Sleep expert shares top tips for a better night’s rest
- Credit: Archant
Dr Lindsay Browning is the sleep expert helping And So To Bed Customers with their insomnia. At the launch of the latest branch in Finchley Road, she shared her wisdom about getting a good night’s rest.
Understand why we need sleep
"Sleep helps reduce depression and anxiety and helps weight maintenance - if we sleep poorly we eat unhealthily and put on weight - it also protects against cancer, heart attack and stroke."
Ameloid plaques, which destroy connections between nerve cells and are linked to dementia, are washed out of our brains during sleep. A good rest also increases immunity. "If you don't sleep well and are exposed to the flu virus you are much more likely to develop the flu than if you had a good sleep."
What is Sleep?
"Sleep isn't an on/off black/white process, it comes in waves across the night in cycles of 90 minutes; light sleep, deep sleep, dreaming sleep. We have more deep sleep at the beginning of the night, and more dreaming sleep at the end. Each has different properties; deep sleep is when your body physically regenerates and makes you feel refreshed - Marathon runners need more deep sleep, but older people need less because they are less physically active. Dreaming sleep is when we process emotion. If you have something on your heart or mind that you are too busy to deal with during the day, your brain deals with it at night."
"We wake up at the end of every sleep cycle - 4-5 times a night. Your Fitbit might tell you that your sleep is being disrupted, but whether you are awake for 20 seconds or five minutes, it's still quality sleep. When we wake from a deep sleep we feel groggy, and when we wake from a dreaming sleep we feel fine. Neither is better, you just woke up nearer to consciousness."
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How much sleep do we need?
Adults aged 18-68 need 7-9 hours. Teens 8-10, Eight-year-olds 9-11 and 65+ 7-8 because their sleep needs decline.
"Your sleep drive is your need for sleep and increases the longer you are awake. After a great night's sleep your drive is 0, as the day goes on, your drive increases, or your sleep bucket fills up.
"A nap half way through the day will refresh you but will empty the bucket so you may struggle to fall asleep by the evening. Naps can be brilliant, but not if you are struggling to sleep.
"Your circadian rhythm is your 24 hour clock, which lets your body know it is morning, and ensures alertness during the day - A 20 minute dose of natural light late morning, helps you to sleep that night. Most people don't get the sleep they need because they are too busy with work, watching box-sets or caring for children, but we should prioritise sleep. "'Invincible', Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan thought they could get by on four hours sleep, but both died of Alzheimers. I'm not saying their lack of sleep caused it, but it didn't help."
Create good conditions
"As we sleep, our body temperature drops, if your room is hot your body struggles to cool down. A warm bath before bedtime can help by artificially raising your body temperature, then as you start to cool down afterwards, you feel sleepy.
A good bedroom environment includes a supportive, comfortable bed. As you fall asleep, your body is aware of everything around it and is checking for how you feel. Light makes you alert, so have decent quality curtains and avoid blue light from devices which reverses your production of sleep-inducing melatonin.
Like a child's bath/book/bed routine, have your own wind-down ritual an hour before bed to switch your body into sleep mode.
Dr Lindsay's Dos and don'ts
"Don't eat a main meal just before bed, although a snack like an oat cake is good.
"Avoid caffeine before bedtime - it stops your body from telling you how tired you are. Caffeine has a half-life of six hours, so half of the cup you drank at noon is still in your body at 6pm and a quarter at midnight.
"Limit alcohol, it's a sedative but disrupts REM sleep. You will pass out for three hours then struggle the rest of the night.
"Write about your worries during the day so they don't prey on your mind at night.
"Anyone who sleeps poorly can develop a longer term chronic problem when they start to stress about it. Lying in bed trying to sleep just increases your anxiety about not sleeping and your association between your bed and awakeness. Sleep won't magically happen. Get out of bed, go to another room for a while, then come back to bed."
And So To Bed sells Vispring handmade beds in natural materials. Prices start at £2,000 for divan beds in different sizes, tensions and headboards under a 30 year warranty.