ANOTHER victim of the pandemic is sleep, with nearly two-thirds of us struggling to feel fully rested.
But psychotherapist Heather Darwall-Smith has the answers with her new book, which explores the science behind our snoozing habits.
Here, she offers Laura Stott her top tips for a good night’s kip.
- The Science Of Sleep, by Heather Darwall-Smith (£14.99, DK.com) is out now.
Keep a routine
HAVE a consistent sleep and waking up time, seven days a week.
Count back from the time you need to get up to find the bedtime that ensures you get the rest you need.
Slumber needs are personal. But if you are drowsy in the day, you most likely need more.
Comfort is key
ENSURE your bedroom is cool and dark, and your bed, bedding and nightwear are all comfortable.
Use earplugs if a partner’s snores or external sounds disturb you.
Make your bedroom a safe haven you want to retreat too.
Avoid kip debt
WHEN we don’t achieve the kip we need, the result is a sleep debt.
Long lie-ins don’t repay the bill, they just upset the routine.
Catch up safely by having an early night but waking up at your normal time.
AS we get sleepier, our body temperature drops so a cool room can bring a good night’s kip. Sixteen to 18C is ideal.
Many of us overheat at night simply because we are too warm.
Sleep naked or in breathable PJs, and try opening a window or two.
RELAXING with yoga, reading, listening to slow music or meditation apps, and having a lukewarm bath can all help you de-stress before bedtime.
A calm mind is crucial for good sleep.
MINIMISE screen time and avoid social media and emails at night.
It is particularly important that you don’t “doom scroll” or watch high-octane movies before you turn in.
This can overstimulate the brain and keep you alert and awake.
Eat to nod off
TAKE care with stimulating foods before nodding off.
Caffeine, spicy and indigestion-inducing fatty foods can hinder sleep, especially if consumed after 2pm.
Stick to foods with magnesium and tryptophan, which aids the production of mood-stabilising serotonin and melatonin, which regulates sleep. These include Brazil nuts, eggs, and milk.
ALCOHOL induces drowsiness but can also seriously disrupt sleep cycles and quality, especially impacting the waking process.
Booze can also trigger bad dreams, snoring, sleep-walking and unhelpful loo trips. Best avoided if possible.
Why do we…
EVER wondered about odd bedtime habits? Here’s why they happen.
WHY DO WE DREAM?
Evidence suggests dreaming helps process memories and emotions, allowing us to “relive” events. Nightmares are usually triggered by depression or stress.
WHY DO WE GRIND OUR TEETH?
For 70 per cent of sufferers, teeth grinding stems from stress or anxiety. For others it can be genetic, such as bone structure issues.
WHY DO WE SNORE?
As muscles in the throat and mouth relax, snorers’ tissues sag into the windpipe, forcing air around them at volume. You are more likely to make night noises if you smoke, drink alcohol, are overweight, take medication or sleep on your back.
WHY DOES AN ORGASM HELP?
Probably due to the combination of hormones released when you climax – oxytocin, the love hormone, and serotonin, the happy hormone. These help you to relax, relieve pain and reduce stress, signalling it’s time for sleep.
See the light
IF you can, get outside first thing daily. Natural light helps synchronise your internal body clock, which controls sleep patterns, known as circadian rhythm.
Light exposure in the evening can push sleep cycles towards a later bedtime.
IF you are shattered but can’t nod off, lying in bed and craving sleep probably won’t work.
Instead get up, leave the bedroom, and do a non-screen-based activity to soothe you towards catching some shut-eye.
If it’s an occasional bad night then watching a quiet TV show is OK, but avoid telly if you have any long-term sleep issues.
Keep a diary
TRACKING sleep habits can help you spot any external factors causing issues.
Note anything from bedtime, childcare, work stress, exercise or diet over each 24-hour period.
DAYTIME exercise helps to regulate your sleep clock but always leave enough time to cool down before bed.
Avoid strenuous activity as sleep time approaches. Between 3-7pm is optimal for aerobic training.
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