Ahhhh bed. Don’t you just love it? Seriously, the sooner it becomes socially acceptable to go about daily life wrapped in a duvet, the better. In fact, screw it, let’s go big: the sooner beds are installed in all public spaces, the better. So we can all just crawl in and cosy up whenever the need takes us.
But even though we’re all on the same page about the general awesomeness of beds, it seems we’re not that great at actually using them for their intended purpose (steady on, we’re talking about sleep). In fact, according to sleep experts, teenagers are getting less shut-eye than ever before. And apparently that’s not good. At all.
Obvs sleep gives you the energy to do all the stuff you want to do – acing your favourite subjects, socialising, hobbies (and yes, window shopping for eight hours straight on a Saturday counts as a hobby). But sleep time is also when your brain recovers from all of the rewiring it’s doing. And man is it doing a WHOLE lot of that during your teens. Lack of sleep has also been linked to all kinds of nasties like anxiety, heart disease and burnout. And last year, a report from the Royal Society for Public Health found that getting into good sleep habits when you’re young can help you avoid loads of health problems as an adult. So yeah. It’s kind of a big deal.
The NHS says 14-16 year olds need nine hours of sleep, which seems totally impossible when group chats are still pinging away into the early hours. But it can be done. And it will feel sooooo good.
Here’s a little guide on how you get the best night’s sleep of your life.
Healthy day, sleepy night
Annoyingly for the lazy folk / pizza-and-coke-lovers among us, sleep is likely to come more easily if you’re living a healthy lifestyle. That means exercising regularly (not too close to bedtime though, as that can keep you awake), and steering clear of caffeine and sugary stuff, at least towards the end of the day. Yep, it doesn’t sound like the greatest fun. But it’ll be so worth it for that blissful night of snoozing.
Give yourself time to properly wind down before bed so that, when your head hits the pillow, your brain has stopped whizzing. Aim to finish any homework an hour or two before bed, disconnect from social media (We know: GAH! But you’ll thank us for it, promise), and do something relaxing like having a warm bath or reading. If you still can’t stop your mind racing, write a list of everything that’s worrying you. Getting it down on paper can often stop it rattling round your brain.
Time your munchies
You don’t want to go to bed hungry (no one’s gonna sleep when they’re visualising chocolate cookies) or too full (when your body’s too busy digesting to relax), so have your last food and drink around two hours before bedtime. There are certain snacks that are great for making you sleepy – bananas, turkey, pumpkin seeds, peanuts and beans are just a few. We’d have them with a mug of warm milk (another classic sleep-inducer) laced with honey, which contains a chemical that makes you less alert. Thanks, nature.
Create the ultimate sleep den
Your bedroom should be somewhere that your body associates, above all else, with sleep and relaxation. So give it a tidy (yes, buying cute storage solutions is totally justified), put your homework out of sight and add some cosy touches (cushions, blankets, candles, YES PLEASE). A colder room will also encourage your body to release melatonin (one of your sleep hormones), so the Sleep Council recommends keeping your bedroom between 16 and 18°C.
Develop a routine
Remember when you were a kid and had a checklist of stuff to do before bed? PJs, teeth, face, last wee, storytime, sleep? Well your parentals knew what they were doing. Having the same routine each night sends signals to your body that it’s nearly time to sleep. Your list might be more grown-up these days – PJs, teeth, luxury skincare regime, feminist podcast, sleep – but it should work just as well as when you were a littl’un. Try to keep your bedtime and your morning alarm at the same times, too. It helps keep your body clock in line so you’ll feel naturally sleepy when you’re supposed to.
Stop with the screens
Sorry guys, but screens screw with your sleep. I’m afraid it’s now recognised by actual science (dammit). Obviously there’s the fact that what’s on the screen (Snapchat stalking your crush, cat YouTube vids) is way more interesting than going to sleep. But they also give off blue light which messes with your melatonin, meaning you sleep later and less deeply. Even weirder, though, is that the mere presence of a device in your room actually disrupts sleep. New research has found that we’re so wired to be ‘always on’ that our brains are stimulated by devices even when we’re not using them. Whaaaaaaat? So, if you want the best night’s sleep ever, charge your phone on the landing.
Don’t force it
Tossing and turning in bed can actually make getting to sleep harder. Anyone else start obsessively calculating and recalculating how much sleep they’ll still get if they can fall asleep RIGHT NOW? How about now? Noooow? If you’re not asleep after 20 minutes, experts recommend getting up and doing a peaceful activity, like gentle yoga. When you feel sleepy again, get back into bed. Over time, your body should learn that bed means sleep, and you’ll doze off quicker when you get under the covers.
Mmmmm, covers. Happy snoozing, everyone.
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Image: Manjit Thapp