By Astrid Hall
Reading a book, having a bath and watching a film are among the favourite ways Britons help themselves get to sleep – according to research published today.
A study of 2,000 adults found nearly half have difficulty sleeping when stressed after a busy day at work or due to relationship, financial or other worries.
Meditating, taking a hot shower and counting sheep also featured on the list of top 15 tactics used to unwind before bed.
Having a glass of milk, writing a to-do list for the following day and cleaning your bedroom also made the list.
It also emerged many of us choose options which we hope will help us de-stress and drop off to sleep – but which can actually have the opposite effect – such as drinking a tea, eating chocolate or consuming an alcoholic drink.
The study by Sleep Well Milk into how we unwind at the end of the day amid the pressures of modern life also found nearly two-thirds of those who took part said they are generally good at de-stressing themselves.
And it typically takes as long as 31 minutes to wind down.
Nearly half agreed they ‘get stressed easily’ with as many as 44 per cent confessing to ‘tossing and turning’ through the night due to fears or worries playing on their minds.
Sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley said stress is a common factor in many cases where people struggle to get a good night’s sleep.
He added: ‘’There are many studies around stress and sleep and this research is interesting in that it highlights some of the measures people will take to combat lack of sleep.
‘’But many of these methods are just short-term fixes.
‘’What people need to do is get into a regular bedtime routine, which could include their favourite de-stressing activity, as long as it becomes a habit so the brain recognises it as a sleep trigger.
Dr Stanley added that many bedtime routines can be counter-productive.
“Some things which appear innocent enough such as tea and chocolate can make it more difficult to fall asleep because they contain stimulants. Although alcohol can help you fall asleep it is known to disturb sleep in the later part of the night.
“Food, alcohol and drinks that contain stimulants like caffeine should be avoided as part of your de-stress pre-bed routine.’’
‘’Simple things that trigger early memories of bedtime are usually more effective, such as a warm bubble bath, glass of milk or writing a to-do list.’’
The research also revealed adults admitted to feeling ‘stressed’ at least three times daily for over one-fifth of their day.
And three quarters wish they were less stressed.
Thirty-seven percent will have a bubble bath and three in 10 will simply give someone a hug before bed in order to reduce their stress levels.
More than seven in 10 implement these stress-reducing tactics as it helps them to relax, with more than one in four said it helps put them in a good mood.
The research also found the top causes of stress which included running late, arguments or deadlines at work.
Sam Watts from Sleep Well Milk said: “The research has shown how many of us use quite traditional methods in order to get to sleep, with a number of Britons struggling to get a good night’s sleep due to stress.
‘’A good bedtime routine is vital in getting a solid night’s rest, so it’s important to make time to unwind before hitting the pillow.
‘’We are creatures of habit and from our earliest days we are encouraged to follow a routine of ‘bath, warm milk and bed’ but as we get older we tend to forget that and wonder why we are not ready to sleep when we climb under the duvet.”
The study also reveals interesting differences in de-stressing methods used across the nation.
For example, Scots take 50 percent longer to de-stress than Londoners, whereas having to cook a meal causes Welsh people half as much stress as those living in the East Midlands and driving is a lot less stressful for people living in Northern Ireland than it is in the South West of England.
The research was carried out by One Poll for Sleep Well Milk and the full results are available at www.sleepwellmilk.com
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