Get into a rou­tine for bet­ter sleep

Want to wake up more re­freshed? Dr Ne­rina Ram­lakhan tells Liz Con­nor the bed­time rou­tine rules she swears by

The Scotsman - - TRAVEL & OUTDOORS -

Sleep ex­pert Dr Ne­rina Ram­lakhan says, gen­er­ally speak­ing, peo­ple tend to fall into two cat­e­gories: “Sen­si­tive sleep­ers” and “Mar­tini sleep­ers”. She says: “Sen­si­tive sleep­ers are vul­ner­a­ble to wake up at the slight­est noise. They may of­ten need their own blan­ket, own pil­low, have a spe­cific side of the bed – and they won’t be able to sleep on an ar­gu­ment.” Mean­while, “Mar­tini sleep­ers” are those lucky peo­ple who can sleep any­time, any­place, any­where.

Ram­lakhan says that it’s ac­tu­ally very nor­mal to wak­ing up dur­ing the night. In fact on aver­age, peo­ple wake be­tween seven to 15 times a night, know­ingly or not.

“Ev­ery­one can have ex­tremely busy pe­ri­ods in their life, whether they are look­ing af­ter chil­dren, par­ents, are busy at work, or have ma­jor life up­heavals. It is dur­ing this time that sleep can be most dis­rupted,” she adds. “There are tech­niques that can be used to get back to sleep, in­clud­ing tak­ing a sup­ple­ment such as Be­nenox Overnight Recharge (£ 9.99, Boots), which can help set­tle your ner­vous sys­tem.”

Here, Ram­lakhan shares her five non- ne­go­tiables, which she be­lieves can com­pletely change your re­la­tion­ship with sleep.

Don’t skip break­fast

Not only is the “most im­por­tant meal of the day” vi­tal for en­ergy and con­cen­tra­tion, but break­fast can af­fect your sleep too. “It’s com­mon for peo­ple to wake up feel­ing anx­ious as they pre­pare for a busy day,” says Ram­lakhan, “If you wake up wor­ried and tired, with your mind rac­ing be­fore you’re even dressed, you’re putting your ner­vous sys­tem in over­drive. Be­fore you eat your morn­ing meal, your body is ef­fec­tively run­ning on adren­a­line.”

If you of­ten feel this way in the morn­ing, Ram­lakhan rec­om­mends eat­ing within the first half- hour of ris­ing, so that you can sta­bilise your blood su­gar lev­els. “Sta­bil­is­ing your blood su­gar en­hances your body’s abil­ity to pro­duce [ the hor­mone] mela­tonin, which is needed for sleep, later in the day.”

Cut back on caf­feine

You might feel like a cup of cof­fee is ex­actly what you need to keep you awake and alert af­ter a bad night’s sleep, but re­ly­ing on caf­feine like this can be­come a vi­cious cir­cle, keep­ing you awake later at night. “Cut­ting back on caf­feine can hugely en­hance your sleep,” says Ram­lakhan. “Ide­ally, you should avoid hav­ing caf­feine af­ter 4pm. As well as cof­fee, it’s ad­vis­able to avoid tea, fizzy drinks such as Coca- Cola, and even green tea too.”

Stay well hy­drated

“An­other non- ne­go­tiable is drink­ing more water and mak­ing sure you’re stay­ing hy­drated,” warns Ram­lakhan. “It’s clas­sic, but one litre to a litre- anda- half a day should do the trick.

“Not only do you lose water through­out the night, but be­ing well hy­drated can help re­duce awak­en­ings and dis­rup­tions caused by de­hy­dra­tion, such as a dry mouth and leg cramps,” she adds.

Go to bed early

“You should try and go to bed early about three or four nights a week,” says Ram­lakhan. “This is about train­ing your body to re­ceive rest ear­lier.”

It might be tempt­ing to stay up and watch that ex­tra episode, but this can throw your sleep pat­tern com­pletely out of whack. “Three or four nights a week, you should aim to be in bed be­tween 9: 30pm and 10pm,” says

Ram­lakhan. “You don’t nec­es­sar­ily have to be sleep­ing, but rest­ing or do­ing some­thing that is rest­ful.”

This might be read­ing a book ( not scrolling on your phone!), lis­ten­ing to sooth­ing mu­sic, med­i­tat­ing, or writ­ing in a grat­i­tude jour­nal. “What you should try and avoid is watch­ing tele­vi­sion in bed, sit­ting on your lap­top and be­ing on your phone or on so­cial me­dia. The idea is to use this ex­tra time to re­ally dis­en­gage from tech­nol­ogy and fo­cus on rest and sleep,” she adds.

Set healthy tech­nol­ogy bound­aries

“The fifth non- ne­go­tiable is about hav­ing healthy bound­aries with tech­nol­ogy. This means leav­ing elec­tron­ics out of the bed­room,” says Ram­lakhan. “Late bed­times are of­ten re­lated to tech­nol­ogy and so­cial me­dia, with peo­ple stay­ing up ab­sorbed by the in­ter­net or the tele­vi­sion.” The blue light from de­vices also af­fects the sleep cy­cle.

“Small ad­just­ments in­clude hav­ing an ‘ elec­tronic sun­down’ about 45 min­utes be­fore you go to bed. With­draw from tech­nol­ogy dur­ing that time, set­ting your­self up for rest and sleep,” says Ram­lakhan. “Your phone shouldn’t be the last thing that you look at be­fore you go to sleep, and it shouldn’t be the first thing you look at when you wake up in the morn­ing. Avoid this if you can, as it will help teach you not to rely on it so much as part of your sleep rou­tine.” n

Pho­to­graphs: PA

Stay­ing hy­drated and switch­ing off your phone can help with sleep.

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