Getting (and staying) asleep during oven-hot weather can sometimes feel like more work than, well, your job. You know an easy solution to staying cool and sleeping better would be to toss your covers ― yet no matter how sweaty and uncomfortable yo…
Say you have a dream about your ex that greatly resembles the scene in Titanic where Jack and Rose fog up a car window. Does this mean you want to get back together with your ex? Does this mean you should book a cruise for your next vacation? Or m…
Drinking coffee or tea within four hours of bedtime does not affect your sleep, a study has found.
Researchers from Florida Atlantic University and Harvard Medical School recorded caffeine, alcohol and nicotine consumption among 785 volunteers and compared daily sleep diaries and data from wrist sensors.
Around 40% of the group consumed caffeine on at least one night of the study, which was carried out for an average of 6.7 nights.
The study found that while nicotine and alcohol disrupted sleep – with a late cigarette taking 42 minutes off total sleep for insomniacs – caffeine seemed to have no effect.
Writing in the journal Sleep, Dr Christine Spadola, of Florida Atlantic University, said relatively few studies have thoroughly investigated the association between evening substance use and sleep parameters.
“A night with use of nicotine and/or alcohol within four hours of bedtime demonstrated worse sleep continuity than a night without. We did not observe an association between ingestion of caffeine within four hours of bed with any of the sleep parameters,” she said.
“This was a surprise to us but is not unprecedented. The previous evidence is mixed when it comes to the effect of caffeine on sleep.”
She added that the findings “support the importance of sleep health recommendations which promote the restriction of evening nicotine and alcohol”.
Nicotine was the substance most strongly associated with sleep disruption. Among participants with insomnia, nightly nicotine use was associated with an average 42.47-minute reduction in sleep duration.
The study doesn’t necessarily mean you should start quaffing coffee before bed though, particularly if you’ve found it to disrupt your sleep in the past. Previous reports have suggested caffeine sensitivity varies from person to person.
The NHS recommends cutting down on tea, coffee, energy drinks or cola before bed as caffeine is thought to interfere with the process of falling asleep.
If your bladder acts as a middle-of-the-night alarm clock, you might be curious whether it’s a cause for concern.Turns out you’re in good company if you’re wondering. “Is it normal to pee in the middle of the night?” is on…
Snoring affects 30 million people in the UK. The majority of people, however, “are unaware of why they snore or what snoring could indicate about their overall health,” according to Jagdeep Bijwadia, a board-certified doctor in internal, sleep and pulmonary diseases medicine.
Snoring can be a telltale sign of an underlying sleep disorder like sleep apnea, a condition that can cause a pause in breathing while asleep. But simple, daily habits or decisions can also make you vulnerable to snoring, Bijwadia added.
And while people may take snoring lightly, the condition can do more than just keep your bedmate up at night. Recentstudies have shown that snoring can lead to a high risk for hardening of the arteries, a leading cause of stroke, and general cardiac issues, said Steven Olmos, founder of TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centres International.
Fortunately, you can control many cases of snoring. The first step is to figure out what causes it and get the condition treated appropriately. Here are just a few unexpected things that could be behind your unwanted snoring habit.
1. You’re Enjoying An Evening Nightcap
Having a glass of wine at the end of the day may take the edge off, but it isn’t necessarily doing your sleeping habits any favours. According to Bijwadia, alcohol relaxes your airway muscles, which can lead to excessive snoring ― even if you’re not a regular snorer.
“And the less restorative and deep sleep you get each night, the more it builds and causes you to become more disoriented and foggy throughout the day,” he said.
2. You Have A Nasal Obstruction
Having something blocking off your nasal passageway can definitely contribute to snoring. This could be due to a possible allergy or a deviated septum, according to Brian Drew, a physician at Ear Nose and Throat Specialty Care of Minnesota.
An allergist can help to treat your issues with sensitivities like dust mites or an ENT doctor can help you find an effective way to reduce snoring that occurs because of nasal obstruction.
“Nasal sprays … have been shown to increase nasal volume by 20%, which dramatically increases flow rate,” added Olmos. These products can help alleviate soft tissue swelling due to generalised inflammation and environmental sensitivities.
