The Seven Points that you think can affect your Sleep
Feeling sluggish? Trouble sleeping? Perhaps your routine is working against you.
Point 1: You need less sleep as you get older
Not true, although getting enough sleep as you age can become more difficult because of hormonal and ageing changes.
Aim for seven to eight hours a night, but don’t worry about it, as long as you feel rested. Plan a wind-down routine before bed.
Point 2: Exercise improves sleep
It does, but don’t do vigorous activity too close to bedtime. It will stimulate your brain and raise your body temperature. FIX IT Take regular exercise earlier in the day. A brisk walk in bright daylight helps regulate your body’s internal body clock. Receptors in your eye respond to light and dark by adjusting the production of melatonin. Light reduces melatonin, which tells the body it’s daytime and helps mediate alertness. Darkness allows melatonin levels to rise, which tells the body it’s night-time, and promotes sleepiness. Keep your bedroom as dark as possible at night.
Point 3: Reading in bed is a good way to relax
‘Save your bed for just two things,’ says Dr Ebrahim. ‘Sleep and intimacy! Aim for 100% sleep efficiency – that means being asleep for 100% of your time in bed.’ Doing anything else stimulates your brain, making sleep more difficult and breaks the ‘bed-sleep’ brain connection.
Absolutely no screens in bed – nor anything which stimulates your brain, which includes reading a book! If it’s been part of your bedtime routine and doesn’t affect your sleep, don’t worry, but otherwise ban the books.
Point 4: Mobiles are fine in ‘night’ mode
Switching screens to ‘night’ mode, which changes the display light from the sleep-disrupting blue to a softer colour tone, may help but using your phone still sends a wake-up call to your brain. Dr Ebrahim explains, ‘Interacting with your phone, even on sleep mode with the sound down and light low, stimulates the release of “pleasure hormones” dopamine and adrenaline, which will keep you awake.’
Switch off your phone at least an hour before bed – and keep it off. Dr Ebrahim says, ‘If clients tell me they use their phone as an alarm I tell them to buy an alarm clock!’
Point 5: A nightcap helps you sleep
Alcohol can help you nod off but it affects the your sleep. You’re more likely to sleep lighter, w through the night and spend less time in deep (stage three) sleep and more time in the less restful REM (rapid eye movement) stage.
A better bedtime cuppa is camomile tea or a milky malt drink. Avoid stimulants, such as caffeine, for several hours before bed, and if you're drinking alcohol, give your body at least an hour to process each unit before trying to sleep.
Point 6: A warm bath helps you sleep
Yes, but a warm bath raises your core body temperature, which needs to fall before you can drift off. This is one of the reasons why night sweats/hot flushes disrupt your sleep during menopause.
Check the bath water is not too hot. Don’t try to sleep immediately after a bath, give your body enough time to cool down. Keep your bedroom at a cooler temperature than the rest of your home. Make sure bedding and nightclothes are cotton, lightweight and comfortably cool.
Point 7: Waking early means you’ve slept enough
Not necessarily. If you wake but don’t feel refreshed or feel tired all day, you may not be getting enough shuteye. ‘If you consistently wake in the night it could be a sign of an underlying health problem, such as sleep apnoea or restless legs syndrome,’ says Dr Ebrahim.
See your GP. Pets shouldn’t sleep in the bedroom – they’re sleep thieves! As is stress, so practise relaxation techniques. The odd sleepless night won’t harm you, says Dr Ebrahim. ‘But longer term it can cause the risk of chronic illnesses.’