Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Want a Better Night's Sleep? Here's What You Should Ditch!

When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, everyone’s got their little tricks, whether you go for ear plugs, a hot bath before bed, or arrange your pillows just so each night. But did you know that there are a few things that, no matter how good an idea they might seem at the time, can actually be very disruptive to your sleep? Here are some things you might want to consider ditching if you want to wake up feeling more refreshed and alert.



Alcohol
Yes, you may think a late-night tipple is just the thing to send you off to the land of nod, but in fact that glass of wine isn’t helping you as much as you think it is. While alcohol can make you feel sleepy and may make you drift off initially, it can cause you to wake up during the night, sometimes multiple times. On top of that, the sleep you will be getting isn’t the “good” kind of sleep, as alcohol disrupts the time you spend in REM sleep, which is the most restorative part of your night. The result is that you wake up far from well-rested.


What can you do instead?
Instead of alcohol, drink something that will relax you in a way that leads to good sleep, such as a herbal tea or a milky hot chocolate. Just nothing caffeinated!


The snooze button
Yes, it’s very tempting to lean over and shut your alarm off for another five minutes. However, far from easing yourself gently into wakefulness, you’re playing havoc with your body — if you don’t get up, your brain will assume it was a false alarm, and will settle back in for more sleep. The more you hit the snooze button, the more confused your body will become about whether you’re supposed to be waking up or not. By the time you actually get up, you’ll just feel groggy and miserable.


What can you do instead?
Part of the reason you might be so reluctant to get up when your alarm first goes off is that you’ve been woken in the middle of a sleep cycle and dragged from a very deep sleep. A single sleep cycle lasts around 90 minutes, so you can figure out the best time to set your alarm for based on when you go to sleep. You could even try an app or device that monitors your sleep and will figure it out for you.


Lie-ins
I know what you’re thinking. That’s what weekends are made for, right? But if you find that on your days off you’re sleeping way past the time that you’d usually get up, it means you’re not getting enough sleep. You’re also messing with your body clock if you sleep in, and may find yourself even more tired when you next have to wake up early.


What can you do instead?
Aim to get up at the same time every day whether you need to or not. There’s nothing to stop you sitting up in bed and reading, or browsing the web, for example, but don’t roll over and go back to sleep. If you still feel tired during the day, you could try taking a nap instead, which has been shown to be beneficial.


E-readers
Reading can be a great way to wind down before bed, but did you know that the light some e-readers give off can slow the production of melatonin, a hormone that plays an important role in the sleep cycle? That means that when you try to go to sleep, it might be more than the gripping plot of your book that’s keeping you awake.


What can you do instead?
You can, of course, go for an old-school paper book at night. But there are dedicated e-readers that use “e-ink” and are not backlit, so do not disrupt your sleep. And if you do use a multipurpose tablet for reading, you can either get it out of the way earlier in the evening (about an hour before you’re due to sleep) or use an app such as Night Filter to reduce the amount of blue light you’re getting from your screen. You could even make your own filter with a bit of red or orange cellophane!