Sleep physiologist Dr Guy Meadows reveals how you can get the best kip of your life
Struggling to stay awake during the day? You’re probably not getting the sleep you need. Recharging over night is so important to recharge, as it perks up our immune system, regulates our hormones that control appetite and boosts our mood, helping us combat stress, anxiety and depression. But don’t worry, whatever your problem – whether you struggle to fall asleep, wake up during the night, or just can’t get out of bed in the morning – sleep guru Guy is going to help us all sleep better this year. Just like this little guy!
WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM?
Waking up in the middle of the night
You often wake up around 3am, mind racing and panic setting in as you count down the hours left until you have to get up.
Don’t struggle with sleeplessness. Guy recommends trying acceptance and commitment therapy, which works for those of you who can’t get to sleep and those who wake up in the middle of the night. It’s all about accepting and acknowledging the negative thoughts that go through your mind when you can’t sleep, instead of battling with them and trying to block them, which can be exhausting. ‘Say, ‘I notice my mind telling me I’m not going to cope if I don’t get to sleep now.’ Then let that thought go and practise a mindful activity, such as noticing the feel of the duvet on your feet, or the rise and fall of your breath,’ explains Guy.
Stay in bed. Many sleep experts may advise getting out of bed if you can’t sleep, but Guy believes this won’t solve the problem. ‘You need to learn how to be OK with being awake and feeling anxious. Avoiding the problem won’t resolve it,’ he says.
A RESTLESS NIGHT
You think you’ve slept well but don’t feel rested.
Improve sleep quality. Snoring and the more severe condition sleep apnoea can impact your sleep. Sleep apnoea is where your airway becomes restricted or obstructed at night. Oxygen decreases and CO2 increases, causing a sharp intake in breath, which wakes you up, fragmenting your sleep. You’re often not aware of this, so you’ll feel exhausted the next day without knowing why.
TRY THESE TRICKS
Shift the fat. If your neck is thicker than 16 1/2 in, your risk increases, as the weight presses down on your windpipe and narrows or blocks your airways.
Lie on your side. This will reduce the pressure on your windpipe.
Be allergy aware. Dairy intoleranaces can make you produce excessive mucus that can coat your airway and reduce oxygen flow.
Read the label. Antihistamines in certain medicines, and alcohol, can cause your muscles to relax and snoring to set in.
CAN’T GET TO SLEEP
Despite having a tiring day, when you get into bed you feel wide awake, your brain is whirring and you can’t drop off.
Wind down for 30 minutes before bed. Checking your Facebook feed just before you turn your light out may be stopping you from falling asleep and affecting your sleep quality. ‘This is because blue light can interrupt your melatonin production (which helps control your sleep/wake cycles),’ explains. Guy. ‘So dim the lights, close your laptop and switch off the TV and your phone. Instead, perform calming activities, such as packing your bag for the next day and brushing your teeth, to allow your body and mind to transition from being awake to being prepared to fall asleep.
Download Eye Care Browser app (iOS) or Night Shift app (Android) – both cut blue light from your screens for a more restful slumber.
Clipper Fairtrade Super Green organic decaf, £1.99/20. With a blend of calming camomile, lavender and soothing lemon balm, it will induce a Zen-like tranquility before lights out.
FEELING GROGGY IN THE MORNING
Never mind – hitting that snooze button six times should sort it, right?
Wake up at the right time. Sleep cycles last around 90 minutes, and waking up mid one can make you feel muzzy first thing. ‘Calculate the best time to set your alarm, depending on when you go to sleep,’ says Guy. So, for example, if you hit the hay at 11:30pm, set your wake up time for 7am.
See the light. A great night’s sleep begins the moment you wake up, as the amount of sunlight you get during the day can impact your sleep/wake cycle. ‘Get plenty of light first thing,’ says Guy. It triggers production of the hormones serotonin (crucial in regulating your body clock) and cortisol, for that raring-to-go feeling. Plus, it will help your body count down to when it’s time for some shut-eye again.
If you’re struggling to get morning light, try these Luminette light therapy glasses, £199, amazon.co.uk. Just 20 minutes of these white and blue lights will kick-start your day.
Say night night to the snooze button. ‘When the alarm goes off, get out of bed,’ says Guy. ‘Snoozing fragments your sleep and could undo all the good work after a restful night’s sleep.’ You’re better off setting your alarm for the later time.