Sleep better, live better: 7 tips to sort out your sleep

Even the busiest of people can still get enough sleep if they make the most of the time they have got.

Peter Iantorno April 1, 2015

It's no great secret that getting too little sleep has pretty drastic effects on the body. From impeding performance at work, to a whole host of associated health risks, sleep deprivation is a serious business. The studies into the subject are extensive and many.

The 2014 National Sleep Foundation poll in the US found that 80 per cent of participants reported decreased performance at work after a poor night's sleep. And from the health side, a recent study by a team at the University of Bristol in the UK and Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar found that people who miss out on sleep during the week and catch up during weekends are more likely to become obese and develop type-2 diabetes.

Often, especially with the fast-moving lifestyle that living in Dubai entails, it's simply a matter of time that dictates a person's lack of sleep; work is busy, guests are in town, whatever it is - there are simply not enough hours in the day for you to get everything done, so the only solution is to cut out sleep time.

This may sound bleak, but according to a recent study by the University of Warwick, UK, into optimal sleep periods, although the best length of time to sleep is anywhere between six and eight hours, the key thing is to improve the quality of sleep that we get, irrespective of its length. So with that in mind, here are seven tips to help you make the most of the time you've got:

Get your timings right

A key factor in improving the quality of sleep is going with the cycles of sleep that occur naturally in the body, which can sometimes mean getting less sleep is actually better for us. For example, a person who is woken up by an alarm clock right in the middle of a period of heavy sleep will feel groggy and tired, but if that person was woken up half an hour earlier during a period of light sleep, they would feel much more alert. But how do you control your sleep cycles? With a sleep cycle alarm, of course. sleep cycle alarm clock.

No browsing before bed

Mobile phones, laptops, tablets, e-readers... we've all got them and often the best chance we get to browse them is right before bed. But according to a study at the University of Connecticut, artificial or 'blue' light suppresses the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and disrupts the body's circadian rhythm, making restful sleep more difficult.

Drugs don't work

As the Verve's Richard Ashcroft famously sang, "the drugs don't work" - and nowhere is that more fitting than with sleeping pills. While sleeping drugs may seem like a quick route to relief for those struggling to sleep, various studies have found that not only is their effect negligible, but they can become addictive and also have side effects, such as daytime drowsiness.

Cut out caffeine

You don't have to be a master in biology to know that caffeine keeps you awake at night, and everybody knows that a double espresso right before bed is hardly a ticket to healthy slumber. However, the common mistake among people who struggle to sleep is consuming hidden caffeine in food and drink they wouldn't expect to find it in. Energy drinks, tea, chocolate and even yogurts can contain it, so if sleep is an issue, best not to have them in the evenings. coffee Be consistent

Just as the aforementioned University of Bristol and Weill Cornell Medical College study found, those who have inconsistent sleeping patterns, dragging themselves out of bed early in the week and laying in at weekends, are more likely to develop health problems than those who are consistent. So as much as it might seem like that Friday morning lie-in helps you get through the week, it actually makes things worse in the long run.

Exercise, but only at the right time

Of course, exercise is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle, so we wouldn't for one minute dream of telling you to stop, but if you're having trouble sleeping, it could well be down to your workout regime. If you exercise in the evenings, the rush of adrenaline and cortisol can cause a hormone imbalance, wreaking havoc with your sleep. The ideal time to work out is first thing in the morning, so the adrenaline boost can be used to kick-start your day.

Say no to nighttime work

While the temptation to check work emails and deal with last-minute tasks right before bed is difficult to ignore, trying to sleep with stressful work thoughts flying around your head is nigh-on impossible. The best sleep always comes after a good half-hour chill out session, where you can switch off and relax before bed. So ditch the work and read a good book - just make sure it's a paperback, not an iPad!