A healthy lifestyle is nothing without a solid sleep routine. Here's how to get it right
Words Dr Guy Meadows
Illustration Phil Couzens
The craziness of everyday parenting can interfere with your beauty rest. Thankfully, Dr Guy Meadows has created a list of ways to guarantee a good night’s kip (assuming the baby is sleeping through, of course).
SILENT, DARK AND COOL
These are three easy-to-follow guidelines to create the perfect haven for good quality sleep:
Silent. Our brains never stop listening, even during sleep, so using a pair of ear plugs can ensure that any unwanted noises won’t disturb your slumber.
Dark. Making your room as dark as possible by drawing the curtains or using an eye mask informs your internal body clock that it’s time for sleep, releasing the sleepy hormone melatonin.
Cool. Setting your room temperature to a cool 16 – 17C will encourage the 1C drop in core body temperature that we need to help us fall asleep.
SWITCH OFF FOR SLEEP
Checking social media or catching up on the news before bed may seem like a good use of time, but it could be disturbing your sleep. Clinical research shows that using stimulating ‘blue light’ emitting devices, like smart-phones or tablets, even up to two hours before our usual bedtime, keeps our brains stimulated which delays sleep onset and reduces sleep quality. While most of us are unlikely to switch off two hours before bed, installing a blue-light filter on your device or creating a habit of switching off devices at least 40 minutes before bed can help.
CALM YOUR MIND
Going to bed with a busy mind can make it harder to fall off to sleep, increase night time waking and leave you feeling unrefreshed the next day. Calm your mind by choosing to gently focus your attention onto your breath for a few minutes at a time.
When your mind wanders off onto thoughts, let them go by returning to your breath. Scientific research suggests that, if practiced regularly, mindfulness can promote structural changes in the modern rational part of your brain, leading to deeper and more refreshing sleep.
Take a cue from your toddler. Napping is an effective natural performance enhancer, proven to help boost energy levels, memory processing and even creative problem-solving. Taking a regular nap for no more than 20 minutes – ideally between midday and 3pm – can be a helpful way of staying sharp and overcoming fatigue. Avoid napping any more than 20 minutes as you’ll run the risk of you slipping into deeper sleep and causing you to wake up feeling groggy. Napping later than 3pm will weaken your night-time sleep drive.