Good Health

and other in­ge­nious tips from ex­perts to get your 8 hours’ kip

Daily Mail - - Front Page - By HE­LEN FOS­TER

We All know that lack of sleep is a ma­jor health con­cern — sleep de­pri­va­tion can have a knock- on ef­fect on all kinds of pro­cesses in our bod­ies and is linked to prob­lems in­clud­ing weight gain, type 2 di­a­betes and Alzheimer’s.

even just one night of poor sleep is enough to have an im­pact on mem­ory, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Swedish study which found that vol­un­teers who slept badly couldn’t re­mem­ber a list of numbers as well as they did af­ter a good night’s sleep.

But know­ing we re­ally should get seven, ide­ally eight, hours a night is one thing — ac­tu­ally achiev­ing it is quite an­other.

Sev­enty per cent of us sleep fewer than seven hours a night, with a third of us get­ting only five to six hours, ac­cord­ing to a 2013 re­port by The Sleep coun­cil.

Whether your prob­lem is strug­gling to fall asleep, wak­ing up in the night or sim­ply feel­ing there aren’t enough hours in the day, here we ask the ex­perts how you can get that fa­bled eight hours . . .


One big mis­take poor sleep­ers make is go­ing to bed early try­ing to catch up — then ly­ing there toss­ing and turn­ing, says Pro­fes­sor John Groeger, a psy­chol­o­gist at not­ting­ham Trent Univer­sity.

This can cre­ate neg­a­tive as­so­ci­a­tions with be­ing in bed that turn a short bout of poor sleep into chronic in­som­nia.

Ide­ally you should fall asleep within 15 min­utes of your head hit­ting the pil­low. So if you’re go­ing to bed at 10 pm, but lie there fret­ting un­til mid­night, you need to go to bed later.

A technique known as sleep re­stric­tion can help. This in­volves de­lay­ing your bed­time by one or two hours — although un­der a doctor’s guid­ance you might even be asked to re­duce sleep to as lit­tle as five-and-a-half hours — but set your alarm for your nor­mal wakeup time.

Af­ter a cou­ple of days of this shorter sleep, you’ll be des­per­ate to sleep. ‘ It builds up the pres­sure to sleep to a point where you can’t stay awake,’ says Pro­fes­sor Groeger.

And don’t worry about those miss­ing hours. ‘You ac­tu­ally ex­pe­ri­ence more deep sleep af­ter a pe­riod of sleep re­stric­tion which makes the sleep you do get more restora­tive,’ he says.

Ad­mit­tedly, you will prob­a­bly feel ex­tremely tired on the first few days — but don’t nap, the whole point is to cre­ate that pres­sure to sleep.

Af­ter a few days, move your bed­time for­ward by 15 min­utes — in time you’ll re­train your­self to sleep the full eight hours a night.


Or GAR­LIC and ar­ti­chokes, which all con­tain pre­bi­otic fi­bres that fuel the healthy bac­te­ria in our gut. There is grow­ing ev­i­dence that the bal­ance of our gut bac­te­ria has a pro­found ef­fect on our health and re­search last year from the Univer­sity of colorado, Boul­der, linked a higher ra­tio of help­ful bugs to bet­ter sleep, par­tic­u­larly af­ter an episode of stress.

The study — con­ducted on mice — found that af­ter be­ing fed a pre­bi­otic diet the ro­dents spent more time in deep sleep, the most heal­ing kind of sleep.

‘We think sub­stances pro­duced by the changed gut ecol­ogy im­pact the brain, pos­si­bly by sig­nalling through the nerves,’ says lead re­searcher Dr Monika Flesh­ner, an integrative phys­i­ol­o­gist and psy­chol­o­gist.

The re­searchers have al­ready fol­lowed up with a sec­ond mouse study show­ing sim­i­lar re­sults and while they don’t yet know if the re­sults di­rectly trans­late to hu­mans, other hu­man re­search has shown a di­rect ef­fect on mood and stress from al­ter­ing the bal­ance of gut bac­te­ria.


