Many of us cut into their sleep time by pushing back our bedtime. Maybe we want to watch that movie we started as a reward for a long day, or we want to stay out with friends, or because we have work to finish. Often these activities take place in in a well-lit environment but even if not, often we expose ourselves to a lot of blue light - and mental stimulation. Now many of us use an alarm clock to wake. This means we are ‘burning the candle at both ends’ - shortening our sleep at both ends.
- To sleep better and wake up more refreshed then make sure you go to sleep at the time right for you and for the duration you need. Sleeping (and being awake) at the times your internal body clock tells you will give you the best and most refreshing sleep.
- Keep your sleep times regular. That means no long lie-ins on the weekend too! (If you have a late Friday night, an extra 30 minutes or one hour the next morning is ok, but no more. If you still feel tired have a 30 minute nap in the afternoon but before 3 pm. And go to bed 30 minutes earlier the following night.)
- Have an active, healthy lifestyle and get 30 minutes of sunlight (ideally in the morning). It doesn’t matter if its overcast, the natural light will still be much brighter than your typical indoor lighting. You could also consider getting a light box to help brighten up your day, again, use it in the morning. A lunch time wake is also good thing to do.
- If you consume caffeine, don’t have any after 3 pm. Otherwise it can negatively affect your sleep.
- Take mini-breaks during the day and do something small you enjoy. By stepping back from everyday stressors this can help you relax. Why wait until the evening as the only relaxation time?
- Having said that, find nice relaxing activities that only provide little stimulation during the evening. A gentle wind-down, dim the lights, and put away any LED device 60 minutes before you go to bed. Worried about what to do? Embrace the opportunity, that is your chance to find out what calming activity you might enjoy. Remind yourself of one thing you did today that brought you joy, that made you smile. Meditation exercises can help your mind and body relax, and gently let go of the day.
- Have a welcoming bedroom. Decorate it in a style that you like so you feel comfortable and able to relax. Keep it dark and cool to help your sleep come naturally.
- If you enjoy reading for a bit in bed, use a low light placed on the bedside table next to you.
Dr Katharina Lederle is a human sleep and fatigue specialist who helps people improve their sleep and live their lives to the full. Katharina gained an MSc in Biosciences in Germany. She then completed a PhD in Human Circadian Physiology & Behaviour (the human body clock) at the University of Surrey, looking at the effects of light on human sleep patterns. Katharina is also trained in Mindfulness and Acceptance Commitment Therapy, which she uses in her work with insomnia clients. Based in London, she has worked with a number of sleep-centred organizations, including Clockwork Research where she advised national and international airlines, emergency helicopter services, petrochemical and mining companies around the world on sleep and fatigue. She also provides sleep consultancy services to a range of businesses, including The Sleep School and pharmaceutical companies. Katharina is co-founder of Somnia, an organization that raises awareness about the importance of healthy sleep and provides one-to-one sessions, sleep workshops and educational talks helping people sleep well and feel good.
For more great information about sleep, read SLEEP SENSE by Katharina Lederle (Exisle Publishing), avialable now.
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