Dr Michael Mosley on the importance of routine for sleep
Between keeping your heart healthy and improving your brain function, the importance of a good night’s sleep for your health goes completely unquestioned.
However, some struggle to get quality shut-eye, with the NHS stressing that one in every three people in the UK will suffer from episodes of insomnia at some point in their life.
Fortunately, Dr Michael Mosley has shared five simple tips for better sleep on his podcast, Sleep Well.
1. Slow your breathing
The podcaster shared the first step is taking slow, deep breaths as this works by tapping into a cluster of cells deep in the brain, called the locus coeruleus.
If you can’t seem to fall asleep, and your mind is racing, it’s because the locus coeruleus is active, releasing a hormone called noradrenaline (the wake-up chemical) all around your brain.
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Speaking on the podcast, Prof Ian Robertson, from Trinity College Dublin, explained that his team discovered that you can slow the locus coeruleus just by slowing your breathing.
Dr Mosley added: “I recommend you try belly breathing. Put one hand on your chest, and the other just below the rib cage.
“As you breathe in you should feel the hand on the belly rise, while the hand on your chest remains relatively still.
“It’s a great way to calm things right down if you’re struggling to get to sleep, or have woken up with your mind racing in the middle of the night.”
2. Use the morning light
In the second episode of Sleep Well, Dr Mosley focuses on the circadian rhythm, which describes a natural internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours.
According to research, the time you wake up in the morning has a great impact on this body clock.
Dr Christine Clume, a sleep scientist from Switzerland, explained you need to reset your body clock every day, which can be achieved by exposing yourself to daylight.
Dr Mosley explained: “We have receptors at the back of our eye which are not used for seeing.
“When light hits the eye, it excites receptors at the back of the eye that detect light and send signals to a region of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, your ‘master’ body clock.
“A burst of morning light halts the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin, and signals to the body that the day has begun.
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“A morning signal will kick-start a cascade of events so that around twelve hours later, melatonin starts to rise, preparing your body for a deep rest.”
3. Enjoy your bed
While this tip might seem counter-productive at first, Dr Mosley recommended getting up from your bed if you can’t doze off.
Not spending time in your bed when you don’t sleep can help stop your brain from making an association that your bed is a place where you don’t sleep.
The doctor explained that this is called stimulus control and is proven to reduce insomnia and deliver long-lasting effects.
Sadly, this practice also means that it’s time to say goodbye to TV sessions from the comfort of your bed.
4. Warm up to cool down
Latest research suggests that people who have a hot bath before bed seem to fall asleep 36 percent quicker, have better slumber and feel more rested, according to Dr Mosley.
Anna Wirz-Justice, a professor at the University of Basel, shared it’s crucial to warm up your hands and feet, so a hot water bottle or socks could also do the trick.
5. Listen to your body
Speaking on the podcast, Professor Nicole Tang, from the University of Warwick, explained that some simply need more sleep than others, so you should stop looking at clocks at night and worrying about how much shut-eye you’re getting.
“One size definitely does not fit all, your body will tell you if you are getting enough,” Dr Mosley said.
What’s worse, worrying about meeting the eight-hour target could trigger anxiety, which could be contributing to insomnia.
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