Friday - - Living -

We’re sen­si­tive crea­tures, and even the small­est phys­i­o­log­i­cal fac­tors can have our brain and body chem­istry churn­ing away – which is why phys­i­cal com­fort is vi­tal for sleep.

De­cent mat­tresses can be pricey, but we spend al­most half of our lives in bed, so it’s def­i­nitely worth in­vest­ing in one that of­fers you the right sup­port and pre­vents back and neck pain. “Peo­ple of­ten for­get that they’re in bed for hope­fully eight hours a night. Mul­ti­ply that by 365 days, that’s al­most 3,000 hours a year,” says Birdee.


There’s a rea­son we switch lights off at bed­time. Sleep­ing in dark­ness is cru­cial for the body’s pro­duc­tion of the hor­mone mela­tonin, which plays a vi­tal part in the sleep-wake cy­cle. “Ad­just­ing lit­tle things can make a big dif­fer­ence,” says Dubai Herbal & Treat­ment Cen­tre man­ag­ing and med­i­cal di­rec­tor Dr Maria Ri­dao Alonso. “If cur­tains don’t have proper black­outs peo­ple tend to wake up ear­lier due to the light. Also if the AC is noisy, it can af­fect your sleep and of course a room that is too hot or too cold due to im­proper ad­just­ment of the AC can dis­turb sleep.”

Con­sider in­vest­ing in black­out blinds if light is a prob­lem, es­pe­cially if you’re a shift worker who sleeps dur­ing day­time. Eye masks can help block out am­bi­ent light and have been shown to in­crease mela­tonin lev­els.

Sim­i­larly, too much noise is one of the big­gest fac­tors guar­an­teed to ruin sleep. Of­ten it’s im­pos­si­ble to elim­i­nate all noise, and some peo­ple are more sen­si­tive to sound than oth­ers, but earplugs could make the world of dif­fer­ence if noise is keep­ing you awake.


Lap­tops and smart­phones do us no favours when it comes to sleep – be­cause many of us don’t know when to switch off. A re­cent sur­vey by sleep­ing pill brand Ny­tol found that 53 per cent of the peo­ple ques­tioned ad­mit­ted to go­ing online in bed, with a quar­ter think­ing they’re ad­dicted to check­ing emails and so­cial me­dia in bed.

“It’s es­sen­tial to turn off all tech­nol­ogy; many peo­ple with sleep prob­lems have an un­healthy re­la­tion­ship with tech­nol­ogy,” says Dr Ram­lakhan.

“Ev­ery time you see that red flash­ing light, the brain pro­duces a small dol­lop of dopamine – the feel-good hor­mone. This wakes us up, makes us feel good, al­beit mo­men­tar­ily, and is partly what feeds the com­pul­sion to keep pick­ing up your phone.”


We’ve all been there; sud­denly wide awake at 3am, only to spend the next few hours pan­ick­ing about how we’ll get through the next day. “If you wake up, try to avoid look­ing at your phone or clock and reg­is­ter­ing the time, as you’re more likely to start wor­ry­ing about how lit­tle sleep you’ll get,” ad­vises Dr Ram­lakhan. “In­stead, lie on your back and try con­sciously to re­lax each part of your body, start­ing from your toes and work­ing up to your head and face. Breathe deeply and tell your­self it doesn’t mat­ter if you don’t fall asleep and you’ll just use the time to rest and re­lax.”

If you find ly­ing in bed im­pos­si­ble to han­dle, try go­ing to another room to read a book to dis­tract your thoughts, then re­turn to bed when you’re calmer.


What and when we eat and drink can af­fect sleep. Elim­i­nate stim­u­lants like caf­feine and su­gar be­fore bed­time, ad­vises Dr Menon, who also rec­om­mends drink­ing a glass of warm milk or a cup of chamomile tea with honey at bed­time to in­duce sleep.

Birdee ad­vises eat­ing your evening meal a lit­tle ear­lier, and per­haps go­ing for a stroll af­ter­wards. “A heavy meal be­fore bed­time is go­ing to be un­com­fort­able and can cause rest­less­ness, as your body works over­time to en­sure it’s di­gested,” she says.

Sleep­ing in dark­ness is cru­cial for the body’s pro­duc­tion of mela­tonin, which plays a vi­tal role in the sleep-wake cy­cle

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