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The BBC sleep challenge was a national survey conducted on their website to see if it was possible to improve people’s sleep using some of the common insomnia cures found on the internet.

Sleep is of a particular interest in Britain at the moments as, although we know that adults need around 6-8 hours of quality sleep, a recent survey conducted by the Sleep Council has shown we are far off our sleeping targets. Indeed, just 22% of British adults are sleeping for the recommended 7-8 hours a night and 40% of us are actually getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night. Which is incredibly worrying as we all need this to ensure we can work at our optimal levels the next day. In fact, a continued lack of sleep can adversely affect our home life and work life if it goes on untreated.

What is the BBC Sleep ChallengeSleep problems can manifest in a number of ways. For some, getting to sleep is the problem. Others can get to sleep easily, but find themselves waking in the middle of night unable to get back to sleep. While for some, getting to sleep and staying asleep is simple enough, however, they still wake up feeling unrested.

The leader of this BBC research, Dr Michael Mosley, suffers from sleep problems himself where he wakes up in the middle of the night and lays awake, which is exactly why he was so interested in taking part in sleep documentary – to see if there was a way to cure these sleeping issues easily.

The documentary, which aired on May 11th, found that there were a few approaches that did seem to work for some people. These methods included:

  • Getting up at the same time every day – even on your days off
  • Go for a run or a walk most mornings a week
  • Eat turkey. It contains tryptophan, a substance that helps sleep (although you’d have to consume a large amount to make any difference)
  • Eat two kiwi fruit around an hour before you go to be
  • Practice mindfulness – this is a form of meditation and there are various phone apps out there that will guide you through the steps and concept
  • Take a warm shower or bath 1-2 hours before bed – it’s important that you don’t have either of these just before bed
  • Keep electronic devices out of the bedroom – which should be for sleeping not television or browsing – as well as keeping away from all bright screens at least an hour before bed
  • Don’t drink alcohol before bed
  • Eat foods high in fibre before bed

Of course, these methods won’t work for everyone. If you are suffering from tiredness you should pick one and try it for yourself. Keep in mind, though, that your sleep troubles won’t disappear overnight. Instead try a method for at least 2 weeks and keep a sleep diary to note changes.

One way to test if you are getting enough sleep, Prof Nathaniel Kleitman, at the University of Chicago suggests, is through the spoon and tray test. In the early afternoon go to your bed (in a quiet and darkened room) and hold a spoon over the edge of the bed with a metal tray underneath. You should note the time on a clock when you start to try and fall asleep.

When you fall asleep you will drop the spoon, causing a large noise that will wake you up. You should then note the time again.

If you fell asleep before 5 minutes have passed, then this is a sign that you are severely sleep deprived. Falling asleep within 10 minutes should also be seen as troublesome and a sign of sleep deprivation. Staying awake over 15 minutes means you are getting enough sleep.

You could also do this test using an alarm set for 15 minutes if you don’t want to try the spoon method.

Either way, if you’re asleep before the 15-minute mark then you definitely need to look at your sleeping habits and try one of the methods above to see if you can improve your sleep. 

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