For some people, sleep comes so naturally they could probably do it with their eyes closed. For others, it’s a nightly series tossing, turning and ‘I may as well just stay awake until work now’. But if you don’t snooze, you lose. Not getting a full 40 winks has been shown to trigger a range of health issues including impaired cognitive function, weight gain and even depression. To help rack up those Zs, call lights out on these 10 kip-killing habits.
Ever woken up next to a dog? No like, an actual one. Well, a study by the medical research group Mayo Clinic showed that sharing a bed with a pet can lead to sleep deprivation. An animal’s sleep follows a different pattern to a human’s, so their lighter sleeping periods (which are usually accompanied by four kicking paws) means you’ll be awake for their cycle as well as yours.
Vitamins may do you good in the day, but they can be messing with your mind during the twilight hours. A study by Long Island University found that some supplements, namely B6, B12 and vitamin D, can trick the body into thinking it’s daytime and should be taken only in the morning.
Thinking Out Loud
Dipping in and out of a light stage of sleep is prime time for the brain to throw up all those annoying worries about deadlines and making rent. To reduce nighttime stress levels, Dr Colleen Carney, who worked on a study at Duke University, recommends using something called ‘stimulus control’. “Get up and go to another part of the house, but leave the lights off, then get back into bed. Your mind should have calmed down then.”
Nightcap No No
That glass of wine with dinner might feel like it’s relaxing you into drowsiness, but a study by the University of Maryland found that this is just a cruel trick. After the sleep-inducing effects wear off, alcohol becomes a stimulant as blood alcohol level begins to fall. For a silent night (without the rooming spin) avoid booze four to six hours before bed.
A lie in after a heavy Friday seems like a good way to sleep off those last five tequilas, but this usually does more harm than good. A late night followed by extra kip throws off the body’s internal clock for several days after, meaning you won’t sleep or eat properly until it’s back to normal. Stick to one extra hour of sleep then have a 30-minute siesta in the afternoon.
Snoring can reach 90 decibels – that’s as loud as a blender. If it’s you, don’t worry, studies haven’t found a link between a lack of sleep for snorers. But if it’s a partner, snoring has likely impacted on your slumber (and relationship). Dr Meir Kryger, director of research at Gaylord Sleep Center, says “Snoring comes and goes as the sleeper reaches REM stage (the most restful phase). Assuming you hit the hay at roughly the same time, you’ll be coming up to that phase at the same time. Which means less restful sleep for you.” The fix? Break up. Or invest in some earplugs.
A gruelling pre-summer diet is likely to slim down slumber faster than weight. “Going to bed hungry interferes with sleep, as hunger pangs are powerful enough to wake you up,” says Dr Peter Hauri from the Mayo Clinic. “Pick up some high-protein bedtime snacks like cheese or a hard-boiled egg, as protein will make you feel fuller than carbs or fat.”
Clean Up Your Act
The American Psychological Association found that a cluttered room makes for a cluttered mind – and it’s precisely this clutter that will keep you from kipping. “Stress is the number one cause of short-term sleep problems, so if you’re surrounded by things reminding you of stressful situations, put them away,” says sleep expert Dr Lawrence Epstein.
Light pollution is part and parcel of living in a city these days, but it could be keeping you from the sleep you deserve. “Even a small amount of brightness […] will upset the body’s internal clock, keep you awake for longer and make you more tired in the morning,” says sleep expert Dr Amy Wolfson. Investing in blackout blinds (or a satin eye cover, if you’re so inclined) will make an instant change to the quality of your sleep.
It’s Oh So Quiet
Opting for complete silence when chasing Zs can have a negative effect. “It’s not the sound or lack thereof that’s keeping you awake,” says Dr Thomas Roth, director of sleep research at Henry Ford Hospital. “You need something that will break the total silence meaning that you’re less likely to be disturbed.” A white noise machine or turning on a ceiling fan will do the trick.