A BIG prob­lem for adults is that few of us pri­ori­tise a bed­time rou­tine, but do­ing so could make a big dif­fer­ence says Pro­fes­sor Gareth Hughes, a psy­chother­a­pist at the Univer­sity of Derby.

‘Go­ing from wake­ful ac­tiv­ity to sleep is of­ten too big a leap for our mind and body — you can’t go from run­ning round like a stressed out mad thing to re­laxed and sleepy in sec­onds — but cre­at­ing a rou­tine you use ev­ery night to wind down be­fore bed can help with the tran­si­tion,’ he says.

Putting on your nightwear, clean­ing your teeth, or hav­ing a non-stim­u­lat­ing hot drink all cre­ate a rit­ual that tells your brain it’s time to sleep so it finds it eas­ier to switch off — make this a non­nego­tiable rou­tine.

It’s up to you how ex­actly you wind down, adds Pro­fes­sor Groeger. ‘But the key mes­sage for get­ting to sleep is to dis­en­gage grad­u­ally from those things that are as­so­ci­ated with be­ing awake, that means — in no par­tic­u­lar or­der — bright light, loud noise, ex­cess heat, men­tally tax­ing ac­tiv­ity, worry, un­fin­ished tasks, height­ened emo­tion, stim­u­lants such as cof­fee, and ex­er­cise.’


‘WHEN we wake in the night our body tem­per­a­ture is low which can make you feel un­com­fort­able,’ says Pro­fes­sor Groeger. ‘A hot wa­ter bot­tle warms and com­forts you and makes it eas­ier to sleep.

‘Mak­ing up a hot wa­ter bot­tle also quite help­fully breaks the cy­cle of ly­ing there fret­ting.’ There’s also a be­lief that hav­ing a dis­crep­ancy be­tween the tem­per­a­ture of your skin’s sur­face and your core body tem­per­a­ture may sig­nal the body to sleep. ‘But it’s more a hy­poth­e­sis than sci­en­tific fact,’ says Pro­fes­sor Groeger.


PLAY­ING a back­ground sound called ‘pink’ noise dur­ing the night in­creases restora­tive deep sleep — and may help keep light sleep­ers asleep for longer, ac­cord­ing to a study pub­lished last year by north­west­ern Univer­sity in Amer­ica.

Pink noise is sim­i­lar to white noise — the static buzzing an un­tuned TV makes — but with a lower, rum­bling qual­ity that is less harsh, and it is some­times de­scribed as sim­i­lar to rain fall­ing on a pave­ment, for in­stance.

The U.S. re­searchers mea­sured the brain waves of vol­un­teers as they slept — the slower these are, the deeper the sleep — and the re­sults showed they got more deep sleep on the night they were ex­posed to pink noise than on a night with­out it.

‘Any kind of steady noise helps dis­tract the brain from sounds out­side which may dis­turb you,’ says in­de­pen­dent sleep spe­cial­ist Dr neil Stan­ley.

‘It can there­fore be bet­ter for some peo­ple than sleep­ing in a silent room. White noise such as a fan can help, but pink noise is a lower fre­quency sound which may be more sooth­ing.’

You can down­load pink noise apps for your mo­bile phone to play while you sleep.


TWO- AnD- A- HAlF mil­lion peo­ple in the UK have cataracts, a cloud­ing of the eye’s lens. As well as af­fect­ing vi­sion, the con­di­tion has also been as­so­ci­ated with poor sleep.

re­search sug­gests that cataracts block light en­ter­ing the eye. This in­ter­feres with the pro­duc­tion of the hor­mone mela­tonin which the body re­leases at night to make us feel sleepy.

