Sleep is crucial for our wellbeing and, to stay on top of our game, most of us need around seven to nine hours a night. In today’s busy world, it’s easy to skip on quality shut-eye and do other more fun things. Other times, we may have trouble falling asleep and think we’ll never get it back on track. World Sleep Day 2021 aims to provide people around the globe with all the information they need to enjoy better sleep, for a happier healthier lifestyle.
When we asked a bunch experts why is sleep important, it became apparent that the one thing we shouldn’t do is stress about perfect sleep, because it doesn’t exist. The good news is there’s plenty you can do to get the sleep you deserve – check out our article for Sleep Awareness Week 2021 to discover lots of great tips.
For now, let’s get some essential slumber advice from Sleep Behavior and Environment Expert James Wilson, co-founder of Beingwell, a company dedicated to various aspects of physical and mental wellbeing.
How to enjoy better sleep, according to an expert
Being wide awake in the middle of the night when you know you should be sleeping is a feeling that fills most of us with dread, but with the right support and some essential advice, those sleepless nights could be a thing of the past.
That's why we asked Wilson to answer the top six questions that have been keeping us up at night, starting with what is the one thing he would never do because it leads to poor sleep. “Go to bed when I’m not sleepy." Wilson shares. "Sleep is not a ‘time’, it is a feeling and it can’t be forced. You can help your body wind down, you can actively relax, but you cannot force sleep.”
You're a sought-after sleep coach, so we're curious: what does your bedtime routine entail?
“For me, it’s about getting ready for bed about an hour before I plan to sleep. So I have a bath or shower to help drop my core temperature and then I get into my PJs and dressing gown, so when I feel sleepy I can go straight to bed, rather than getting ready for bed then trying to go to sleep, which wakes your body up.
“At this point all the doors are locked, teeth are brushed and I am secure, both emotionally and physically. I will then watch something trashy or funny to help relax me, my current favorite is Married At First Sight Australia. I then only go to bed when I am sleepy.”
What is your number one tip for better sleep?
“Don’t worry too much about sleeping poorly. When we struggle to sleep it can be horrible, I know – I am genetically a poor sleeper myself – but most poor sleepers obsess over not sleeping and the impact it has on their life.
“However, poor sleepers always get through tomorrow. In fact, we might be rubbish at sleeping, but what we are world-class at is dealing with being shattered tomorrow, so stop worrying about it. Taking the stress out of sleep in this way, helps our bodies get into the right physiological state for sleep and we start to sleep better.”
Does what we wear (or not) in bed make a difference to how well we sleep?
“We are all different. Some people feel extremely exposed by wearing nothing in bed, while others benefit from being naked under their sheets as it can let the body maintain its temperature better.”
What are your thoughts on sleep trackers? Insightful or waste of money?
“We need to remember that trackers are designed to measure sleep, not improve it, so if you are looking to improve your sleep, a tracker alone will not be much use. Some trackers are inaccurate so the data needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, but even inaccurate trackers can show big changes in sleep.
“My biggest issue with sleep trackers is that – from my experience – they help good sleepers sleep better and poor sleepers sleep worse. For poor sleepers they confirm something we already know, we got poor sleep. It then becomes a negative reminder of how poor we are at sleeping.
“A better way of knowing if you have slept well is to see how alert and active you feel at about 10.30am the next day. If you are alert then you’ve had enough sleep. If you aren’t, then you probably haven’t. This is because between 10-11 we should be at our most alert.”
Finally, we asked Wilson for his top tips for optimizing a bedroom for sleep. Here's what he recommends:
- Fitting blackout blinds or curtains.
- Having the room slightly cooler than the rest of the house.
- Using a pillow that supports you to sleep in a neutral position on your side or your back and NOT your front.
- Sleeping on a mattress that uses springs, as this provides better airflow than foam or latex. Ensuring the mattress is right for you (and your partner if you share a bed).
- Having duvets and bedding that let your body breathe. Materials such as bamboo, wool, alpaca, fleece and man-made wicking fibers are great. If you get really warm try a separate duvet or sheet to your partner, so their heat doesn’t impinge on your sleep environment.
What is World Sleep Day 2021, and why do we need one?
World Sleep Day is an annual event, launched by the World Sleep Society in 2008. It aims to spread awareness of the importance of a good night’s sleep. World Sleep Day is held on the Friday before the spring equinox, with this year’s event being celebrated on Friday 19 March.
The slogan for World Sleep Day 2021 is ‘Regular Sleep, Healthy Future’ to help people worldwide recognize the benefits of getting consistent, good-quality sleep, while also sharing advice and providing support for various sleep disorders.
Promoting sleep in this way is crucial, as poor-quality sleep is a major factor that can contribute to poor physical and mental health, as well as slow down recovery from illness and decrease cognitive functioning. The World Sleep Society provides a wealth of information on how you can get the best sleep possible, and provides plenty of resources including a smartphone app.