From expensive mattresses to sunrise raves and pillow sprays that promise a perfect slumber: sleep and waking up have never been more fetishised.
But when it comes to nailing the whole thing, it’s hard to know what advice to take – and what to disregard.
To cut through the noise, we asked sleep researcher and psychopharmacologist Dr Neil Stanley to reveal the real secrets to waking up refreshed, revived and ready for the day. Yes, even on Monday.
“Any positive day starts with a good night’s sleep,” he tells us. “I’m forever getting asked how people can get by with not much sleep. Everyone wants to spend less time in bed to be more productive – yet still reap the benefits of a good rest.”
Spoiler alert: that’s not the way to go about it. Here are the best ways to ensure that you hit the land of nod calmly and easily, so that smashing the next day is that much more possible.
Cultivate a positive mindset
The key is to think of sleep as a positive – something pleasurable, like taking a long, soothing bath. Think of it as “a seven-to-nine hour holiday every 24 hours,” Stanley says.
Each different sleep cycle can range from 70-120 minutes, so ignore any information that sleeping apps give you, as they can only offer rough guidelines. When viewing sleep as an activity for ‘self-care,’ we are already pre-setting our mind for an easier morning. And a positive outlook creates a brighter morning mood – it’s proven.
Make time for what matters
“If you can carve out the time to go to the gym to look after yourself, you can schedule the time for sleep,” Stanley states. As we know, sleep is one of the greatest ways to preserve our mental, physical and emotional health, yet it’s usually the first thing to slip when our days get hectic.
The key is to understand that snoozing isn’t ‘bankable’ – getting an extra hour on Sunday night won’t set you up for a week of burning the candle at both ends. Aim for a minimum of seven hours a night and be as strict about that as you would be catching your Saturday spin class.
Rest your brain and body the way you need to, to wake up to happier mornings.
Create the right sleeping environment
“Use your bed for sleeping,” as Stanley says. Yes, sounds obvious – but a lot of us are guilty of sitting and tapping away at mobile banking, Instagram and your notes app while under the duvet. Don’t.
Avoid the harsh blue light of your devices 45 minutes before you clamber into bed (the tones trick your brain into thinking it’s time to wake up, not wind down) and do your best to keep your bed for slumber and sex – nothing else.
Wind down properly
A quiet mind sets us up for an optimum sleep. Try 10 minutes of super gentle yoga poses or a hot bath with lavender oil. Stanley says: “I always read a (paper!) book before I nod off, and, if I wake up in the night, I pick it back up until I’m ready to sleep again.”
Do this, rather than reaching for your phone or staring at your clock and getting increasingly stressed about how long you have left before it’s time to get up.
Discover what works for you
“Some people (of which there are few) need four hours, others may need eleven,” Stanley explains. “If, by 11am, you are still focused, alert and awake, then you’ve had enough sleep.” Only you know your body well. Try sleeping at a certain time for two weeks straight, and if you’re lacking energy come 11am? Try setting off to sleep an hour earlier.