As the days shorten into winter, our body’s circadian network responds biochemically to mark the change and tells our body to sleep more in order to sync with the external world. At least, that’s the idea.
But the quality of our sleep so often intertwined with the electronic devices we use and the irregular work patterns we keep. Many of us find it difficult to fall asleep after busy days full of prolonged exposure to tech, especially screens that emit blue lights (like our cell phones). And that’s not even to mention the impact of the food we eat and the fitness regimes we do – or don’t – follow.
Want to know how you can aim for a full night’s sleep when the clocks go back? Here are some of the most common mistakes to avoid.
Using technology before bed
“Whether it is a new episode of your favourite show, a meme that your friend sent over or a working email that you are eager to answer, it can probably wait till tomorrow,” say the team at Morphee, which makes sleep aids for adults and children
“Co-dependence of your phone is the number one enemy for making designated time to rewind your body before sleep. Make a short list of things that need your attention and turn your phone onto “don’t disturb” mode before going to bed so you won’t fall into another doom-scrolling rabbit hole.”
Not creating a comfortable sleeping environment
“Although it is exceedingly obvious, we should avoid any distractions if we aim to sleep better at night,” the Morphee team add.
“We often ignore the environment around us because we are so used to our living conditions. Whether it is noise, scent, temperature or even your bed sheets, be aware of your sleep environment so you can identify any potential distractions that will keep you at night. Fix it if you need to.”
Getting into bed without having a shower or bath
“Numerous studies have lead credibility for warm baths promoting sleep quality at night. The human body is conditioned to associate colder temperatures with sleep, so when your body temperature drops after a hot bath, it will automatically tell your brain it is time for your body to rest,” say the Morphee team.
“Put on some soothing music and have a few drops of essential oil in the water. Not only will it help you get sleepy, but also helps you soothe and relax after a long day.”
Working out in the evening
It’s typically recommended that we should avoid vigorous exercise at least 90 minutes before bedtime. Try and work earlier to avoid a restless sleep.
“Avoid workouts that make you break a sweat an hour before bedtime,” Stephen Light, a certified sleep science coach, previously told HuffPost UK.
“This could be cardio, heavy lifting or high-intensity interval training Instead opt for workouts like pilates, yoga or an evening walk if you feel the need to expend some extra energy. Workouts focused on easing muscle tension can help you avoid aches and pains that may keep you awake in discomfort.”
Eating before bed
Yes we all love a late-night snack but eating before bed can disturb your sleep. A study published in the journal Obesity in 2011 found that taking in calories after 8pm could not only increases the risk of obesity, but also shorten sleep duration.
Acid reflux and other stomach problems from eating too late could affect sleep, too, especially if you have to get up to go to the bathroom frequently. Sorry, you’re going to have to satisfy those cravings in the morning.
Put the the heating on before bed
“Although it can be tempting to turn the heating up to full to keep your room cosy, having your bedroom too warm throughout the night can impact on the quality of your sleep,” sleep expert Alison Jones, from mattress brand Sealy UK, previously told HuffPost UK.
“The optimum temperature during the night to ensure good quality sleep is 16-18°C, so it’s important to remember to turn down the heating with enough time to allow your room to cool.”
Not investing in some winter nightwear
Jones says what we choose to wear to bed has a direct impact on how hot or cold we are while asleep: “Summer nightwear, such as shorts and night dresses, aren’t always appropriate for the winter months, however wrapping up in multiple layers can also be disruptive to your sleep if your temperature soars.”
Consider long silk pyjama sets, she says, that help to preserve warmth whilst still being a lightweight option. It can’t hurt to feel a little more glam, too!
Winter calls for us to take greater care of ourselves and each other at this time of year, from our health and homes to our headspace and matters of the heart. Whether you’re seeking motivation or hibernation, HuffPost UK’s Winter Well series is here to help you through the short days and the longer months.