A good night's sleep

11th February 2019

Getting sufficient sleep is important to our overall health and equally important is getting a good quality as well as the quantity of sleep. Here are some ideas and steps to follow to help improve your sleep.

  • Take time to relax:

It is important that you take the time to relax prior to going to sleep whether it’s taking a warm bath, reading a book or listening to some soothing music. Sometimes it can help if you have things on your mind to write a to-do list to free your mind from worrying.

  • Having a routine:

Having a routine helps babies to prepare for bedtime and this applies to adults too, because it allows your body to programme itself to naturally fall asleep and wake up at certain times. Try to be consistent about going to bed at the same time each day.

  • Create a restful place:

Make sure that your bed is comfortable and that it supports you correctly and ensure that your room is kept at the right temperature between 16-18 oC is optimal for sleep. Keep clutter to a minimum and decorate with pale colours to aid relaxation. Sometimes smells which include lavender and geranium can create a relaxing environment for sleep (be aware of safety if you are using candles).

  • Peace and quiet:

If your bedroom is noisy this may disturb your sleep, try moving a ticking clock. Some people find that white noise from a fan, as well as the air flow, can help them sleep better, others find that natural sounds or soft music can help them relax prior to sleep, set a timer so that the music turns off after a set period of time.

  • Technology:

Avoid looking at smartphones at least an hour before going to bed as these devices emit a blue light which suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin. Don’t have your smartphone, TV or computer operating in your bedroom as these can disturb sleep.

  • Clock watching:

Resting in bed thinking about our thoughts can be as beneficial as sleep so don’t worry if you are having trouble getting to sleep, if you are having trouble getting to sleep and keep checking the clock try moving it so that you can’t see it and try to relax instead.

  • Methods to help:

If you can’t fall asleep in 15 minutes, try counting your breaths as you breathe deeply and slowly, if you are still awake after counting to two hundred, go to another room and do something relaxing such as reading until you feel sleepier. Breath awareness can for some people promote anxiety so if you become anxious when counting breaths stop.

  • Avoid certain foods:

Spicy foods, large meals and alcohol can disturb our sleep and therefore shouldn’t be consumed before going to bed. The same is true with caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee and some fizzy drinks. Sugary foods can be bad too as these can cause sharp rises in sugar with rapid declines which can contribute to poor sleep and cravings, such as feeling hungry, sweating feeling shaky becoming easily irritated or moody, which can exacerbate the cycle of poor sleep.

  • Good foods:

Eating healthily can help sleep, some foods such as milk, chicken, turkey and pumpkin seeds contain a chemical called tryptophan which is vital for the production of serotonin and melatonin, the hormones which help to promote sleep.

  • Keep fit and stay active:

Staying fit and eating healthily are great for promoting health but sleeping is also important. Physical activity is important to help aid sleep as well as general health even just small amounts of some physical activity each day can make a difference to our sleep.

  • Darkness:

A darkened room naturally helps to promote sleep, turning the lights down prior to bed can help prepare our bodies for sleep, try a light with a dimmer switch or a lamp which has a dimmer function. Consider light from outside if this might be affecting your sleep maybe try blackout curtains or blind to reduce light from outside interfering with your sleep.

  • Sleep quality:

This can be as important as the amount of sleep which we have, whilst we are asleep we go through five stages of sleep. Therefore if we get up during the night for example to pass urine these stages are interrupted which can affect our quality of sleep. Try reducing your fluid intake prior to going to bed.

  • Other considerations:

Some medications such as beta blockers can affect sleep. If you think that your medications might be affecting your sleep either getting to sleep or staying asleep speak to your pharmacist or GP. Don’t stop taking any medications without speaking to your GP, specialist nurse or cardiologist first.

Heart failure and sleep

Complications of heart failure can affect your sleep:

  • Chest pain and discomfort make it hard to relax and fall asleep or stay asleep.
  • Lying in bed can make you feel more short of breath.
  • You may need to get up in the night to pass urine.

During the day you are standing and sitting which may mean that fluid settles in your legs or feet. When you lie down sometimes that fluid can move to your lungs and make it harder to breathe. To help alleviate and reduce this you might be prescribed diuretics to reduce any fluid build-up during the day.

A referral to a sleep specialist may be required they may be able to help you understand what might be going on medically whether it is difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep and how to treat it.

If you are having some difficulties with either your quality or quantity of sleep or both there may be a solution.  Sleep is important to our overall health and our heart health and some of the suggestions above may help you achieve a better night’s sleep.

Jayne Partridge
Cardiomyopathy UK support nurse

Cardiomyopathy UK has dedicated support nurses who you can contact on our helpline on 0800 018 1024, we are available Monday- Friday 08.30am-16.30pm and can provide guidance and support to you.