3. You’re A Back Sleeper
Sleeping on your back may make you much more likely to snore, saidMarcella M. Frank, a sleep medicine specialist at Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Browns Mills, New Jersey.
“When someone sleeps on the back, there is a natural tendency for the jaw and tongue to drop into the back of the throat,” Frank explained.
According to one study,around 92% of those suffering from sleep-disorder breathing can breathe better when they’re not on their back.
“Sleeping on your side helps to reduce snoring, and for those that suffer from more serious sleep disorders like sleep apnea, it can help alleviate some of those symptoms as well. It can increase your nightly oxygen intake and protects the airway from collapsing,” Bijwadia added.
4. It May Be Weight Related
Excess body weight can lead topoor muscle tone and an increased amount of tissue around the throat and neck. Both of these can catalyse a snoring condition.
Ensuring you’re active throughout your day will set you up for more quality sleep down the line, Bijwadia said, noting that maintaining a healthy weight may lessen your snoring.
5. Your Thyroid May Be Out Of Wack
“With an under-active thyroid, there may be changes within the upper airway that lead to difficulty breathing during sleep,” saidShoshana Ungerleider, an internist at Sutter Health in San Francisco.
Studies show that hormonal stabilisation in those with a hypothyroid condition improves snoring severity. Some other signs that your thyroid might be low functioning include fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, thinning hair and depression.
6. It Can Be Age Related
Snoring is more common as we age “simply because of floppy tissue” in the bodies, Frank said.
Exercises like singing, believe it or not, can help with this, Olmos added. Using nasal dilators like Breathe Right strips can also help with age-related snoring.
7. Your Mouth Shape Could Be Causing The Problem
People are all built differently and some of us have amouth anatomy that can make us more prone to snoring. For example, having a lower, thicker or softer palate can narrow your airways and prompt snoring.
Drew noted that some of these structural differences that can lead to snoring can be treated. For instance, custom night guards or mouth appliances might be able to reduce the issue, he said.
8. You’re A Male
Sorry, dudes. Research suggests that physical differences between genders can contribute to snoring. For example, men have narrower air passages that could exacerbate the issue. Men statistically drink more alcohol than women, which can lead to inflammation-induced snoring.
If None Of These Is The Culprit, You May Need To Look Into Sleep Apnoea
Snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnoea, which is a serious medical condition. The condition can cause you to stop breathing throughout the night when you’re asleep because the soft tissues in your throat collapse and block your airway.
“The vibrations of these soft tissues is what causes the snoring noise,” said Kimanh Nguyen, an ENT physician in Beverly Hills.
Symptoms of OSA may include loud snoring, daytime tiredness, morning headaches, restless sleep and periods where you stop breathing or wake up gasping for air. The condition, which can be treated by an ENT doctor or sleep specialist, is diagnosed by a test called a polysomnogram or a sleep study.
If left untreated, it can lead to high blood pressure and cardiac problems. So if none of the above issues seem to be the reason for your snoring, chat with a doctor ASAP.
While half of the UK was plagued by oppressive heat last night, the other was kept awake by dazzling, breathtaking (and bloody noisy!) thunderstorms.But this morning, there’s one thing we can all agree on: sleeping was almost impossible.As the he…
If you’ve ever shared a bed or slept near another person, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard someone talk in their sleep. Or, perhaps you’ve found out you’re the one sleep talking throughout the night. Nearly 6…
It can be very hard to find time for yourself on a busy day but lifestyle blogger Monica Beatrice says this is key to a successful day. Prioritising yourself doesn’t have to be selfish, says the podcaster. By setting yourself up for success,…
Lorna O’Connor was nine when her father died from a sudden heart attack. Her life ever since has been ruled by sleep anxiety and, as a result, insomnia. She had never been a particularly good sleeper, but the night she awoke to the sound of her dad dying made things far, far worse.
“Sleep became impossible,” the 25-year-old from Shropshire, who lives with borderline personality disorder, tells HuffPost UK. “I would stay up listening to my mum’s snoring just to make sure she was alive. I was petrified that if I slept, something bad might happen, and I wouldn’t be awake to help.”
