Most sleep experts stress the importance of treating sleep like a habit. Getting into a good bedtime routine is a good way to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep. Here, we show you how:
Stick to your sleep window:
Your regular wake-up-go-to-bed routine is known as your “sleep window”. For example, if you regularly go to bed at 10pm and get up at 7am, then this is your sleep window.
For some people, especially shift workers, setting a sleep window is also going to be tricky, however, for most of us it should be doable.
The really hard part of having a sleep window is sticking to it, particularly at weekends. The temptation will be to sleep in, especially if you have had a late night. However, if you are serious about wanting to sort out your sleep, then you are going to have to resist this temptation. The idea that you can catch up, over the weekend, on poor sleep during the week is a total myth.
Part of the problem with a long weekend lie-in is that you will mess up your circadian rhythms, which are so important for driving the urge to sleep.
The other problem is that if you get up on Sunday at 10am, and then head to bed and try to sleep at 11pm, you may struggle because you will have a reduced sleep drive. You’ve been awake for three hours less than during the week, so there will be much less of an adenosine build-up in your brain urging you to go to sleep.
Obviously, there are nights when you will want to go out on the town but the critical thing is that once you decide the time that you are going to get up in the morning, you stick to it.
Clear out any bedroom junk
One of the best pieces of advice for anyone going on a diet is to clear out their cupboards of tempting treats and unhealthy foods.
The same is true of your bedroom. This should be for sleep and for sex, nothing else. If you have a TV in the bedroom, or you take your mobile phone to bed with you, the temptation will be to use them, and that can be highly disruptive.
There’s a widespread myth that light coming from your computer or mobile phone (blue light) is bad for you because it switches o production of the sleep hormone, melatonin. In reality, light levels produced by these devices are too low to do much damage and the real reason they are disruptive is because they are exciting your brain just when you want it to be nice and relaxed. Social media has been designed to keep you hooked, so it’s one of the worth things you can scroll through before bed.
So, put your phone away and avoid bringing any laptops or other devices into the bedroom!
Avoid food in the lead up to bed
Your body temperature helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, which is 24-hour cycle that controls metabolism, sleep and other bodily functions. Your body temperature naturally starts to fall as bedtime approaches, which helps trigger sleep. The trouble with late-night eating is it raises body temperature. When a late-night snack hits your stomach, your gut has to spring into action to break down and absorb the food you’ve just eaten. This increase in gut activity means your core body temperature will remain high, just when you want it to go down.
So, it’s best to stop eating a few hours before bed. This will also help with weight management.