You may think that by keeping a regular bed time and getting up at the same time each day, you’re helping yourself get the best night’s sleep. And you’d be right. But there’s more to it than that. The activities we do during the day – when we eat, if we exercise, what we drink – all have a bearing. So we’ve put together a quick guide to help you link how your day’s activities affect your sleep, as well as ways you can introduce healthy sleep hygiene habits.
How does caffeine affect sleep? Should I cut out my morning latte?
While caffeine affects us all differently, it does have one consistent consequence: alertness. Once consumed, caffeine is very quickly absorbed and distributed through the body, and when it hits the brain, it really kicks into play — blocking the sleep-promoting adenosine receptors, in turn helping keep you alert and awake. Your favourite morning beverage is probably fine, but if you really want to give yourself the best chance of a good night’s sleep, it’s a good idea to limit caffeine intake after around 3pm.
Good to know. Is there a connection between sleep and eating?
Most definitely. Diet helps regulate your circadian rhythm (that’s your body clock), with some of the nutrients we get from protein-rich foods, helping to bring on sleep. Studies also show that eating less fibre, more saturated fat and more sugar throughout the day is linked with lighter, less restorative sleep, and more awakenings throughout the night. So following a healthy diet and making good nutrient choices through the day will help keep your circadian rhythm in check, giving you better slumber all round.
So, when should I stop eating before bed?
If you’re looking for things that might be affecting your sleep quality, a good place to start is the timing of your meals. Your body needs time to process food, so eating a large meal right before bed is likely to make you more restless as your digestive system does its thing. As a general rule, try to leave at least a three hour gap between your last meal and hitting the hay.
And how about a nightcap?
It can be tempting to think a late night drink will make you drowsy and bring on sleep quicker. And yes, it might. But problems can occur later on in the sleep cycle. As the enzymes in your liver break down the alcohol, the sedating effect wears off and your body ‘rebounds’, resulting in lighter, more disturbed sleep. Alcohol particularly disrupts the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep, which plays a crucial role in processing memories and emotions. So if you do drink, try to give your body time to process the alcohol before bedtime - about an hour for every unit consumed.
I’ll certainly try that. Now tell me, how does exercise affect sleep?
Exercise is an important factor in good sleep hygiene as it releases endorphins which can help bring on feelings of relaxation. It also provokes a sharp rise in body temperature followed by a gradual cooling, which mimics the natural fluctuations of the circadian rhythm and paves the way for sleep. However there is still some debate about the ‘right’ time of day to exercise for the best sleep. It’s a matter of trial and error, so try logging your exercise patterns and in turn, how you sleep, to help develop a routine that works best for you. Tip: you can do this in the Sleepwave app!
And what can I do if I have a lot on my mind before I go to bed?
Journaling can be part of a healthy wind-down routine to help you close the day. It’s not uncommon to wake up during the night thinking about tomorrow’s to-do list. Writing down your thoughts before bed is a great way to understand what’s on your mind and release any worries so that it doesn’t disrupt your sleep.
These are great tips! How can I remember them all?
Incorporate Sleepwave into your routine. Its breakthrough motion-sensing technology helps you track and improve your sleep, giving you accurate and in-depth analysis each night to build a picture over time. You can use the sleep note function in the app to record any activities from your day too, such as whether you’ve had alcohol or coffee, when and what you ate, what type of exercise you’ve done, how you’re feeling and even whether you’re menstruating (yes, your monthly cycle can affect your sleep too!). That way you can see what affects your sleep for better or worse, and develop a routine that works best for you.