Healthy sleep habits are not confined to the bedroom. Clocking a restful eight hours extends far beyond your home life, and bad habits throughout the day may well be inhibiting your shut-eye when the lights go out.
Leading sleep fatigue specialist Dr Katharina Lederle has experience working with everyone from insomnia clients to international airlines, and is co-founder of Somnia, an organisation raising awareness about the importance of healthy sleep.
Here, she outlines eight things you can do throughout your waking day to enhance your night-time sleep, honing in on the habits you might not have realised keep you awake.
Know your water consumption window
There are a set of rules to hydration that Dr Lederle notices many who sleep poorly neglect. “The most important one is simple, if you want to minimize overnight trips to the toilet, reduce your intake of liquids in the evening,” she says. “If you’re getting up more than once a night to use the bathroom, try to stop drinking liquids altogether before you go to bed – a small sip of water is fine before you hit the lights.”
Time your coffee right
To get the most from your shut-eye, you’re going to need to take a more strategic approach to your caffeine intake. “Alertness and cortisol levels naturally rise in the morning, so do you really need a coffee first thing?” questions Dr Lederle, recommending instead that we wait until 10 am when cortisol levels begin to drop off. “I’d recommend timing caffeine for the early afternoon dip, but keep in mind that it’ll stay in your system for six to nine hours, so no later than 2.30 pm unless you need to be awake in the evening.
Get into an eating routine
Having a healthy diet and regular mealtimes could pay dividends when it comes to clocking a quality eight hours. “Eating consistently around the same time of day, every day will help your internal clock to stay entrained to the 24-hour light/dark cycle,” confirms Dr Lederle.
Expose yourself to daylight
Keeping your internal clock aligned with the external day, spending time outside and exposed to light is crucial. “Let the melanopsin in your eyes soak up as much sunlight as possible,” says Dr Lederle. “Just don’t forget to take the appropriate precautions to protect your skin from the sun.”
Do some exercise
Many studies have linked an active lifestyle to more efficient sleep, and Dr Lederle recommends it on a regular basis. “But try to time it in the early evening to avoid raising your body temperature too much before bed,” she recommends. “Exercise too close to your bedtime and you risk providing too much extra stimulation, making falling asleep more difficult.”
Manage your stress levels
Avoiding high-stress situations throughout your working day will help you sleep easier (and likely go home a happier person, too). Dr Lederle recommends regular mini-breaks throughout the day to minimize the chance of getting stressed. “Take 30 seconds to stop, become aware of the present, and check in with your environment,” she recommends. “Hopefully after a small break, your mindset will shift a little and you’ll begin to see things more clearly.”
A well-timed nap may be worth it
A well-timed power nap needn’t compromise your night-time sleep if timed correctly. “To avoid interference, try to time it no later than 3 pm, and try to limit it to 30 minutes,” recommends Lederle. A day-time nap can help you stay alert and provide a performance boost when you most need it, so if you feel you need to, do it.
Do one thing a day that makes you happy
Just one activity that you can look back on fondly at the end of the day and maintain a positive frame of mind will prove extremely beneficial when it comes to dozing off. “This can be a simple, easy-to-do activity that you find engaging and meaningful,” says Dr Lederle. “Something that makes you feel good about yourself and which, when you reflect upon it at the end of the day, puts a smile on your face.”
This article is adapted from “Sleep Sense: Improve Your Sleep, Improve Your Health” by Dr Katharina Lederle
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