Sorting Out Your Sleep Cycle

Sort It Out

Over the past few weeks, we’ve all had to make adjustments to help us cope under the government imposed lockdown, ranging from working habits to eating routines and social restrictions. 

And it’s wreaking havoc with our sleeping. 

Maybe you’re having trouble falling asleep or, are kept awake till the early hours of the morning riddled with #coronadreams? 

Whatever’s keeping you awake, is going to be impacting much more than just the bags under your eyes.

The Importance Of Sleep

Sleep is a pretty big deal, in case you didn’t know. It is vital for our day-to-day functioning, wellbeing and overall health. It is often recommended that getting eight hours of sleep a night is optimum, but this can vary person to person. 

According to research from the National Health Service, the occasional sleepless night is normal and may leave you feeling some fatigue, a short temper and lack of focus. However, once you’ve had several nights of troubled sleep, things begin to get serious. It can start to affect your mental health and negatively impact your cognitive abilities, leading to: 

  • Brain fog
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Feeling down 
  • Falling asleep during the day.

Why Can’t I Get To Sleep?

Dr Michael Breus, expert sleep doctor from thesleepdoctor.com lists several reasons why you’re not getting enough sleep. Here are our top 5 reasons:

1. Body Temperature

If you’re too warm, you’re going to find it difficult to fall asleep. Lower your body temperature by opening a window or exchanging a duvet for a blanket, this will help you fall asleep and remain sleeping. 

2. Stress

Whether it’s to do with work, children or arguments with your other half, these daytime stresses can impact your sleep if you take them to bed with you. Try to develop a night-time routine to manage your feelings before bed.

3. Blue Light

Researchers from Harvard conducted a study which shows blue light from your screens can help to stimulate your brain. This, of course, makes it harder to go to sleep. Instead of scrolling through TikTok before bed, try reading a book or doing some meditation. 

But, if TikTok is too hard to resist, at least try some blue light blocking glasses. 

4. Alcohol

Enjoying an occasional nightcap to help you drift off is common. What you may not know is, drinking too much too close to your bedtime may do more harm than good.

Dr Breus explains this is because “as your body metabolizes alcohol, the body goes through the “rebound effect,” where it transitions from deeper to lighter sleep. This leads to more waking up throughout the night”

5. Diet 

We’ve already talked about the change in eating habits as a result of the lockdown, though you should also know that eating too late or too much before going to sleep will cause sleep disruption too. 

This is because “higher fat and calorie consumption at night has been shown to make it harder to achieve REM” sleeping, so put a hold on the midnight snacking and eat a filling, nutritious dinner. 

Your Day-Night Time Routine

There are also a number of things you can do throughout your day to help prepare your body and brain for a good night’s rest. 

We understand that getting sufficient bright light exposure during the day is difficult with travel restrictions currently in place. There is, however, a way to keep your circadian rhythm healthy and your energy levels up without breaking the rules. 

Take the opportunity to go outside once a day, even if it’s just sitting on your front doorstep. Another way to get your daily dose is to ensure you open the curtains in the morning and try to sit close to a window and soak in that natural light. 

The Facts: 

The study Alleviation of sleep maintenance insomnia with timed exposure to bright light found in people who experience insomnia daytime bright light exposure improved sleep quality and duration. It also reduced the time it took to fall asleep by a whopping 83%. 

Whilst you’re sitting by the window working away or relaxing, also ensure that you’re not drinking any caffeine late in the day. 

We all love coffee or tea throughout the day to boost our energy and focus. Though, caffeine can stay in your blood for 6-8 hours. Healthline advises not to consume any coffee after 3-4 pm if you want to clock in those hours of beauty sleep. 

Developing a good night-time routine is another good way of rounding off your day and prepping to go to bed. 

Meditating before bed is a great way to clear your mind. One randomised clinical trial conducted by researchers Black et al. found mindfulness meditation can help you sleep better and reduces any “sleep-related daytime impairment that has implications for quality of life.”

But if meditation is not your cup of tea, try listening to some calming music, taking a relaxing hot shower/bath, or even reading a few pages of a book. 

All of these strategies can help to improve the quality of sleep and the ability to fall asleep. We understand that now is a time of uncertainty and this can put a strain on your mind and body, which is all the more reason to get to the bottom of your sleeping woes and put in a routine to help sort out your sleep cycle. Your brain depends on it!

Sources Cited:

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2110998

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/17-tips-to-sleep-better#3.-Dont-consume-caffeine-late-in-the-day

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8340561

Sajal Azam

2 thoughts on “Sorting Out Your Sleep Cycle

    1. Yes they can. The scientifically proven way is called “sleep restriction”. By measuring how much time you are actually sleeping and cutting the time you spend in bed to no longer than this, you can get all your sleep concentrated into the right period. It’s a little mor complex than this and you will probably need guidance from an expert. Among the leading experts is Prof Colin Espie. He has written books and now has a website called Sleepio. Highly recommended.

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