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The Four Factors of Sleep

  1. Clear mind  We all find it difficult to get rid of our daily stresses but relaxing and removing these thoughts will quickly send you off to a night of restful, uninterrupted sleep.
  2. The body  Take care of yourself.  Regular exercise, staying well hydrated and not eating too late will ensure you wake up bright and refreshed the next day.
  3. The bed  Because no-ones ever had a great nights sleep on a bed of nails.  A good supporting mattress, a soft pillow and a cosy duvet will make you never want to leave the bed.  
  4. The bedroom Treat your bedroom like a bedroom.  Only go to bed when you are really tired.  Try to avoid TV, laptops and tablets in bed. Keep it to the living room.

A few notes on sleep

The most important advice you will hear on having a good nights sleep is DON’T WORRY. Amazingly a third of the population have trouble with sleeping with the majority only having problems for a short period.  The reasons for poor sleep can be multi-factorial and complex but hopefully this article will give you a starting point.  We can also offer advice of where to go when these simple tips don’t work for you.  Remember everyone is different.  It’s about finding out what is right for you.


Strictly speaking the medical definition of insomnia is:

'difficulty in getting to sleep, difficulty staying asleep, early wakening, or non-restorative sleep despite adequate time and opportunity to sleep, resulting in impaired daytime functioning, such as poor concentration, mood disturbance, and daytime tiredness1.'

Baring this definition in mind it is important for you to recognise when the problems arise. Also are you actually providing yourself with the adequate surroundings to sleep sufficiently?  Another important point to consider is that you may believe you are not getting enough sleep but if you can function normally and do not require a nap then it is likely your sleep is sufficient to your needs.  As we grow older most people don’t need as much sleep as they used to or perhaps your routine has changed in recent years?  On average people need 6-9 hours a night but many people can function perfectly on 3 hours2

Normal sleep

We think it’s important for everyone to understand a bit about how sleep works so you know what is normal and when problems arise.  There are three parts to sleep:

  • Deep sleep
  • Rapid eye movement (REM)
  • Short periods of waking

A normal pattern of sleep is 4-5 episodes of deep sleep alternating with 4-5 periods of REM sleep.  What many people do not realise is that is completely normal to wake up for 1-2 minutes every two hours.  Most people do not remember that they have woken up but if you are disturbed during this period by noise, discomfort or preoccupied thoughts it will last longer and the inevitable ‘clock watching’ occurs2.

At it’s bedtime we have divided achieving good quality sleep into four factors.

Clear mind

Life stresses are the biggest cause of unhelpful thoughts when trying to sleep.  Commonly these reasons are stress, work, family problems, a change of routine, a strange atmosphere, a new baby or jet lag.  Although this can be a difficult time it is crucial to remember that this is likely to be short term insomnia lasting less than 4 weeks.  Here are some tips to help you de-stress before retiring to the bedroom:

  • A brief walk.
  • Reading a book.
  • A warm de-caffeinated drink.
  • Don’t do anything mentally demanding 90 minutes before going to bed
  • Play relaxing music.
  • Relaxation techniques .ie. progressive muscular relaxation, deep breathing exercises

These tips are a great starting point.  If your thoughts are progressively affecting your sleep or you are also experiencing low mood or anxiety we strongly recommend you visit your GP.  Disturbed sleep can commonly be a symptom of mental health problems and your doctor will be able to advise you on the appropriate therapy and medication for you.

The body

We all need to take care of ourselves.  The familiar tips of eating well and doing regular exercise make you feel good and importantly sleep better.  Food, drink, medication and exercise all have a role in sleep.  Here are some tips:

  • Avoid caffeine, smoking and alcohol six hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid a heavy meal three hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise four hours before bedtime although light exercise may help.
  • Respect your body rhythm.

Body rhythms (circadian rhythms) are involved in many aspects of the body such as hormones, temperature and heart rate.  It is so important to stick to a rhythm.  If possible it is recommended to go to sleep and wake up at the same time seven days a week.  Even if you go to bed later it is still advisable to get up at the same time and resist a lie in.  There is little evidence to support the idea of ‘catching up on sleep’ at a later time. 

There are multiple medications that can affect your ability to get to sleep, your quality of sleep and how refreshed you feel in the morning.  If you believe this is a big factor in your sleep we suggest discussing this with your GP.  This is also advisable if you have recently been relying heavily on over the counter sleeping tablets.

The bed

This is an instant, modifiable factor in your sleep that you can make today.  A new bed is undoubtedly expensive and a big purchase for many people.  However, your sleep is important and consider how much time you spend there.  It is one of the most important investments you can make.  Some factors to consider as recommended by the Sleep Council when buying a bed are:

  • Make sure it is supportive.  This will depend on your weight and build.
  • Take your time.  Give yourself adequate time to really test the bed and decide what you really want.
  • Get a bed as big as your budget and bedroom will allow.  Partners often interfere with sleep.  Try to give yourself as much space as you can.
  • Consider the height.  If you have mobility issues make sure you can climb in and out of it easily.
  • Spend time considering pillows.  We’ve all woken up with a crooked neck and can appreciate how interruptive this can be3.

At it’s bedtime we encourage you to take your time and ask our trained staff as many questions as you need to make sure you get the correct bed.  Our goal is to improve your sleep. Beds are our speciality but the rest is up to you.

The bedroom

Treat your bedroom like a place of tranquility.  It should be calm, relaxing, quiet and warm.  Unfortunately it isn’t always dark when we want to sleep so investing in some thick curtains, black out blinds or eye shades can be a vital investment.  Only go to your bedroom to sleep and also when you are actually tired.  Most people will fall asleep in thirty minutes if this does not happen for you it is advisable to get up and do something and then try again.  This could be done as many times as necessary.  Other tips are not using your phone, laptop or tablet in bed and to not watch TV.  Many people also find it helpful to make sure they can not see the time when in bed.  Try hiding your phone and alarm clock under your bed.

Final thoughts

Everything in life is affected by a good nights sleep but additionally a good nights sleep affects everything in life.

Sleep is a fundamental human need.  There are numerous studies to support the fact that sleep helps our mood, IQ, work effort, social life and general performance4.  We hope this page has given you some points to consider if you are having trouble sleeping.  Take the time to think about when you are having difficulty sleeping.  Consider what is causing this from our four factors (mind, body, bed, bedroom) and follow our tips to help minimise these troublesome causes.  If you feel your insomnia needs more assistance please do seek professional help.

At its bedtime we just want you to be the best person you can be and this all starts with sleep.  We hope this article has opened your eyes to a few issues about sleep. 

Remember, we all deserve a good nights sleep. 

Sleep well & All the best from the It’s bed time team.


  1.  World Health Organisation.  International Classification of Disease (ICD) 10.  ‘Insomnia.’ March 2015.
  2.  Kenny. T, Harding. M.  ‘Insomnia: poor sleep.’  Accessed in March 2015.
  3. The Sleep Council.  ‘Look after your back- choose the right bed.’  Accessed in March 2015.
  4. Sejnowski. T, Destexhe. A.  ‘Why do we sleep?’  Brain Research, 2000.