The A – Z of a good night’s sleep

With March being National Bed Month, there's no better time to reflect on the importance of having a good night's sleep, especially where your health is concerned.

This year, The Sleep Council – organiser of the annual event – has compiled an A – Z of facts to help you sleep more soundly…

A is for alcohol: alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes are all stimulants that reduce sleep quality and prevent you feeling rested.

B is for bed: invest in the best you can afford, replace at least every seven years and buy one made by a National Bed Federation member.

C is for circadian rhythm: this 24-hour internal clock works best when you have a regular sleep pattern.

D is for diet: avoid overeating before bedtime and choose foods with sleep-promoting chemicals such as chicken and turkey, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, peanuts, beans and milk.

E is for exercise: essential for good health and restful sleep, but try not to exercise too vigorously close to bedtime.

F is for 40 winks: while a nap doesn’t make up for poor quality sleep at night time, grabbing 40 winks, or a short nap of 20 – 30 minutes, in the afternoon can help to improve mood, alertness and performance.

G is for gadgets: laptops, phones and even the TV are sleep stealers. Switch them off at least an hour before bedtime.

H is for health: sleep is crucial to health and wellbeing as it’s involved in the repair and restoration of our bodies.

I is for illness: sleep deficiency is linked to increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and obesity.

J is for jet lag: eating three balanced meals containing fresh fruit, vegetables and protein the day before you fly can help your body clock reset more quickly at your destination.

K is for keeping a perfect sleep environment: temperature, lighting, comfort, banning gadgets and gizmos, relaxation and reducing noise are all vital to creating a restful sleep sanctuary.

L is for lifestyle: making small adjustments to your lifestyle or environment could significantly improve the quality of your sleep.

M is for meditation: along with massage, meditation can promote relaxation and drifting off to a good night’s sleep.

N is for National Bed Federation: buy a bed made by a NBF member and you can be sure that it meets all required safety and trading standards.

O is for oils: aromatherapy oils are also brilliant sleep inducers, particularly traditional favourites such as lavender.

P is for pillow: your head weighs 4.5 – 5.5 kilos (10 – 12lbs) and your neck contains seven of the spine’s 33 vertebrae. A good pillow should hold your head in the correct alignment and help avoid neck pain and even persistent headaches.

Q is for quiet: of course, loud, sudden or repetitive noises can interrupt sleep but others can be soothing, particularly soft, steady sounds. Double-glazing and foam ear plugs can all help to promote sleep-friendly tranquility.

R is for relaxation: a bubbly bath, warm milky drinks or herbal teas and curling up with a good book can all help you wind down. And the old adage “never go to sleep on an argument” holds true: conflicts can leave us stressed and angry, which can make it near impossible to fall asleep.

S is for snoring: one of the biggest causes of partner sleep disturbance, snoring has no known cure but its effects can be diminished with ear plugs and separate beds.

T is for the 30-Day Sleep Plan: answer a few questions about your sleep, lifestyle and health and the Sleep Council will create your unique online 30-day plan. Click here and you could be sleeping better in a month.

U is for unwind: in the golden hour before your head hits the pillow it’s vital to relax, switch off electronic gadgets and get yourself in a sleepy frame of mind.

V is for vacation: if you can’t splurge on a holiday, give yourself a weekend sleepcation: power off the electronics and have a two-day wind down.

W is for worry: almost half of Britons say worry and stress keep them awake at night. To counteract this, invest in a careful wind-down routine so you can relax and switch off.

X is for Xmas: all that food and drink can lead to a Santa-sized sleep problem so keep up those sensible sleep habits throughout the next festive season.

Y is for yoga: gentle stretching, relaxation and breathing can aid a restful night.

Z is for zzzzzzzzz – of course.

For more help with getting a better night’s sleep, visit the Sleep Council website. Your local Careway pharmacist can also offer loads of tips if you’re not sleeping as well as you should – find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.