Expert offers tips ahead of World Sleep Day

What would Dr Kat do?

Many struggle to fit in the right amount of sleep which leads to a negative affect on their overall night habits. You can read more about this here

This World Sleep Day (Friday March 18th), leading Sleep Scientist Dr Kat Lederle of Somnia tells us what she does to get a good night’s sleep, how she avoids strict routines, and manages her busy schedule without the use of an alarm clock.

How can I ensure I achieve consistent nourishing sleep?

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“Don’t worry about it! Sleep can’t be controlled, you can’t will yourself to sleep; if you try to force or control sleep, it’s likely to backfire. Focusing on what you can control in your lifestyle choices will help you enjoy healthy sleep.”

What is a night-time routine that works for you?

“I dim the lights from early in the evening. When I read in bed, I have a bed-time light bulb that emits warmer light. I stop eating anything by 8pm to give my digestive system time to do its job before I go to sleep.

In addition, I aim to shut off electronic devices by 9pm. There are times when I can’t stick to it, but I don’t beat myself up about it.”

How do I avoid overthinking at night-time? 

“If unwanted thoughts show up when I’m about to fall asleep, I’ve learned to acknowledge them for what they are, just thoughts.

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Sometimes uncomfortable feelings that show up, so I become an observer of those too. I don’t distract myself or push them away. Instead, I take a breath, thank the mind for its concern and let it know what this is not helpful for me right now. I bring my attention back to the present moment by checking in with my breath.”

How do you feel about rules and routine?

“Applying rules can have the opposite effect, but ensuring you incorporate regularity in your sleep times, your exercise, your exposure to light (and dark), mealtimes, and maybe even regular social interactions can all directly and indirectly support your sleep. I actually start preparing for my sleep the moment I wake up. I have a cup of tea and listen to the radio. Only then I will check my phone and email. I also aim to go for a short walk in the morning or by lunch time at the latest.”

How do you prepare your environment for sleep?

“I love my bed! I look forward to getting into bed and reading a few pages every night. I like space around me, so there’s no clutter in the bedroom.

Light is important for the circadian rhythm, but I keep a little crack here and there so some light can come through in the morning as the sun rises. This helps me to feel alert on waking”.

Can lack of sleep affect your weight? 

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“There are various reasons for weight gain, and lack of sleep is likely to play a role in some of these too. Lack of sleep plays havoc with your appetite hormones for example. But it also further depletes your capacity to practice self-control and affects how your brain rewards your for eating highly palatable, calorie-dense types of food.”

What time do you go to sleep and wake up?

My sleep time varies a little between summer and winter. I turn the lights out somewhere between 10:15-10:45pm depending on the intensity of my day. During the darker period of the year, I wake up around 7ish but when days get lighter, I can be awake closer to 6am. I don’t use an alarm clock unless I have a plane to catch or a very early start with work.”

What do you do during the day to look after your sleep at night?

“My typical routine includes going for a daily walk or bike ride as natural light and movement are my essential ingredients for feeling calm. That allows me to see clearly what’s going on for me and how best to respond to what life is giving me.

What can negatively impact your sleep?

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“Stress is a major disruptor and so are worry and anxiety. If you can’t do anything about the stress arising during the day, give yourself the opportunity to wind-down in the evening.”

“Working until close to bedtime is never a good idea. I always have some down-time however short. I do something that I enjoy, like reading or having a cup of peppermint tea while looking at the stars.”

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