An estimated 20% of the population struggles with insomnia in one form or another. Less clear are the numbers of people living with either sleep anxiety or even somniphobia – where a person has a very real fear of falling asleep.
Kathryn Pinkham, founder of The Insomnia Clinic, says a lot of insomniacs she sees have anxiety about going to bed, but that genuine phobia of sleep, where people like O’Connor are more likely to avoid bedtime altogether, is rarer.
When you take to the internet, where many go to find answers in the dead of night, mental health forums reveal insights into the experience of somniphobia.
“I used to go through stages of being very scared of going to sleep,” one person writes. “Sometimes when I couldn’t sleep it was because of a fear of the experience of the sleep state itself – an anxiety, perhaps, about me not being in control? I don’t know, just the idea of being asleep was frightening.”
Another said they had that same fear of being unconscious, of falling asleep, of knowing that they couldn’t do anything about it.
O’Connor’s childhood was traumatic – and she acknowledges this is another reason why she is fearful of bedtime. She grew up in a home with frequent incidents of domestic violence and would often be sent to bed when this was happening. As a result, she says, her bed became a place associated with high anxiety. “I would lie there listening to my parents argue and hear violence,” she recalls. “I always had to stay awake until these incidents ended, as I feared what might happen if I fell asleep. I felt I had to make sure everyone was safe.”
In this case, O’Connor’s fear of sleep is her body’s way of dealing with what happened in the past, suggests Pinkham. It’s a protective mechanism – the brain has linked bedtime with negative experiences and that signals a red flag.
“If you associate bedtime and bed with a terrible experience, your mind would connect the two together,” Pinkham explains, likening the response to post-traumatic stress disorder. “While your rational mind would say, ‘of course going to bed isn’t scary’, your mind has made that connection in order to try and protect you – [it’s saying] keep out of that place, don’t go back there.”
While O’Connor has a genuine fear of falling asleep because her mind believes something bad might happen if she does, there are people whose lives are ruled by a more generalised anxiety just before bedtime, which can also spiral into sleepless nights.
Michelle Bradley, 34, from Belfast, has struggled with anxiety before bed ever since childhood and remembers putting soap in her eyes when she was younger in a desperate bid to make them “feel sleepy” – she believed it would help her finally be able to drift off.
“I was an anxious child and hated going to bed because I would lie awake worrying about anything and everything,” the event manager explains. “I did everything I could to avoid bed and would get anxious as soon as bedtime came around.”
When her eldest daughter was born, Bradley struggled with postnatal anxiety and depression which ramped up her sleep issues. She would get into bed and feel panicked. “When I did finally drift off I would often be woken mid-panic attack and would spend the rest of the night trying to shake it off. I began staying up all night watching TV, hoping it would distract my brain enough from my thoughts to help me sleep but it rarely did. I just wouldn’t sleep.”
I would lie awake worrying about anything and everything.”
Stress is a major trigger for Bradley – whether that’s work-related or illness-related. Sometimes, she admits, it seems to flare up for no reason at all. She has tried varying pills over the years after visiting doctors about her struggles, but says some made her insomnia worse and others just didn’t help.
Recalling the times in her life where she’s felt completely ruled by sleep anxiety, she says in school she would be so tired she couldn’t concentrate. “The second half of my days were consumed with anxiety about bedtime approaching,” she says. “I would do anything to avoid lying in bed, like escaping to the bathroom to read a book or reciting passages from books in my head.”
Strategies like this aren’t uncommon among sufferers. Pinkham says she’s worked with people who sleep on the sofa. In more extreme cases, some use alcohol or drugs so they aren’t properly aware of going to bed, she adds. As a teen, O’Connor moved her bedroom to the ground floor of her family home so she wouldn’t stay awake all night listening out for noises and movement.
It was when O’Connor moved into a flat share for university that her fear of sleep spiralled completely out of control. “I would just be falling asleep then hear my housemate step on a floorboard going to the toilet and I’d suddenly be sat bolt upright in bed having a full-blown panic attack,” she says. At this point she was getting about two hours sleep a night, and – like Bradley – would spend much of the day anticipating the anxiety she got when she went to bed.
