Does exercising help you sleep better? Will a short nap during the day affect your bedtime sleep?
In his latest book Life Time: The New Science Of The Body Clock, And How It Can Revolutionize Your Sleep And Health, British neuroscientist Prof Russell G. Foster talks about how understanding the workings of our body clock affects our sleep quality and general wellbeing.
Here, the director of the Sir Jules Thorn Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute (SCNi) in Oxford, England shares the following tips on how to sleep well at night.
> In the daytime, expose yourself to morning light, which is a great way of setting the body clock.
> If you nap, do so for not more than 20 minutes and not too near your bedtime.
> When exercising, try to do it in the morning, and not too near your bedtime as it raises your core body temperature, and one of the processes of getting to sleep is to drop your core body temperature.
> Having big evening meals makes it much more likely that the food will be turned into fat rather than being burned up during the day. If we increase our BMI, we are much more vulnerable to conditions such as obstructive sleep apnoea.
> Reduce your light levels 30 minutes or so before bedtime. The greater the light, the greater your alertness.
> Don’t use electronic devices, which have alerting effects, before bed.
> Ideally, avoid sleeping tablets as they are basically sedatives.
> Avoid talking about stressful topics before sleep.
> Practise winding-down techniques before going to bed, such as taking a relaxing bath or listening to soothing music. Using mindfulness as a relaxation technique can also get us into the right mindset to sleep.
> Ensure a conducive sleeping environment with a comfortable bed, mattress and pillows. Your room should also be dark and quiet, with an ideal temperature of 18-22°C.
> Don’t clock-watch. Sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night, look at the clock, find there’s two hours left before the alarm goes off and you might get stressed out. Turn your clock away or cover it.
> Don’t take sleep apps too seriously. They are relatively good at telling you roughly when you go to sleep and when you wake up in morning, how many times you woke up in the night, but not more than that.
> Stick to a sleeping routine – go to bed and get up at the same time on workdays and free days.
> Define your sleeping space with a specific smell like lavender, so when you go into that space, you will associate it with sleep. This can be useful when you are travelling.
> If your partner snores, and you can’t cope despite using ear plugs, find an alternative sleeping space. It’s not a reflection of the quality of your relationship.
> Jetlag is largely corrected by exposure to light in the new time zone and can also be assisted by eating at the correct time in the new time zone. A rule of thumb: If you go west (e.g. London to New York), expose yourself to outdoor light in the afternoon. If you are travelling east (e.g. London to China), wear dark glasses in the morning in the new time zone to reduce your light exposure. In the late afternoon, actively seek out light to drag the clock forward into the new time zone. Do this for four to five days.