Six secrets of sleeping well

If getting some shuteye is becoming a challenge, take a few tips from deep sleepers.

By Donna Fleming

According to a recent study, 60% of people aren’t getting enough sleep. If that’s you, and you’re jealous of those good sleepers who are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, here’s how you can do it too.

Most healthy adults need at least eight hours of sleep each night to function at their best.

Six secrets of well-rested people

1) *They have bedtimes -* Our bodies like routine because it means our natural circadian rhythms (internal body clock) can do what they’re designed to do, which is regulate sleepiness and wakefulness. If you go to bed every night at the same time and get up at the same time, your body will get into a pattern and you’ll rest better. If your patterns are disrupted, your quality of sleep suffers.

2) *They don’t lie in -* While a regular bedtime is important, so too is a regular wake-up time. This programmes your circadian rhythms so you’ll feel tired at the right time at the other end of the day. If you sleep in at weekends, you’re likely to stay up later that night, which can throw your body clock out of kilter. No wonder you’re feeling tired by the time Monday rolls around. Remember, if you have a routine during the week and are getting adequate sleep, you shouldn’t need to catch up on extra sleep at the weekend.

3) *They take naps - *If you haven’t managed to get enough sleep the night before, a nap can make a world of difference, improving your alertness, creativity and productivity. But there’s an art to snoozing. You shouldn’t leave it too late in the day – many experts recommend before 4pm, because you may not feel tired when you go to bed a few hours later. And you should limit your shuteye to 30 minutes – or else you’ll start to move into the deep sleep phase, which will leave you feeling groggy when you wake up.

4) *They’re active - *People who are physically active sleep better than couch potatoes. According to one US research project, 80% of people who exercised vigorously reported that they slept well, compared to 56% of people who were sedentary. And you don’t have to run a marathon to noticethe benefits – 76% of people who did light exercise said they slept well.

5) *They eat well - *The quality of your sleep can be affected by what you eat and drink, and when. Coffee and other caffeinated drinks later in the day can keep you awake, and while alcohol can help some people nod off, it is linked to disrupted sleep later in the night. Eating a big meal close to bedtime is a bad idea because it stimulates your metabolism, which can keep you awake. But a warm, milky drink can help, because it contains tryptophan. The body converts this to serotonin, which can make you sleepy.

6) *They switch off - *Around 95% of people use an electronic device, such as a phone, tablet, laptop or TV, in the hour before going to bed. But the artificial light emitted by these devices can send a signal to the brain that it’s still daytime. It messes with your circadian rhythms and stops your brain releasing the hormones that make you sleepy, so you find it harder to nod off. And never look at a screen in bed before going to sleep. If you use your bed for just sleep and sex, your brain will associate it with those activities only and find it easier to switch off.

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