Things escalated to the point where staying up all night studying became more desirable than trying to sleep. O’Connor would squeeze in naps where she could to get by. At this stage, she acknowledges, it had taken over her life: “I remember sitting in bed one night at 3am, having had repeated panic attacks because my housemate was ill and kept coughing, and just thinking: ‘If this carries on I can’t live like this.’
“I struggled with my studies, I was snapping at all my friends, I never wanted to do anything because I was so exhausted. I literally couldn’t think about anything but sleep and how tired I was.”
There are many reasons why people might get anxious about going to sleep and the experience can range in severity.
For Anna Walton, 43, from Shoreham by Sea, the anxiety stems from the fact that when she actually nods off, she suffers night terrors and other sleep disturbances such as sleep walking, which send her into a full-blown panic.
She’ll start to get fidgety around 8pm, when her children go to bed, as she knows what lies ahead. She doesn’t have a major problem with falling asleep, but it’s what happens once she does drift off that causes her issues. “My night terrors usually happen about 30 minutes after I go to sleep. These usually take the form of thinking I’ve lost something and I shout out ‘NO NO NO’. It’s a feeling of losing control,” says Walton, founder of Chalk & Moss homeware.
She is currently having cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to try and tackle the issues, which she says are tied to generalised anxiety. She also has workarounds such as not using devices or working before bed, steering clear of caffeine in the afternoons, and making her bedroom cosier with essential oil candles and plants to purify the air. “Calm evening activities definitely help, like reading or creative activities like crocheting and drawing,” she adds. “I also practise meditation in bed before I go to sleep.”
Sadly, not everyone has had such a positive experience of finding the support they need. O’Connor says some of the medical professionals she’s seen over the years haven’t taken her problem seriously and claims one GP even rolled their eyes at her and said: “You’re a student, you’re not supposed to sleep.”
“I was shocked,” she says. “I think people lump this more extreme sleep disorder in with the likes of very mild insomnia, and it’s nothing like that. It eats into every single aspect of your life.”
She was prescribed sedatives but they didn’t work and left her feeling even more exhausted. She also paid £90 for a consultation with a sleep therapist, who, she says, gave her standard sleep hygiene advice. “That didn’t work either as it was so much deeper than mechanical problems with sleep and had such complex routes,” she says, acknowledging her health and family history.
Pinkham urges people with a sleep phobia or anxiety to seek help, especially if their life is being ruled by it. She says she would advise CBT to “unclip” any negative connections between a person’s bed and their life. Some people might also need anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants to help with low mood, she adds – although she wouldn’t recommend this as a single solution.
As for O’Connor, four years ago, she had something of a breakthrough: “A GP prescribed me with quetiapine [antipsychotic medication]. She noted I struggled to feel safe and calm my internal voice, which was constantly catastrophising, and also noted it would help with my borderline personality disorder. The dose has a sedative effect and has honestly changed my life. I’ve been on it for around four years and rarely struggle with sleep now.”
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: email@example.com
- Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on www.rethink.org.
We’ve been doing it since the day we were born, yet for many of us the art of sleep remains elusive: we spend our nights not getting enough of it, and our days bemoaning our inability to do it better.Adopting some good sleep hygiene hab…
Group Chat is a weekly series where HuffPost UK writers discuss friendship, diary dilemmas and how to reclaim our social lives in a busy world.
“Do you want to come over for a sleepover soon?” a recent Whatsapp message read. I want to clear something up right away: when I talk about “adult sleepovers” I’m not being coy. It isn’t code for booty call. I want to celebrate the joy of platonic sleepovers between friends. No funny business; not even a pillow fight.
We think of staying over in a friend’s bed as being something for children. But I’ve been doing it for most of my life, throughout my teens, at uni, and while living in London in my 20s and 30s. And I’ve no intention of giving it up any time soon.
Remember how excited you’d be about sleeping over at a friend’s when you were a kid? Maybe it was for a birthday party or just a Friday night treat, but whatever the deal, there’d be hardly any sleeping. Instead you’d solidify your friendship by staying up for hours watching films, eating crap, giggling and gossiping.
