adults are), sleep socks (low-cut socks) are also a good option, keeping your feet warm during the night, without cutting off your blood’s circulation..

Uncomfortable bed and/or pillows

If your bed is uncomfortable – too soft, to hard, or just unsupportive – invest in a better bed.  Now you’re probably going, “Max!  Why would I throw my hard earned money at something I’m simply going to lie on, doing nothing for hours?” Well, the answer is that we spent half of our lives in our beds, recharging our batteries so we can perform to our best ability each and every day of our lives.  So if you can, you better treat yourself to a good one! It’s a health investment!

Find the right pillows. Not all pillows are the same, so find the ones that work for you – you’ll be glad that you did. Some people even like to travel with the right pillow as part of their ‘sleep religion’. Hotel bedrooms rarely feel as comfortable as your one at home (although they might smell fancier), so bringing a few supplies with you can make the difference between an ‘OK’ night and a great night’s sleep.

 

Too much light

Light can be really impairing when it comes to sleep. Whether it’s from street lights outside your window, or your blinds letting in morning light, light makes it harder to fall and stay asleep. A good pair of curtains or blinds that block out light is ideal. Even the light from your digital clock can make your sleep erratic.  Ideally switch electronic devices such as mobile phones off, or set to silent, some even have a sleep setting.

A disturbance, argument, unresolved issue, anger

Most of us know that having a disturbed mental state before bed will usually result in a poor night’s sleep. Techniques such as writing things down, list making, discussing it with someone, talking it through, all help to process the disturbance, event, argument, unresolvable issue, what have you. If none of this works, remember, tomorrow is another day.

Exercise just before bed

With the exception of bedroom love-making (of course) intense exercise such as a late-night gym session, can have a negative effect on sleeping.  This is due to your heart rate and metabolism being increased, making it harder to unwind in bed later. It is always better to do exercise in the day or early evening.

An uncomfortable or noisy environment

Noise is a big interference when it comes to sleep.  An old boiler, your neighbor’s dinner party, the student rave upstairs, a domestic argument in the street, doors slamming, floor boards creaking, traffic, ambulances, or just the noise of your partner snoring, can all stop you from obtaining that beautiful, well deserved, night’s sleep.  These noises are often even louder in the summer when the hot weather forces us to leave our windows open. Although not ideal for every night, I recommend having a good pair of earplugs (foam, silicone, wax earplugs, there are many different types) to help tune these sounds out and lock into a good night’s sleep. NOT all earplugs are the same, so shop around.

An irregular routine

Sleep research shows that most people benefit from keeping to a regular sleep routine. The body’s natural circadian rhythm responds best to regular day/night routines. Obviously if you are a shift worker, or an international traveller crossing time zones, your body’s natural clock will not be working as it wants to. Research also shows that most of us are getting less sleep than our predecessors.  This is probably due to all the extra stimuli, such as 24-hour TV, the Internet, computers and smart phones with blue light (read my blog on the matter here). Most of us could do with going to bed an hour earlier, and certainly our health would improve as a result.

Stimulants – coffee, alcohol, food, nicotine

Sleep is often impaired by stimulants such as coffee.   Most people should have their last cup 5 to 8 hours before hitting the pillow. Other caffeinated drinks such as tea, fizzy drinks, and even eating chocolate late at night (cocoa is a stimulant just like coffee) can also affect your sleep.  Certain foods, which are particularly rich and difficult to digest should be avoided altogether before bed. Many people are still surprised that alcohol, which may seem a good idea before bed, inevitably leads to waking in the night, dehydration and restlessness!

Finally, let’s not forget ‘ye’ old classic’: the cigarette. Nicotine is in fact a powerful stimulant so it can often reduce deep sleep quality (particularly if nicotine is absorbed without tobacco’s other ingredients). Now, we have nicotine with a twist – as it’s often now ‘vaped’ with the ever increasing use of e-cigs. As a result, nicotine is absorbed directly into the body in a much purer form, and often at a much higher dosage.  This makes sleep more difficult, and leaves the user exhausted, and un-refreshed after a night of crazy dreams in the morning. Much better to drink a little water, and eat healthy natural foods that are easy to digest, before jumping into the hay-sack.

 The wrong body temperature

A bedroom that is either too hot or too cold can make sleep less comfortable. Ideally the room and your bed should reach body temperature. Then, as you’re falling asleep, your bed should be cozily warm, and the air in your room slightly cool to the touch.

A busy mind

Of all the things that can stop you having a great night’s sleep, a busy mind can be the worst. Sleep is for sleeping. Of course, a little time preparing for sleep, and relaxing in bed to process the day’s thoughts is healthy. But, when you’re ready to sleep, letting go of daytime thoughts, and allowing yourself to relax and let go is key. Some of us, particularly the light or anxious insomniacs, need some help to learn how to get ‘out of the way’ of our sleep.

Seek help for sleep

As a certified sleep coach, and as a self-confessed fully recovered insomniac, I love to teach techniques, and practical tips that make falling asleep effortless and delicious.

However if you live far away, thanks to modern technology, you can now access and download my 2 sleep apps, the ‘ABC of better sleep’, and my ‘Insomnia cure’. Both of these contain wonderfully relaxing ambient recordings to drift off to…

I’m proud to say these hypnotic sleep audio programs have won a number of sleep awards!

You can find them on my website thesleepcoach.co.uk or on iTunes – search for Max Kirsten to find all my apps for the iPhone and iPad.

I wish you a great night’s sleep.

Max