Not getting enough sleep?
Get some better quality shuteye with our smart tips, and give yourself a better chance of reaching your weight loss goals.
1. Keep on moving
Regular physical activity aids sleep, but try to avoid vigorous exercise within two hours of bedtime. 'Sit less too,' says Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, a physiologist who specialises in sleep problems. ‘Low-intensity activity helps to reduce stress hormones.’ Check out our fitness hub with workouts that will energise you and make you stronger, more flexible and more toned.
2. Don’t go to bed hungry
It’s not a good idea to eat a big meal within two to three hours of going to bed, but equally, you shouldn’t go to sleep feeling hungry. ‘Try a small snack, such as yogurt or a banana,’ advises Dr Ramlakhan. ‘And never skip breakfast – eat it within 45 minutes of rising.’
Breakfast replenishes the glucose stores your brain needs and marks the start of the day, which helps to reinforce the sleep-wake cycle. ‘Aim to include protein with every meal throughout the day,’ adds Dr Ramlakhan. She also advises no more than 300mg of caffeine a day. ‘This is equivalent to three cups of strong coffee or four cups of tea. And don’t have any after 3pm.’
3. An hour before midnight is worth two afterwards
Dr Ramlakhan is a firm believer in this. ‘Sleep is made up of four stages, which make up a cycle. Each cycle lasts around 90 minutes, followed by a period of rapid eye movement (REM) when we dream, lasting 20-30 minutes. We go through four or five cycles and REM periods a night so getting to bed around 10pm means we get that first restorative sleep before midnight.’ Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even at weekends, to establish a good sleep-wake cycle.
4. Put in the hours
Getting seven to seven-and-a-half hours of sleep a night appears to be the optimum amount for most healthy adults (children and teenagers need more), but needs vary between individuals, as Dr Ramlakhan explains. ‘The key is how you feel when you wake up in the morning. If you feel refreshed and full of energy, then you’ve had enough good-quality sleep.’
5. Cut the light
As it gets dark, the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin is produced, but exposure to bright light beyond our ‘natural bedtime’ can reduce its levels significantly. Light at the blue end of the spectrum also suppresses melatonin; it’s detected through our eyelids in the morning and helps us to wake up. However, blue light is also emitted by the screens of smartphones, tablets and computers, and exposure to this light can throw sleep patterns out of sync. ‘Have an electronic sundown,’ says Dr Ramlakhan. ‘Switch off all technology an hour before bed and, ideally, ban it from the bedroom.’
6. Count your blessings
Reminding yourself to feel grateful helps you let go of the stresses of the day, according to Dr Ramlakhan. ‘It’s also good for mind, body and spirit. If you can smile on waking, that’s a pretty good indicator of how you’ve slept.’
7. Use sound the smart way
Some sleepers wake at the slightest sound. ‘Try a fan to create white noise, or run a soundtrack of rain or running water,’ advises Dr Ramlakhan. You could download a free app with these features, but put your smartphone face down so you can’t see the screen!