Over the past few months I have had aches and pains in my right hip and right shoulder. So I phoned a sports physio that I know to make an appointment to see her. She asked me a few questions about how I slept and on what type of mattress; I told her that we had a firm mattress and that I slept on my side. She said she would like me to try something before going to see her… and suggested that I put a spare single duvet under the bottom sheet and try that for a few nights. Also to check my pillows were supportive enough. Well, I could hardly believe it. I did as she said and after less than a week my aches and pains more or less disappeared. I still haven’t made that appointment to see her.
And you don’t have to just take my word for it. According to sleep expert Sammy Margo, “The way we sleep has a huge effect on our general health and well-being, as well as our ability to recover from injury. Not only can the position you sleep in make the difference between a good and a bad night’s sleep, it can also have a knock-on effect on your posture during the day.”
We all know that a good night’s sleep is essential for your sanity, health and general well being. However, if you are like me and have to get up for a tiddle at 4.10am, those nights of sleeping through for a blissfully unbroken eight hours can be a distant dream. Anyhow, I’m a great one for saying that I don’t want to bang on about a problem, just find a solution. So here are my tips for waking refreshed.
1. OPTIMISE YOUR MATTRESS & PILLOWS As mentioned above, make sure your mattress and pillows are supportive. Most mattresses last up to 10 years, so perhaps it’s time to invest in a new one? The ideal mattress should keep your spine in alignment and distribute pressure evenly throughout the body. Perhaps add a topper – it will add another layer and make your bed feel more luxurious. Synthetic pillows should be replaced at least once a year. Buy the best bedlinen you can afford – there is nothing like crisp high count cotton to make you feel like snuggling down for a good night’s sleep.
2. GENTLE EXERCISE AIDS SLEEP. Many women our age rarely do anything more strenuous at bedtime apart from push-me-pull-you with the duvet, which I suppose counts as light exercise. Seriously though, the older I get the more important exercise seems to me to be – not only for our health, flexibility, posture and weight control, but for our souls. Even a gentle walk in the fresh is better than nothing and will help you sleep at night.
3. NO POWER NAPPING DURING THE DAY Then you will be properly tired at bedtime.
4. AVOID ALCOHOL, HEAVY MEALS AND CIGARETTES BEFORE BEDTIME All these things can disrupt your sleep so eat as early as you can and nothing for, ideally, two hours before bedtime.
5. ENJOY A HOT SHOWER OR BATH BEFORE BED – this helps the body release heat, which aids sleep.
6. LEAVING A CHINK IN THE CURTAINS which allows the dawn light to penetrate thereby resetting your biological clock.
7. HIGH TEMPERATURES DISTURB SLEEP Keep your bedroom on the cool side – around 65 degrees.
8. STICK TO A SCHEDULE Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day – even at weekends. This helps regulate your body clock and help you sleep through the night.
9. AVOID NOISE DISTRACTIONS Consider using ear plugs if you can hear snoring, sheep baa-ing, owls tawhitawhooing or commuters driving off to work at 5am. You can buy soft wax ones from Boots that are quite comfortable to wear.
You can also read our resident doctor’s article on sleeping issues here