Sleep: it’s free. And we all want more of it, so why is it so hard to get? Specifically – that consistent, restorative, uninterrupted, eight-hours-a-night kinda sleep. Which is why we’ve enlisted Sydney-based sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo to solve our myriad of sleep concerns with our Sleep Well Wednesdays series. Check back every fortnight and you’ll be off to the land of nod before you know it.
You’re tired of being tired and exhausted by consequences of lack of sleep such as brain fog, moodiness and an inability to switch off. You’re out of solutions and at the end of your tether. Sound familiar?
I hear this with my clients repeatedly, and also watch their repeated shock when I reveal the reasons why. Because you might not realise it, but you make common and avoidable sleep mistakes each night.
I will reveal them below so you can earn some much-needed sleep.
1. You’re watching TV to fall asleep
You’re smart enough to avoid your phone before bed, but you’re winding down with the TV. While this helps you fall asleep (seemingly, at least), you notice through the night, you’re waking with a chaotic stream of thoughts, unable to return to a sweet slumber.
This is no coincidence. Research indicates those watching TV are the most likely to experience nighttime wakings. Though it ‘feels’ relaxing, biochemically, it’s not. TV, like your phone, emits blue light, a spectrum of light that suppresses our sleepiness hormone melatonin.
As this hormone is responsible for helping us fall asleep, stay asleep and sleep deeply, if you aren’t producing optimal amounts, you’ll struggle in one or all, of those areas.
2. You’re wearing transparent blue light-blocking glasses at night
Kudos to you if you’re wearing blue light glasses at night as it’s a step in the right direction! However, you may be short-changing your sleep without even knowing it if you’re wearing clear lenses. Clear lenses only block out 40 to 50 per cent of blue light.
Comparatively, the orange and red lenses block out 100 per cent of blue light, so if you’re wearing the clear version, you’re only half as protected. Considering that a 2018 clinical trial found using 100 per cent blue light glasses reduced symptoms of insomnia by 20 per cent, so you want to make sure you’re wearing the right glasses, not the clear ones.
3. You’re sipping green tea or chai in the afternoon.
You’ve ditched coffee in an attempt to improve your shut eye, and instead, have turned to a gentle green or calming chai tea. While this a great step forward, it’s far from ideal.
Green tea contains approximately one third of the caffeine of coffee, making it problematic for sleep. Similarly, chai tea, typically, is created using black tea leaves as a base, so it will contain half the caffeine of coffee.
Remember, caffeine suppresses a sleep-promoting hormone called adnoesine, which is why after 12 pm, we want to cut it out completely from all sources.
4. You’re training after finishing work (at 8pm)
You planned to get a workout in after work, which was meant to be around 5 pm. However, you got tangled in an email chain and it’s now 8 pm, and you’ve only just closed your laptop.
Being aware that regular exercise supports sleep, you lace up your trainers and push on, even though you’re exhausted. Then, you get home, and instead of being fatigued, you’re fresh and fired up. Does this resonate?
If this is you, while I commend you on knowing that exercise benefits sleep (because it does!), and taking action accordingly, I’m sorry to say that 8 pm is simply too late to train.
Even if it’s not a HIIT session, it will raise your core body temperature, which consequently delays the production of melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep with ease.
5. You don’t have a bedtime routine
Just like a morning routine sets you up for the day, your bedtime routine sets you up for the night. Ultimately, a quality bedtime routine will promote melatonin production, reduce cortisol and help you feel calm, content and cosy.
On the other hand, an irregular or erratic bedtime routine, or one filled with TV, laptops and phones, will stimulate you and create chaos for sleep. Of course, we have all been on holiday, so I appreciate that your bedtime routine may have been left behind in 2022, and if it has, now’s a good time to reinstate it.