In one 2015 study by nara Med­i­cal Univer­sity School of Ja­pan, pa­tients fell asleep five min­utes faster, slept deeper and stayed asleep longer one month af­ter

cataract surgery than be­fore. A sec­ond 2016 study car­ried out in China which mea­sured peo­ple’s lev­els of the hor­mone in their blood found that mela­tonin lev­els were higher at 11pm af­ter cataract surgery.


IN­STALLING a red light can make it eas­ier to fall back to sleep af­ter any noc­tur­nal bathroom breaks. ‘ Bath­rooms are nor­mally very brightly lit and even just a few min­utes of bright light at night can be enough to stim­u­late cells in the back of the eye that stop mela­tonin re­lease — wak­ing you up in the process,’ says Dr Vic­to­ria Rev­ell, who spe­cialises in re­search on the ef­fects of light at the Univer­sity of Sur­rey. ‘Red light doesn’t stim­u­late these cells so you’re more likely to fall asleep quickly when you re­turn to bed.’ For the same rea­son, Pro­fes­sor Groeger says the com­mon ad­vice to have a re­lax­ing bath be­fore bed may not be all that help­ful if you are in a bright bathroom.


‘IF YOU can’t sleep af­ter 15 to 20 min­utes of try­ing then get up, get out of bed and do some­thing non- stim­u­lat­ing such as the wash­ing up for 20 to 30 min­utes then re­turn to bed,’ says Bren­dan Street, clin­i­cal lead for cog­ni­tive be­havioural ther­apy at Nuffield Health. ‘If you are still un­able to sleep af­ter a fur­ther 15 min­utes, get up again for 20 to 30 min­utes. Keep re­peat­ing this un­til you do fall asleep.’ It may sound like this would mean you get less sleep, but ‘if you lie in bed with­out sleep­ing for long pe­ri­ods you start to as­so­ciate the bed with wake­ful­ness and ag­i­ta­tion,’ he ex­plains, so in the long- run you will sleep bet­ter. As for what to do when you get out of bed, Pro­fes­sor Hughes sug­gests read­ing a bor­ing book stand­ing up — for ex­am­ple a text­book or in­struc­tion man­ual. ‘Es­sen­tially you are pun­ish­ing your brain for keep­ing you awake and af­ter a while it will give up and de­cide you’d be bet­ter off asleep and you will start to feel drowsy,’ he says.


‘IT CAN help to keep a notepad by the bed and if you have trou­ble sleep­ing write down your wor­ries or thoughts,’ says Ana Noia, a se­nior clin­i­cal phys­i­ol­o­gist in neu­ro­phys­i­ol­ogy and sleep at Bupa Cromwell Hospi­tal, Lon­don.

New re­search from Bay­lor Univer­sity, in the U.S., found peo­ple who spent five min­utes be­fore bed not­ing down the tasks they needed to do the next day fell asleep ten min­utes faster than peo­ple who wrote down what they had achieved the cur­rent day.

‘It helps or­gan­ise your thoughts so you no longer need to go over them in your head — which can keep you awake,’ says Ana Noia.


YOU might think in­vest­ing in lux­ury bed­ding couldn’t hurt when it comes to a bet­ter night’s sleep. In fact sheets with a higher thread count — a mea­sure of the num­ber of threads per square inch in a bed sheet — that are typ­i­cally more ex­pen­sive may make it harder to sleep well.

A re­cent study con­ducted by bed­ding com­pany Cas­par at­tached sen­sors to peo­ple sleep­ing un­der dif­fer­ent types of cov­ers and found the higher the thread count, the worse peo­ple said they slept.

one pos­si­ble rea­son is that the high thread count sheets trapped air and hu­mid­ity un­der­neath cre­at­ing a less com­fort­able sleep en­vi­ron­ment. Cas­par sug­gested that the ideal sheet has a 400 thread count.


IT’S not just good for the heart and brain, re­search from the Univer­sity of ox­ford sug­gests it may boost sleep too.

