IF you’re feeling sleep deprived this week due to early starts, you’re certainly not alone.
Returning to a normal sleep and wake-up routine after the Christmas break is painful for most Brits, having got used to much more relaxed hours.
A sleep expert has revealed exactly how to ping back into a normal sleep routine to feel fresh next week.
But there’s a catch – lie-ins this weekend are forbidden.
Although it’s exactly what you’re craving, sleeping in till the late morning hours will only make matters worse than they already are.
James Wilson, a sleep practitioner and co-founder of Beingwell, said: “You really, really, and I cannot emphasise this enough, really should not lie in if you are trying to get your sleep routine back on track.
“The reason is one of the systems that manages sleep is a sleep pressure that builds during the day.
“The longer we go without sleep, the sleepier, in theory, we get. However, if you have a lie in, this confuses the sleep pressure and leads to us feeling sleepier later, getting out of our routine at the weekend and then struggling to sleep on a Sunday night.
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“In normal circumstances most people can adjust to a lie in for an hour and a half. If you are trying to get back into your usual routine they are a big no, no.”
Alongside a lie-in, the other biggest mistake is avoiding sleepiness.
James said: “The two biggest things are not having a long lie in and ignoring your body when it tells you that you are sleepy in the evening.
“This means it reawakens and makes it harder for you to go to sleep when you decide to stop watching that box set.”
PLAYING CATCH UP
James said it might take a little longer than a few days to get back into your normal sleep routine.
“If things have only slipped by an hour or two at a push then for most people it will take a couple of days at most,” he said.
“If it has been a bigger swing, three, four, five or even six hours, then it may take a bit longer – maybe a week or two. But if you are consistent, your routine will snap back into place in no time.”
HOW TO FIX IT
James said the number one trick to get your sleep routine back to normal is to wake up at your normal time, every day.
He said: “This may make you a bit more tired that day, but the extra tiredness will drive your sleep pressure and help your body snap back into its usual routine.
“If you were going to bed at say, 2am and you are now trying to get to sleep at 10pm, that is a big change and your body is unlikely to feel tired at 10 as that is not what it has been used to for a week or two.
“One of the fundamentals of sleep is that we cannot force ourselves to drop off, so taking this approach for many people actually makes things worse because they then toss and turn for hours on end trying to get to sleep.”
For many people, a 10/11pm bedtime feels out of reach.
To help encourage sleepiness at this time, James said you need to ensure you are winding down at least an hour before bed, focusing on becoming more relaxed and cooler.
He said: “Try a bath or shower an hour before bed, make sure you are ready for bed and pets have been let out and doors locked so when you feel sleepy you can head straight off to bed.
“Maybe watch something funny or trashy, rather than the news or an engrossing box set.
“If you try to go to sleep and you cannot drop off after about 30 minutes then we need to rest your mind and stop it wandering.
“A great way to do this is to listen to something, a spoken word book, meditation app or music of less than 60 beats per minute and let that lovely feeling of being drowsy come.”
YOUR WEEKEND SLEEP ROUTINE
MattressNextDay created a three-day guide to resetting your body clock this weekend.
Today’s wake-up time: 10am
Today’s bedtime: 11pm
- Complete a 30-minute workout in the morning: Exercise has been shown to improve your sleep quality and duration of sleep.
- Drink at least 2 litres of water: Even mild dehydration can leave you feeling sleepy and tired, whilst negatively disrupting your mood.
- Use lighting to notify your brain of the different points in the day: Light plays a central role in regulating our body’s internal clock, signalling when to be alert and when to rest. Expose yourself to natural sunlight throughout the day then dim the lights when the sun winds down.
- If you’re struggling to sleep, try this five-minute hack: Known as the Cognitive Shuffle, you should list random items in your head that are easy to visualise, non-threatening and not directly related i.e. potatoes, Tarzan, a violin. This will tire your brain out and help keep your mind off issues preventing you from sleeping.
Today’s wake-up time: 8am
Today’s bedtime: 11pm
- As soon as you wake up, open your curtains: Bright light signals your brain to stop producing the sleep hormone, melatonin, which makes you feel drowsy.
- Go for a walk: Even just 10 minutes spent in the sun can boost your serotonin and stop you from feeling sleepy and sad.
- Refrain from drinking any alcohol: While alcohol can make you feel sleepy due to its sedative properties, it lowers your sleep quality.
Today’s wake-up time: 6/7am. (depending on what time you normally get up for work)
Today’s bedtime: 10pm
- Eat breakfast: Breakfast plays an important role in your wakefulness. Try to stick to a balanced breakfast with protein and healthy fats for an energy boost. i.e. eggs, plain, lean meat, avocado.
- Restrict caffeine: Never drink coffee five hours before bed and stick to two coffees max.
- Reduce stress: When you’re stressed, your body produces more of the stress hormone, cortisol. The higher the cortisol, the more awake you feel. Yoga, stretching, meditation, deep breathing, or a hot bath are proven to help you relax.
- Play rain sounds: Steady rainfall noises are just one example of how to help lure the brain into falling asleep as they are predictable, calming, stable, non-threatening and can block outside noises.
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