THERE can not be anyone reading this who would not like to learn how to get a better night’s sleep.
Apparently around 36% of Brits struggle to drift off at least once a week, and nearly 50% of us find ourselves tossing and turning once a month.
Meanwhile, the pandemic has seen sleep quality worsen for many of us. *
Even if you consider yourself good at hopping into bed at a reasonable time and usually nod off swiftly, that does not mean you are not still in pursuit of the perfect night’s sleep.
Imagine a single night without pee breaks, your other half snoring, the dog barking randomly or being woken by your neighbors having a row…
We can not guarantee that you will not be interrupted mid-slumber, but you can at least set yourself up for the best night possible with these expert tips…
The old wives’ tale says that eating cheese before bed will give you strange and vivid dreams, but nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert says cheese on toast isn’t the bad bedtime snack we’ve been led to believe.
“The relationship between sleep and the food we eat is yet to be fully understood, however they do appear to be linked,” she explains.
“I would suggest avoiding sugary or spicy foods close to bedtime, as these have been linked to poorer sleep. If you do want a small snack before bed, go for foods that include both protein and carbohydrates.
“Protein contains small amounts of tryptophan, which promotes sleep (milk, cheese and nuts are a good source).
“However, to be effective, it needs to be eaten with a carbohydrate-based food.
“Try a glass of warm milk with a piece of cheese on a slice of wholemeal toast, or a small handful of nuts and dried fruit.”
It’s said that your bedroom should be for sex and sleep only – and the former can seriously help the latter, says relationship psychotherapist Lucy Beresford.
“When we orgasm, we release a fabulous cocktail of feel-good hormones that actively promote deep sleep.
“These hormones, such as oxytocin, are great for combating stress hormones,” she explains.
“Plus, sex makes us feel great about ourselves, so our sleep is helped by our feeling settled in the world.”
And yes, solo sex counts, too.
Nail your routine
We’ve got our bedtime routines all wrong, argues sleep behavioral expert James Wilson.
“We all know we need to wind down before bed, but one of the biggest mistakes we make is not getting ready for bed before we start this wind down time,” he says.
“Think about it – you’re sitting on the sofa and you decide: ‘I’m off to bed,’ and then you start doing stuff.
“You fill the dishwasher, check that the gas is off, lock the doors, go upstairs, brush your teeth, take off your make-up, get undressed for bed and then, when you finally get under the covers, you can not sleep, ”he says.
Of course you can not – you’ve spent 20 minutes telling your body you want to be awake!
“Get ready for bed as you start your wind down, about an hour before you want to go to sleep.
“Do all the chores you need to do, and then when you feel sleepy, you can toddle straight off to bed.”
GP Dr Rachel Ward says downing that glass of red before bed will not have the soporific effect you were hoping for.
In fact, it can disturb your vital REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
“You may think that having a drink before going to bed relaxes you and so makes it easier to fall asleep. However, your sleep quality will be much poorer after alcohol, ”she says.
“It affects your sleep cycle, which means you are more likely to have disturbed sleep.
“After excessive alcohol, you will spend increased time in a deep sleep and less time having REM sleep, which is the most restorative phase.
“This leads to the feeling of sleep deprivation, even after a full night’s shut-eye.”
Get an early night
You really do not need to stay up so late, says personal trainer Alex Marks.
“Do not get caught up in thoughts of what’s deemed a stereotypical bedtime. I’m 34 and my lights are out by 9.30pm most nights.
“Remind yourself that going to bed at an earlier hour is buying yourself a more energetic and potentially longer day tomorrow.
“Do not self-sabotage by staying up late so you can have ‘me time’ when there are more productive things you can accomplish tomorrow if you are well rested.”
Write a to-do list
Getting into bed should signal to your brain that it’s time to rest, but often your mind begins to whirr with worry.
Gustavo Vaz Tostes, head of training at sportswear retailer WIT Fitness, is all for freeing up brain space pre-sleep.
“It’s so important to learn how to clear your mind before bedtime, which will ultimately allow you to relax and enable you to get to sleep as quickly as possible,” he says.
“The best way to do this is to write a to-do list for the next day, putting down all your thoughts, either on paper or in the Notes app on your phone.
“This way you can simply let them go before bed so you do not overthink them when you’re trying to go to sleep, as you know they will be there, waiting for you in the morning.”
Load up on good carbs
According to naturopathic nutritionist Yalda Alaoui, boosting the production of the neurotransmitter hormone insulin will bolster the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
“Eat the right kind of carbohydrates in the evening,” she says.
Try sweet potato, squash, quinoa, beetroot, parsnips, carrots and pumpkin, as they allow for optimal insulin production by gently raising blood sugar levels, but not excessively. Insulin helps produce serotonin, which in turn promotes melatonin production. ”
Weekends are made for lying in bed relaxing, right?
Well, perhaps not if you want to have decent sleep the rest of the week, says GP and TV presenter Dr Philippa Kaye.
Her top piece of advice for reliably good kip is to ditch the lie-ins.
“Getting up at around the same time every day is the thing that absolutely changed my sleep – even if I’d had a late one the night before,” she explains.
“If you sleep in until 2pm at the weekend, you then will not be able to drift off at the right time that night, setting you up for a week of bad sleep.”