How To Get A Good Night’s Sleep? We ask the Sleep Expert
How’s that sleep going? Far from getting more rest during these lockdowns, I just seem to feel constantly tired. Anyone else the same? Why is it that come autumn/winter our energy levels are sapped and we just seem to need more sleep?
I chat to sleep expert James Wilson (aka The Sleep Geek) to get his top tips on how to deal with dark mornings, getting a good night’s sleep and what constitutes a healthy bedtime routine…
Q. Why are we so much more tired during the autumn/winter?
As we move into the winter months, our days get darker. Natural light is incredibly important to us feeling alert and productive and this lack of strong natural light leaves us feeling lethargic.
Q. What are your top tips for a good night’s sleep?
First and foremost it is about understanding who you are as a sleeper. What is your sleep type? Ask yourself, how much good quality sleep do I need to feel alert and productive at 10am in the morning and don’t be in bed if you are not asleep. If you are in bed for 30 minutes and haven’t dropped off then start again, the best way to do this is to listen to something.
[I’ve found the Calm app really useful for both myself and the children. It has bedtime stories and meditations tailored towards adults and kids. I love listening to the lavender fields in Provence story, read by Stephen Fry. It helps me fall into a really deep sleep.]
Q. What is a healthy bedtime routine?
One that works for you and means you fall asleep in about 15-20 minutes of going to bed. We need to create a drop in heart rate (be relaxed) and a drop in core temperature (be cooler) to fall asleep and stay asleep. So, your routine should be focused on this, ask yourself “is what I am doing creating this affect in my body?”
Q. How much sleep do we really need as adults?
This is a really common question and quite frankly no sleep expert should be able to give you an answer because we are all different. The thing we forget when we are thinking about sleep need is that it isn’t just about how much, it is also about how good it is. To work out how much sleep you need answer this question. “How much good quality sleep do I need to feel alert and productive at 10/11 in the morning?” For me it is about six and a half to seven hours of good quality sleep, for others it might be more, or it might be less.
Q. How much does lack of sleep affect memory, I have a baby and have definitely noticed a parallel
REM sleep is the stage of sleep where we consolidate memory and this happens later in a sleep cycle so if you are not getting enough sleep, for example if you have been woken by a baby, it is this sleep that suffers and therefore impacts on memory.
Q. What are your top 3 tips to deal with dark mornings?
- Accept that dark mornings will impact on your ability to wake, particularly if you are a night owl. Too many of us get stressed over this and it makes our mood worse.
- Invest in a sunshine alarm clock. This ‘rise like the sun’ will pull you out of the deeper stage of sleep, and so when your alarm goes off it is less of a stick and means you are less likely to fall back to sleep and get into a snooze button regime.
- Get lots of light exposure earlier in the day. This allows your body to understand that it is now daytime and will help it produce more of the wake-up hormone cortisol. I often use light boxes with people who have early starts, as they have a similar frequency of light to the sun and can really help us feel awake and ready for the day.
Q. Do we have a sleep type? Can we pass this on to our children?
Yes, we all have a sleep type. It is a continuum and we all sit somewhere on the line, from larks at one end to owls at the other. Most of us sit in the middle, with a slight preference one way or another. It does change throughout our life, from 13 until your mid-twenties you are more likely to be an owl. It is part of our genetic makeup. If you have children you will notice they may take after either you or their other parent, and you may have a sleep type similar to one of your parents.
Q. Do you have any top tips for getting young children to sleep?
All the things we have discussed here apply to our children. They all have a different sleep type, they all have a different sleep need and these will change as they develop. But, they do need a consistent wake-up time and a good wind-down routine. One of the most common problems I see is parents rushing kids to bed, particularly in the week. Make sure they have enough time to wind down properly and remember that (like us) they cannot force themselves to sleep, so shouting at them to “just go to sleep” doesn’t work – although most parents will have done it at one time or another!
For more information on James Wilson (aka The Sleep Geek) please visit www.thesleepgeek.co.uk
IMAGE CREDITS (top):House photo created by marymarkevich – www.freepik.com, (second): Woman photo created by drobotdean – www.freepik.com