Is sleep a thing of the past once you have children? In this episode of Rearing To Go, you can watch Taragh Loughrey-Grant speaks to journalist and author Amanda Brunker and Sleep Disorder Support Foundation Dan Smyth.
Below, Dan Smyth shares some tips to help you get a good night’s sleep. Plus he explains why its important that your bedroom is only used for the three S's: 1) Sleep, 2) Sex and 3) Sickness.
Regular wake-up time
Keep a regular bed and wake time schedule even at weekends. Our sleep-wake cycle is regulated by a "circadian clock" in our brain and the body's need to balance both sleep time and wake time. A regular waking time in the morning strengthens the circadian function and can help with sleep onset at night.
A relaxing, routine activity, such as reading or listening to music, right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.
Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep – cool, quiet, dark, comfortable and free of interruptions.
Check your room for noise or other distractions, including a bed partner's sleep disruptions such as snoring, light, and a dry or hot environment. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, "white noise," humidifiers, fans and other devices.
It may sound obvious however make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy – about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses.
Use your bedroom only for 1) sleep, 2) sex and 3) sickness. It is best to take work materials, devices, TVs and even books out of the sleeping environment. Use your bed only for sleep and sex to strengthen the association between bed and sleep.
Eat three hours before bedtime
Eating or drinking too much may make you less comfortable when settling down for bed so it’s best to finishing eating two to three hours before bedtime. Also, spicy foods may cause heartburn, which leads to difficulty falling asleep and discomfort during the night.
Try to restrict fluids close to bedtime to prevent night-time awakenings to go to the bathroom, though some people find milk or herbal, non-caffeinated teas a helpful part of a bedtime routine.
It’s best to complete your workout at least a few hours before bedtime. In general, exercising regularly makes it easier to fall asleep and contributes to sounder sleep.
However, exercising sporadically or right before going to bed will make falling asleep more difficult. As well as making us more alert, our body temperature rises during exercise, and takes as much as six hours to begin to drop.
Caffeine can keep you awake as it is a stimulant, which means it can produce an alerting effect. Caffeine products, such as coffee, tea, colas and chocolate, remain in the body on average from three to five hours, but they can affect some people up to 12 hours later.
If you smoke cigarettes or tobacco products close to bedtime, it can lead to poor sleep. Nicotine is another stimulant so it makes it difficult to fall asleep. Also when smokers go to sleep, they experience withdrawal symptoms from nicotine, which also cause sleep problems.
Although many people think of alcohol as a sedative, it actually disrupts sleep, causing night-time awakenings. Consuming alcohol leads to a night of less restful sleep.
If you have sleep problems, keep a sleep diary and consult your doctor who can help you treat the problem or may refer you to a sleep specialist.
Quality over quantity
A nap is usually between 15-20 minutes, and it recommended for short-term alertness. A nap of this length helps improve alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy or interfering with night-time sleep.
When taking a nap make sure your surroundings are conducive to sleep – have a restful place to lie down and that the temperature in the room is comfortable. Try to limit the amount of noise heard and the extent of the light filtering in.
If you take a nap too late in the day, it might affect your night-time sleep patterns and make it difficult to fall asleep at your regular bedtime. If you try to take it too early in the day, your body may not be ready for more sleep.