And while I’d like to think I’ve grown up at least a bit since then, grown up sleepovers aren’t so different – especially where the non-stop talking is concerned.
Sleepovers aren’t about logistics – we could easily make our way home at the end of the night – but about bonding. I remember at uni when my friends and I would sleep head-to-tail in each other’s single beds even though our rooms were on the same floor in halls, a mere 20 metres apart. The only difference now is that we have to travel across London, rather than the corridor.
(And, thankfully, we now have double beds – for those with a partner, we have sleepovers when they’re not around, but have also been known to kick them to the sofa on occasion.)
I’ll never forget a weekend away where my girlfriends and I ditched our partners in order to sleep in the same room.”
I’ll never forget a weekend away where my girlfriends and I ditched our partners in order to sleep in the same room – dragging mattresses on to the the floor in order to fit more of us in. As with most of our group sleepovers, it quickly descended into shrieking and hysterics, until people started, eventually, to drop off to sleep. It was mere hours later when the first few awoke to start the shrieking again.
From deep and meaningfuls, covering relationship troubles or existential crises, to hysterically recounting the nitty gritty of a terrible one night stand, these are often not the conversations you’d have over dinner. You need privacy – sometimes you need to be staring into the dark with the lights off.
[Read More: We all need an ‘everyday best friend’]
In my early 20s, an ex broke up with me and I was forced to move back home with my parents, so a friend generously offered me the righthand-side of her bed whenever I wanted. I spent most Friday and Saturday nights with her, travelling back to my parents with an almighty hangover on Sunday. Her kind gesture cemented our friendship – and kept me sane.
I might live with my boyfriend now (which I guess makes every night a sleepover of sorts) but I’ll never stop visiting friends to stay over – and having them to stay at mine when he’s away.
Sitting up late and giggling about jokes you’ve told a thousand times over (and will a thousand more) has not only been a rite of passage into womanhood for me – it has sustained me through both good times and bad.
More from Group Chat:
Getting enough sleep can be tricky. Shelves of gadgets and gizmos promise to deliver the holy eight hours, but herbal tea is one of the original sleep aides. With calming ingredients such as camomile, lemon and lavender, these brews promise to leave you relaxed and ready for lights out. A simple cure to your bedtime woes or too good to be true?
HuffPost UK staffers put five sleep teas to the test.
Becky Barnes, Audience Editor
I thought this tea might smell like Christmas when I saw it contained spiced apple but the fragrant aroma was not too festive, even for humid midsummer. The combination of the apple, vanilla, camomile and passionflowers (which apparently contribute to sleep) was really drinkable and made me feel ready for bed. I’ve tried other ‘sleep’ teas before and been left with a bad taste in my mouth, but I’d definitely have this one again.
Amy Packham, Assistant Lifestyle Editor
I usually struggle to fall asleep, and have tried tonnes of products to help me relax in the evenings, from sleepy lotions and sprays to a ‘sausage pillow’. I’ve also tried sleep teas, but many have a strong fennel/liquorice taste which I hate! This one was different. I had it an hour or so before bed and while the apple did remind me of Christmas (sorry, Becky), it was delicious. Did I sleep well? Yes, but I was exhausted after a four-day hen do bender. I loved the ritual of a warming cuppa before bed though.
Rachel Moss, Lifestyle Reporter
The flavour was comforting without being too sweet or floral. I sipped this tea while reading in bed and floated off to sleep feeling like I’d had a big hug. I’m sceptical any tea can really help you nod off, but, like Amy, I’d happily make this part of my nightly ritual.
Natasha Hinde, Lifestyle Reporter
Just the thought of bedtime tea is enough to make you feel sleepy. But not gonna lie, fresh out of the packaging this teabag smelled like feet. The packet said to infuse for 15 minutes – a long time when you’re tired and ready for bed, but I used the time to change my sheets. Once settled, I was hit with that punchy foot aroma but surprisingly, the taste was pleasant: subtle, and I could certainly pick out the lavender. I woke the next morning having slept right through the night – and that’s not happened in ages.
