Can’t get no sleep?
You’re not the only one. If Faithless’s 'Insomnia' could’ve been written for you, read on, sleepy head.
I hate to moan about summer, having spent the rest of the year willing it to arrive, but I find it so hard to sleep on these hot sticky nights when it barely seems to get dark. And when it finally does, it seems mere minutes until the pesky dawn chorus starts warbling at 4am.
On those nights when I’m wide awake I’ve taken to reading a really interesting book about – irony alert! – sleep. Why We Sleep by neuroscientist called Matthew Walker is packed with the latest research and makes you reassess how important snoozing is. It’s been a surprise best-seller which means a lot of us are pondering are sleeping habits right now.
A recent survey showed that 20m Britons, almost half the adult population, think they need more shut-eye, with three-quarters of us getting by on less than seven hours. If you’ve ever been in possession of a newborn you’ll know how horrendous sleep deprivation can be but it seems that it’s not just new parents who are worryingly over-tired.
As a result, new government guidelines on sleep are heading our way, to sit alongside official advice on safe alcohol consumption levels, healthy BMI and recommended amounts of exercise, in an attempt to improve public health. Suggested hours of sleep will vary depending on age group but increasingly seven hours (rather than eight, which is the figure usually bandied around) is seen as the Holy Grail. Any less than that can cause an increase in physical and mental health problems such as heart attacks and anxiety. Quick, put your phone away and go to bed immediately! Well, in a few minutes. First up, check out the Muddy Sleep Diaries, featuring four staffers with very different sleep strategies. We’d love to hear your thoughts – please post in the comment box below.
The Muddy Sleep Diaries
Kerry Potter, associate editor
How much sleep do you usually have? 6ish hours per night.
How well do you sleep? It always takes me a while to drop off so I’ll read a novel for a bit first. If I’ve been working at my computer late or have too big a workload, I can lay awake for hours, wired and worrying.
How tired are you? Right now I’m shattered as I was out until 3am at the weekend (naughty). But generally, I’m OK as long as there’s PG Tips within reach to perk me up.
What’s your approach to sleep? I try to go to bed around 10pm on weeknights but it’s always usually 11 or later by the time I’ve got everything done around the house that needs doing. I tend to bin off sleep to fit in exercise – so I’ll get up and go for a run at 6am at this time of year.
Your tips for sleeping better? I always wear an eye mask in the summer otherwise I’m up with the larks at 4am. I’ve banned myself from having my phone in the bedroom which helps me switch off. And I don’t watch Question Time before bed any more as it sends me into a sleepless rage!
Rachel McLoughlin, commercial manager
How much sleep do you usually have? 3 hours a night.
How well do you sleep? I’m a total insomniac and sleep appallingly unless I give in and take a sleeping tablet. I’ve been a poor sleeper for a long time – I had twins 18 years ago so need I say more!
How tired are you? Generally shattered. If I’ve had a sleeping tablet then I feel groggy. If I’ve had a glass of wine or two to self-medicate, then also groggy!
What’s your approach to sleep? I follow all of the usual sleep hygiene tips like avoiding caffeine and establishing a bedtime routine but to no avail. I’m currently trying to go to bed later and am therefore more tired in the hope I nod off more quickly.
Your tips for sleeping better? I’m trying to listen to more podcasts in bed to help switch off. I’m also considering CBT sessions as my sleep is so poor now, I think my brain needs rewiring. My doctor has told me to try a sleep app called Sleepio so that’s my next step.
Jo Sutherland, commercial director
How much sleep do you usually have? Usually 6 – 6.5 hours during the week and then 8-9 at the weekend, given half a chance, plus naps!
How well do you sleep? I have always slept brilliantly and continue to do so. Even if I wake up in the night, it’s delicious because I always go back to sleep and if I wake up 4.30am, it’s lovely to know I have another 2 hours. And if I nap during the day I always sleep well at night. The only time I don’t sleep well is if I’ve been drinking too much then I’m awake at 3am, 4am and don’t go back to sleep.
How tired are you? I am always a bit tired could happily have a nap at any point in the day especially after 2pm. I fell asleep bolt upright at the table working on Friday. Maybe I have narcolepsy.
What’s your approach to sleep? I try to go to bed at 10pm on weekdays but it’s always more likely to be 11 or 11.30pm. I often get up very early to walk the dog but I love it on a summer morning. Sleep is very important to me and I try my best to get as much as possible.
Your tips for sleeping better? I have the BBC Sounds app on my phone and catch up on something from Radio 4 like The Archers, Book At Bedtime or Desert Island Discs before bed. It’s like someone reading you a story but I doze off so quickly that it takes me weeks to get through an episode.
Nancy Serle, editorial assistant
How much sleep do you usually have? 7 hours per night.
How well do you sleep? I usually drop off pretty quickly after scouring through Instagram for 15 minutes or so. I do have the odd night where it takes me ages – it’s usually when I’m stressed about something coming up that week and get caught in a thinking bubble.
How tired are you? I’m usually not too tired, I find that having a solid routine in the week helps. I did have a big snooze on Sunday (I couldn’t keep my eyes open) after a heavy week of going out every night after work and driving a long distance at the weekend.
What’s your approach to sleep? I’m usually in bed by half 10 or 11 (after Love Island!) but will usually watch Netflix or read until around midnight.
Your tips for sleeping better? Eye masks and ear plugs all the way! I discovered the combo at a festival a few years ago. I don’t wear them all the time but if I wake up in the night and can’t get back to sleep I find them really helpful.