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5 ways to sleep better

Everyone sleeps, but we often aren’t getting enough, or good quality sleep. Poor sleep and sleep deprivation have been linked in recent research to obesity, diabetes, increased likelihood of Alzheimer’s and negative cognitive performance. Here are 5 ways you can help to improve your sleep quality and duration, which will not only have positive health benefits, but also leave you more motivated and engaged during the day - perfect for succeeding in your PhD!


1. Create a sleep schedule and stick to it. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Nick Littlehales suggests we should be counting ninety-minute sleep cycles, not hours. On average, 35 cycles per week is about right (5 cycles per night - 7.5 hours), but for you this might be more or less. So decide when you need to get up everyday, and count back in 90 minute chunks to work out when you should be going to sleep.


2. Turn the heating down. We sleep better in a slightly cooler bedroom. This is because our body temperature naturally decreases to help us fall asleep. If your bedroom is too warm, this makes getting to sleep harder. The optimum temperature is 15-17°C. The National Sleep Foundation says to think of your bedroom like a cave - it should be dark, quiet and cool to promote the best sleep. Blackout curtains can help make it nice and dark, these ones from Amazon come in different colours, and aren’t too expensive!


3. Wind down before bed. In order to sleep, we need melatonin. This is produced by your pineal gland, but in order to start producing melatonin, you need to have time away from artificial light. This means turning off the TV, phone, computer, tablet or any other device that produces blue light. Instead, sit and read a book until you’re ready to sleep. If you have to use devices in the evening, consider turning on f.lux or for Apple products, Night Shift, which warms the colours of the light being produced.


4. Listen to something to help you drop off. If you’re still having trouble actually getting to sleep, there are a couple of things you can try. The ‘Sleep With Me’ podcast features a guy with a really boring voice, who reads a story that gets progressively more boring. He is essentially boring you to sleep. One of my favourites is his recaps of this week’s Game of Thrones episode - ‘Game of Drones’ - discussing all the most boring parts of the episode. Another option is the ‘Shh...Sleep in Seconds’ app, available in iTunes and Google Play, which has options for a power nap, flight nap or full night’s sleep, and helps you to relax and take your mind away from whatever is worrying you. More expensive, but one that I have personally found amazing is the Dodow. It’s a little coaster shaped device designed by insomniacs that shines a light onto the ceiling. You breathe in and out with the light, which progressively gets slower, and it makes you fall asleep much faster. It’s a bit pricey, at £49, but they offer a 100-day money back guarantee, and I think it’s worth it to get a good night’s sleep!


5. Wake up properly! Yes, this is about sleep, but waking up properly is also key to feeling rested. If you are jolted awake by an alarm, this can leave you feeling groggy. An option to avoid this is using a wake-up light, like the lumie bodyclock, which is an alarm clock/light that gradually brightens to wake you up in the morning. This replicates sunrise, so is a more natural way to start your day! You can also use it to go to sleep, and it will gradually darken as you fall asleep, helping you drift off.


See if any of these methods can help you have a more restful sleep, leaving you productive and energised for the day ahead!


References

Barber, L. K. and Jenkins, J. S. 2014. 'Creating Technological Boundaries to protect Bedtime: Examining Work-Home Boundary Management, Psychological Detachment and Sleep'. Stress Health 30, 259-264.


Billari, F. C., Giuntella, O., Stella, L. 2019. 'Broadband internet, digital temptations, and sleep'. Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organization 153, 58-76.


Littlehales, N. 2016. Sleep. London: Penguin


National Sleep Foundation. n.d. 'The Ideal Temperature for Sleep'. Available at: www.sleep.org/articles/temperature-for-sleep/


National Library of Medicine (US). 2012. 'Tips for Getting a Good Night's Sleep'. NIH Medline Plus (online). Available at: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/magazine/issues/summer12/articles/summer12pg20.html


Walker, M. 2017. Why We Sleep. The New Science of Sleep and Dreams. London: Allen Lane.


Walker, M. 2017. 'Sleep the Good Sleep'. New Scientist. 14 October 2017, 30-33.

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