NHS surgeon Dr. Karan Raj is a social media star with 4 million TikTok followers
Do you toss and turn in bed at night, plagued with fear as the day ahead draws closer?
Or getting up early, not sleeping as long as you’d like or never feeling completely rested?
Every day I get messages from people who are distracted by insomnia and other sleep problems.
The good news is that you can try many simple tricks that really help – and they won’t cost you a cent!
In fact, many of us don’t realize that our daily habits often CAUSE sleep problems. Not convinced? Read on to make sure you’re not a serial killer…
The best foods for a good night’s sleep? Eat a varied, high-fiber diet with plenty of gut-friendly foods such as cultured yogurt, fermented products, fruits and vegetables (stock image)
RESISTANCE TO THOSE ‘SLEEPING’ FOOD
We’ve all heard of the so-called ‘carbohydrate coma’ that certain foods like bread and pasta can cause – which is why many people take it right before bedtime.
The theory is that carbohydrates are eventually broken down into melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that – it’s not about everything that’s in your blood going to your brain.
What probably happens when you eat before bed is that you get heartburn that keeps you awake.
This is because you lie down on a full stomach, there is still a lot of food in it and that – along with the stomach acid digesting your food – will travel back up your esophagus and give you a burning pain under your ribs.
The best foods for a good night’s sleep? Eat a varied, high-fiber diet with plenty of gut-friendly foods such as cultured yogurt, fermented products, fruits and vegetables.
A thriving, diverse gut microbiome has been shown to be beneficial for a good chicken.
Blue light from all screens slows melatonin production, so try a bedtime book instead (stock image)
EXCHANGE YOUR PHONE FOR A BOOK…
I know, I know, I’m a TikTok-er – but I’m going to say that screens an hour before bedtime (even two hours) are bad news.
I’m not telling you to look at me or NOT read this article on your phone, TV or laptop – it’s just time to get it right. This is because blue light from all screens will slow down the production of melatonin.
‘Yes, yes,’ I hear you say. Well, every hour of technology slows the production of melatonin by about three hours. THREE HOURS! Do you have blue light-blocking glasses or screen filters, you say?
Trust me, they really don’t do much – just stop using the screen! I’ve always loved a book to help me drift off – a few pages and my eyes get heavy.
Go on, go old-fashioned! Not a bookworm? Instead, do a little meditation and some breathing exercises.
Avoid anything overly stimulating or distracting to keep you from falling asleep. You want peace – or even boring (stock image)
….AND AVOID EXCITING TV
It’s not just blue light that’s to blame — watching something like a horror or thriller before bed can get your heart rate up, which you really don’t want.
Avoid anything overly stimulating or distracting. You want peace – or even boring.
Try the opposite instead of forcing yourself to fall asleep. It’s a trick called paradoxical intention (stock image)
TRY *DO NOT* FALL ASLEEP
Do you lie there brooding as every hour ticks by, more and more and more anxious?
Try the opposite instead of forcing yourself to fall asleep. It’s a trick called paradoxical intent.
By trying to stay awake I don’t mean watching Netflix or playing on your phone. I mean, lie there really still and tell yourself, ‘I’m staying awake.’
Your body then does the opposite and you should eventually tire and drift away.
The adrenaline of exercise raises your blood pressure and heart rate, which is not directly compatible with good, healthy sleep (stock image)
AVOID GOING TO BED AFTER A WORKOUT
A lot of people think, ‘Oh, I’m going to exercise right before bed, I’m totally exhausted and I’ll sleep well because I’m tired.’
But this is a misconception. Because the adrenaline of exercise raises your blood pressure and heart rate, you’re likely to be in a “pumped up,” hectic mood right after, which isn’t directly compatible with good, healthy sleep.
What your body needs as it drifts into the sleep stages is a lowered heart rate, lower blood pressure, lower body temperature, and generally a calm state of mind. So try to exercise earlier in the day – the morning is best.
If the only time you can exercise is at 9pm, that’s fine. It is better to exercise than not at all.
But then try to relax a bit, allow yourself a few hours to relax before going to bed or just opt for lighter exercises such as stretching exercises.
Taking a nap during the day lowers levels of a chemical called ADP, which prevents you from falling asleep at bedtime (stock image)
NO NAP AFTER 4PM
Don’t get me wrong, I love a nap — and I actively encourage others to take a nap.
But don’t do more than 90 minutes. That’s a whole sleep cycle and the perfect length. And, as with many things in life, it’s all about timing.
Taking a nap too late can disrupt your sleep. This is because to lose weight, you need something called sleep pressure — a high level of a chemical called ADP, or adenosine diphosphate.
The more this rises, the greater the sleep pressure and the sleepier you become.
Taking a nap reduces ADP, so if you do this too close to bedtime, you’re going to lower ADP and not have enough sleep pressure to fall asleep when it comes to bedtime.
Coffee increases alertness because it blocks the ADP receptors that make us sleepy (stock image)
AND NO COFFEE AFTER 2 PM
Yes, the mid-afternoon slump often requires a nice, invigorating caffeine boost, but you’re likely to regret it later in the day, especially if you’re already a bad sleeper.
Coffee increases alertness because it blocks the ADP receptors that make us sleepy.
But up to eight hours later, you still have half the caffeine in your system, which means you may not have enough sleep pressure to lose weight.
Warm water quickly lowers your body temperature when you get out of the shower, aiding sleep (stock image)
TAKE A HOT SHOWER BEFORE BED
As counterintuitive as this may sound, this helps because it quickly lowers your body temperature when you get out of the shower — and we need a drop in body temperature to fall asleep.
You can also lower the temperature of your room by keeping a window open.
So that’s where my good snooze guide ends.
I did my best to make it as captivating as possible, but don’t worry if you didn’t manage to stay awake the entire piece. I certainly won’t sleep.