Charlie Lindlar, Blogs Editor
This tea was unexpectedly sweeter than most herbal or green teas I’ve tried, but the taste didn’t really last that long, which was disappointing. You know Joey Tribbiani’s line “half the taste is in the smell” when Chandler is smelling his sandwich? That, but closer to 75%. This tea did leave me feeling restful though and like I should be going to bed, so I guess that’s a win.
Amy Packham, Assistant News Editor
I’ve actually been drinkingn this tea for months – so I feel like I’ve become immune to whether it works. I’ve had bad sleeps after the odd cup (mainly down to stress), but I do love the oaty taste and faint smell of lavender. I brew for just three minutes, or it gets too strong for me.
Nicola Slawson, News Reporter
This tea smelled really nice but I pulled a face on my first taste. The teabag, which includes camomile, lavender and lemon balm, was way too floral for me and I had to force myself to keep drinking. I’m not sure if it was because I didn’t enjoy it or because I’d had a stressful day, but I tossed and turned for quite a while after trying this one so it wasn’t a success for me.
Jasmin Gray, News Reporter
I had visions of drifting off to the land of nod after a couple of chapters of a book and a mug of this relaxing combo. Unfortunately, the dream was ruined by the overwhelming smell of lavender. From the minute the teabag hit the water, the sickly floral fragrance overpowered everything else in the tea and around it – hardly what you need when you’re trying to doze. But if your idea of a good night’s sleep is bedding down in a field of lavender, this would be just your ticket.
Charlie Lindlar, Blogs Editor
This tea had a pretty strong herbal taste – much more developed than I was expecting – so it felt worth drinking as a cup of tea altogether, not just as a means to make me want to go to sleep. I would happily incorporate this into my rigid, industrial tea-drinking schedule. Sleepy teas aren’t just for bedtime.
Nancy Groves, Lifestyle Editor
This one says it’s an ayurvedic blend of fennel, camomile and valerian root – but looking at the ingredients, there’s also peppermint, cardamon, lemon and nutmeg. That sounds quite a lot – but the mix works. I’m averse to anything aniseedy but the fennel here was quite subtle, and the mint made the tea nice and settling on the tummy, which always helps at bedtime. I dropped off quickly – and slept right through.
Nicola Slawson, News Reporter
I don’t know if it was because I was so tired the night I tried this tea, or whether it was down to particular blend of herbs and spices, but half way through the cup I was struggling to stay awake. I think it was the combination of flavours that did it as they really warmed my stomach. It was so comforting and I liked it so much, I’m going to have to buy a box!
Louise Whitbread, Lifestyle Reporter
Typically it takes me about an hour to doze off, but that’s mostly due to scrolling through Instagram for far too long in bed. As a longtime sceptic of herbal teas as a sleep remedy, I had zero expectations. The smell was lovely, even if I did have to let it brew for 10 minutes, but the flavour wasn’t particularly inviting and I was left with the taste of fennel in my mouth. I’ll stick to the Earl Grey.
Amy Packham, Assistant Lifestyle Editor
I’m usually drawn in by fancy packaging when it comes to tea, which this Sainsbury’s tea does not have. But the smell was great, (and the price even better). The flavour however was quite… bland. I had a good sleep, but I wouldn’t put it down to the tea. I think I’ll stick to the fancier brands.
Rachel Moss, Lifestyle Reporter
This tea smelt like potpourri mixed with play-dough and the taste was far too floral for me. It didn’t help me sleep better, but admittedly that might be because I only drank around a third of a cup. I think these teabags would be better used as bathroom air fresheners.
Nancy Groves, Life Editor
As a longtime devotee of Pukka’s sleepy tea, I was interested to know if a supermarket own brand could live up to its oaty goodness. They really do smell the same in the bag – but as I set the Sainsbury’s cuppa down on my bedside table, I could tell the difference. Taste-wise, it somehow managed both to be thinner and more cloying. For me, sleep teas are more about the routine than hard science, so it was better than nothing, but Pukka or Yogi win out.
We all work hard to earn our money – so it shouldn’t feel like hard work to spend it well. At HuffPost Finds we’ll help you find the best stuff that deserves your cash, from the ultimate lipstick to a durable iron to replace the one that broke (RIP). All our choices are completely independent but we may earn a small commission if you click a link and make a purchase.