Ahead of the Festival of Sleep day (3-Jan), TEMPUR® sleep specialist and sleep counsellor, Thomas Høegh Reisenhus, shares a guide to achieving year-long healthy sleep habits.
With the dawn of a new year comes the inevitable goal to become a better version of ourselves. Rather than getting swept up with unsustainable exercise routines or questionable diet hacks, Thomas Høegh Reisenhus, TEMPUR® sleep specialist and sleep counsellor, suggests Brits use the excuse of the New Year and the event of the Festival of Sleep (3-Jan) to inspire improvements in sleep habits to ensure 2022 is the year we enjoy our best sleep ever.
Thomas says, “On average, we spend a third of our lives asleep, with our ability (or inability) to sleep impacting our mood as well as our mental and physical health. And yet so many of us don’t consider the importance of sleep when setting goals for the year ahead.
“If we’re sleep-deprived, we’re less productive, less able to deal with stress and struggle to concentrate. And if this lack of sleep becomes a long-term problem, we’re more likely to suffer from poor mental and physical health.
“So, this year, we’re encouraging Brits to use the new year as an opportunity to set some simple ‘restolutions’ to ensure that 2022 is the year they enjoy their best sleep yet.”
Read on for Thomas’ guide to achieving year-long healthy sleep habits…
Start your day right
Whilst we can’t all bounce out of bed and be ready to take on the day in the seconds, or even minutes after our alarm goes off, how we start our day does impact our ability to get the most out of it and enjoy better quality and quantity of sleep come night-time.
A solid morning routine can help improve productivity by helping you better prioritise your time and anticipate what lies ahead, allowing you to feel better equipped to cope with the demands of the day. A routine will also make it easier to adopt healthy habits long-term.
A consistent wake time is just as important as a consistent bedtime, so aim to wake up at the same time every day and avoid hitting snooze, as this will leave you feeling groggy.
Enjoy a mood-boosting activity first thing – checking your phone and getting sucked into social media first thing isn’t the most positive way to start your day. Some light stretching, meditation, a morning walk, a mindful shower, or even just a quiet cup of tea before you crack on with your to-do list are all great ways to ease yourself into the dawn of a new day.
A healthy breakfast is also a key part of any morning routine; a cup of coffee to go simply won’t cut it if you want to enjoy sustained energy throughout the day. Aim to enjoy a healthy mix of whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats and slow-release carbohydrates. Great options include wholegrain toast with poached eggs and avocado, Greek yoghurt with mixed berries and seeds or a bowl of porridge topped with sliced banana and nut butter.
Exercise smarter, not harder
Enjoying small amounts of regular exercise is a sure-fire way to improve mood and cognitive function, meaning better sleep long-term, whilst also helping to reduce the risk of sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea and restless leg syndrome. Furthermore, it’s a healthy way to ensure you expend some of your energy and will help you feel more tired and ready for sleep in the run-up to bedtime.
We should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week, meaning 30 minutes of exercise every day, which can be broken up into more manageable 15-minute chunks as required. And there’s no need to go hard chasing those gym gains if it’s not enjoyable. Walking, yoga, cycling, skipping, dancing and kicking a football around with some friends are all simple ways to increase your daily activity levels.
If you do enjoy more strenuous forms of exercise, it’s best to schedule them into your morning routine, as exercising in the hour or so before bed will leave you feeling more alert and doesn’t allow time for your core body temperature to cool, potentially delaying the onset of sleep and affecting overall sleep quality.
The do’s and don’ts of caffeine consumption
Whilst there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a morning cup of coffee or two, caffeine can have a detrimental effect on sleep, with its stimulatory effects peaking 30-60 minutes after consumption but lasting up to six hours.
Caffeine causes a burst of energy as it stimulates the central nervous system and boosts cognitive function by blocking adenosine receptors. Adenosine is a sleep-promoting chemical that is produced in the brain during our waking hours, slowly building up over the course of the day and making us feel drowsy. However, when caffeine blocks this process, we remain alert and more vigilant.
Come bedtime, caffeine can impact the onset of sleep as well as reducing the quantity and quality of sleep. It also reduces the time spent in Stage 3 non-REM sleep – the period of deep sleep that you need to feel refreshed in the morning.
So, rather than indulging in a cup of coffee or energy drink to help beat the afternoon slump, come midday, it’s best to switch to decaf tea and coffee to ensure you aren’t left feeling wired come bedtime.
If you’re struggling without your afternoon caffeine hit, make sure you’re drinking enough water and aren’t simply dehydrated, which can leave you feeling groggy and tired, and ensure you’re enjoying some exercise – just a ten-minute power walk in the fresh air is enough to leave you feeling refreshed and energised.
To nap or not to nap?
If you’re struggling after a late night, or if you’re just in the mood to curl up and get cosy, there’s nothing wrong with indulging in an afternoon nap. In fact, a mid-afternoon nap can boost memory, improve productivity, make you feel more alert, boost your mood and ease stress.
There are, however, two golden rules for napping:
- Keep naps short – aim for 20 minutes at most; otherwise, you’ll wake feeling groggy
- Don’t nap after 3 pm – napping too late in the day will interfere with your ability to enjoy quality sleep come bedtime
Alternatively, try Yoga Nidra (aka yogic sleep). Yoga Nidra is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, typically induced by guided meditation, and is a state in which the body is completely relaxed. Benefits include clearing the mind, releasing tension in both body and mind, resulting in reduced stress and anxiety levels.
The ideal environment is dark, cool and quiet, so in essence, your bedroom should mimic a cave. Invest in blackout blinds or an eye mask to block out light, and ensure your bedroom is slightly cooler than the rest of your home – around 18°C is ideal. Going to bed in cotton bedding and pyjamas will allow your skin to breathe and help to keep you comfortable during the night.
If you regularly wake in the night feeling cold, try wearing a pair of socks, which can assist the body’s internal temperature regulation. You can also try layering blankets on the bed, which can easily be removed should you start to feel too warm.
One of the most important factors of your sleep environment is undoubtedly what you’re sleeping on. Your mattress should adapt to you, keeping your spine straight whilst absorbing pressure to provide relief in any painful areas of your body. There are many different types of mattresses – sprung, memory foam, hybrid – so it’s important to visit a store and discuss your needs with a trained expert before investing.
Wind down routine
There’s a reason parents place so much importance on their children’s bedtime routines, and it’s because, quite simply, a solid wind-down routine is important at any age. Ensuring we’re preparing ourselves by getting into a relaxed state both in mind and body in the hour before bed is the magic ingredient for any good night’s sleep.
Light stretching, a warm bath, a milky drink, journaling, reading a beloved book are all traditional bedtime routine activities because they all help us to unwind and achieve this state of relaxation at the end of a stressful day.
Ultimately, achieving a good night’s shut-eye is an art, not a science. So what works for one person may not work for another. It’s important to find a routine that works for you, whether that’s enjoying a glass of wine whilst chatting through your day with your partner or enjoying a cup of cocoa whilst reading a good book.
For more information on TEMPUR®, visit www.tempur.co.uk.
Read more health-focused features and news here. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-activity/best-time-of-day-to-exercise-for-sleep  https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/caffeine-and-sleep