In a 2014 trial, tak­ing 600mg daily helped a group of seven to nineyearold chil­dren sleep bet­ter within 16 weeks. The re­searchers used wrist sen­sors that mea­sured how fast the chil­dren fell asleep and how many times they woke in the night.

By the end of the 16-week pe­riod in which the chil­dren took the omega-3 sup­ple­ments, they were sleep­ing for an av­er­age of 58 min­utes longer and woke up seven times fewer dur­ing the night than at the be­gin­ning of the study. The au­thor Dr Paul Mont­gomery says it’s likely to work on adults, too.

Ex­actly why it might work hasn’t been de­ter­mined, but the­o­ries sug­gest that DHA, a sub­stance found in omega-3 fats, might lower anx­i­ety or help with the re­lease of mela­tonin which makes us feel sleepy. The re­search was funded by DSM Nu­tri­tional Prod­ucts (a sup­ple­ments com­pany) in con­junc­tion with a lo­cal ed­u­ca­tion author­ity.


PEo­PLE who work in of­fices with more nat­u­ral light sleep about 46 min­utes longer a night than those ex­posed to less light dur­ing their day, sug­gests a 2014 study by sci­en­tists at North­west­ern Univer­sity.

‘Ex­po­sure to sun­light dur­ing the day helps our brain know when we should be awake and when we need to sleep,’ says Dr Rev­ell. If you work some­where dark, with no win­dows or poor ac­cess to nat­u­ral light, Dr Rev­ell sug­gests try­ing to at least get out­side into day­light for 20 to 30 min­utes.


WE’VE all heard the ad­vice not to look at our phones and other de­vices late at night. This is be­cause the so-called ‘blue’ light they emit sends the most pow­er­ful ‘alert­ing’ sig­nals to our body clock, block­ing the re­lease of sleep-in­duc­ing mela­tonin.

But com­pletely avoid­ing de­vices in the evening isn’t al­ways prac­ti­cal, so in­stead you could sim­ply dim the screen us­ing your phone’s set­tings.

Re­searchers at the Mayo Clinic, Min­nesota, in the U.S., showed that dim­ming the bright­ness or switch­ing to a de­vice’s ‘night’ mode as well as hold­ing it at least a foot away was enough to pre­vent the mela­tonin-block­ing re­ac­tion.

you can find the Night Shift mode ( iPhone) or Blue Light Fil­ter (An­droid) in your set­tings menu.

And re­mem­ber, it’s not just phones that have this ef­fect — peo­ple read­ing an e-reader for four hours be­fore bed took ten min­utes longer to fall asleep and felt more tired the next day than when they read a pa­per book for the same pe­riod.


MANy of us have trou­ble sleep­ing be­cause our part­ner dis­turbs us — but, ac­cord­ing to Dr Guy Mead­ows from the Lon­don Sleep School, of­ten what keeps us awake is not the noise it­self, but our re­ac­tion to it.

‘A lot of the peo­ple I treat have ac­tu­ally de­vel­oped an anx­i­ety about shar­ing a bed with their part­ner — that dis­turbs them far more than the part­ner does,’ he says. ‘If your part­ner does start to snore, in­stead of fret­ting about how it’s go­ing to keep you awake sim­ply say “oh, I hear a snore. Thanks mind, but it’s oK,” and let it go.

‘Bring your at­ten­tion in­stead back to the bed and how it feels — how cool the sheets are, how soft the pil­low is un­der your head.’

The idea is that the sooner you stop stress­ing about your part­ner’s snoring — and how it’s keep­ing you awake — the sooner you’ll fall asleep.

If the snoring is con­stant, and not just on nights where they’ve had a few too many drinks, for ex­am­ple, ex­tremely noisy, and your part­ner also suf­fers from day­time sleepi­ness it might be worth get­ting them checked out for health prob­lems such as sleep ap­noea (where the per­son stops breath­ing for a split sec­ond many times a night).

Ask your GP for ad­vice.


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