Pillow talk: how to sleep better

Pillow talk: how to sleep better

We all know that a good night’s sleep is essential for your general wellbeing. But good sleep doesn’t always come easily. The result: feeling exhausted in the morning and fatigued during the day. “Sometimes, these problems point to a problem in our routine,” informs Lisa Artis, Sleep Advisor from the Sleep Council. “One of the common complaints we get is people find it really hard to drop off,” she says. We quizzed her about the latest sleep research, how to identify problematic patterns and what simple tricks can improve your slumber.  

Safe haven

“The bedroom should be a sanctuary and be kept as a place for sleep. You shouldn’t be doing work in there. Also, don’t use the bedroom as a dumping ground. When you enter, it should feel like the ultimate luxury. You don’t want it to become a place you associate with anxiety. Try to avoid having a pile of laundry in the corner, paperwork, and files on the floor or the table. If people see that pile of laundry that needs washing, they start thinking ‘oh God, I have all that to do tomorrow.’”

Switching off

“People don’t fully realise the impact technology has. What we’ve noticed in the last few years - and what researchers have told us - is it has a knock-on effect on the time it takes you to fall asleep. It’s called sleep latency. When people get into bed, they’ve already started the process of winding down. But using their phone again suppresses the hormone Melatonin. It wakes them back up and they have to restart the whole process of getting sleepy. Every September, we do a thing called “Sleeptemper” to highlight the benefits of a good night’s sleep. This year, we urged everyone to switch off their gadgets an hour before bed. If people decided to do it for the whole month, they had a chance of changing their habits as it takes two to three weeks to alter a pattern like that.”

What's normal?

“The rise of sleep trackers is great because people become more aware of how they sleep and they’re better educated on how much sleep they need. The only problem is that these trackers can cause unnecessary worries. We all toss and turn or wake up in the night, but we usually don’t remember it. It’s fractions of time that doesn’t impact your overall sleep. It’s just part of the sleep cycle process.But if you feel tired during the day, you should look into it. It suggests that you are not getting the right amount of sleep. You shouldn’t wake up every morning feeling exhausted.”

Keep a diary

“We recommend starting a sleep diary. It can really make you aware of a pattern and sometimes help identify the cause of a problem. For example, a woman who contacted us was waking up at 5am every day, but she never figured out why. After keeping a sleep diary, she made the connection that it was the heating – it would come on at that time. She changed the heating times and it helped her sleep through the night.”

Cool, real cool

“Your room should be cool, ideally between 16 to 18 degrees celsius. If the room is too hot, you’ll struggle to get your core body temperature to cool down for sleeping. And if you’re too cold, you’ll find yourself fidgety and restless because you’re working yourself so hard to keep warm. Also, the bed shouldn’t be close to the radiator. Most people sleep better if they have room around them.”

Time out

“Some people find having a clock in the bedroom a hindrance. Most of us need one for an alarm, but why not cover it? We often find that people wake up in the middle of the night and look at what time it is and go “it’s 3 o’clock, I have to get up in 3.5 hours.” And then they look at the clock again half an hour later. It becomes this vicious circle of clock watching. If someone finds themselves doing that on a nightly basis but still need an alarm in the room, move it away from the bedside table.”

No booze, more snooze

“A survey we did in March found that people were using more meditation to enhance sleep. Which is good. We also found that more and more people are using alcohol to get to sleep, which is not so good. People use alcohol as a relaxant when they’ve had a hard or stressful day. It can make you fall asleep quickly, but you’re waking up more in the night. You may wake up feeling dehydrated or needing the loo more often. So you don’t get into that really restorative sleep.”

Article written by: Marius Thies

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