Pillow sprays, “sleep tea,” and mindfulness are being touted as the answers to better sleep at night.
But poor sleepers should beware, as these ‘sleep hygiene’ solutions may make their problem worse, an expert has warned.
According to insomnia expert Kathryn Pinkham, a former NHS psychology practitioner.
It might be best to try a technique of “retraining” the biological clock by spending less awake time in bed and going to bed later, to increase the body’s “appetite” for sleep.
Speaking at the Postcards from Midlife Live event in London, Ms Pinkham said: ‘Most people who come to see me have tried everything – those will be their words – they bought everything, they changed everything, they read everything, and they still don’t sleep well.
According to insomnia expert Kathryn Pinkham, people who focus too much on their bedroom routine can become too “vigilant” when it comes to sleep. [Stock photo]
“If you think about the formula for determining where sleep problems come from, in fact, the more you do to try to improve it, the worse it’s going to get, because you’re trying too hard.”
“Sleep hygiene is things like giving up caffeine, giving up blackout blinds, giving up alcohol.
“It’s not bad advice, but it’s not a cure for lack of sleep.”
She added: “You have this long relaxing routine where ‘I have to take a bath, I have to do my yoga hour, I have to have a sleeping tea and I go and listen to my mindfulness.
“In fact, all you’re doing there is creating a really long (up) routine for not sleeping.”
Sleep expert, founder of The Insomnia Clinic, advises against people using digital sleep trackers if they feel anxious about being a poor sleeper, as this is just another example of ‘micromanagement’ some sleep.
Describing how people typically react to a few nights of bad sleep, she said: ‘We google it. The first thing we’d probably do would be go to bed earlier, maybe we’d buy a sleepy tea, maybe we’d buy a spray for our pillow.
About the effect of this approach to sleep, she added: “We go from having a sleeping pattern that works, from a biological clock that understands what to do, to being suddenly alert about something in which we we can’t really intervene. much or worse it is.
People need to change their relationship with their bed, so they don’t lie for hours on end if they can’t sleep, the expert says.
The sleep expert also advises people who are trying not to worry about their anxieties at night to take some time to think about them and maybe write them down.
Most people wake up at 2 or 3 a.m., and it’s unclear why these times are so common, but advice for people who are frustrated and anxious to wake up is to leave the bedroom, perhaps to read a book. or watch television, before returning. when they feel tired again.
Ms Pinkham said: ‘Rather than lying in bed desperately trying to calm down and feeling so edgy and stressed, forget about her.
“Give up the fight, get out of bed, do something else.”
Rather than going to bed earlier, the Insomnia Clinic advises them to try increasing their ‘sleep drive’ – the desire to sleep that builds as the day progresses – by using mild sleep deprivation in the short term, which should reset their biological clock.
Ms Pinkham said: ‘An example of sleep planning would be if someone goes to bed at 10 a.m. they get up for six hours for school and for work, but during that time they only get six hours of sleep. – maybe even broke too, maybe not all at once – what I would say is that right now you can only sleep six hours.
“So the two hours you’re in bed is the problem – it’s insomnia.
“So what I’m going to suggest is you can only have six hours right now, so instead we’re going to shorten your sleep window to six hours.
“So, for example, you’re not going to bed at midnight, and you’re going to set your alarm clock at six o’clock.
“So now when you get out of bed at six, you have those extra two hours to create a much higher sleep drive.”
The theory is that people can train their biological clocks much like we do with young children who don’t have a sleep pattern until learned.
And instead of lying awake in bed, people can use the extra time before going to bed at night, on a short-term basis, to get ahead on their to-do list or spend more time on a hobby. time.
The sleep expert also advises people who are trying not to worry about their anxieties at night to take time to think about them, and maybe write them down, during the day.
She says people should be realistic about the prospect of not sleeping perfectly every night.
And they shouldn’t complicate things too much with sleep hygiene techniques, with Ms Pinkham concluding: “If you don’t really like yoga before bed, but you do it because of sleep, let’s not bother doing it anymore.”
“If you don’t really like chamomile tea, we’ll get rid of it.
“A lot of it is about making a clean sweep.”