All about sleepSleep, most people prefer to do it as long as possible. We spend just under a third of our lives sleeping. But how do you actually do that: sleep well and comfortably? In this section we address all kinds of questions about sleep. This week: what should and should not be done to sleep well?
Maybe it’s at the top of your list of resolutions: sleep well. But how do you actually do that? Counting sheep, listening to music or having a nightcap before going to sleep? Or better a warm bath?
Pay attention to daylight, temperature and nutrition
There are actually three factors that are important for good sleep, says Merijn van de Laar, sleep scientist and author of the book Sleep like a primeval man: environmental factors such as light and temperature, relaxation and sleep pressure. “What you have to pay attention to is that you get enough daylight during the day. Daylight often provides at least fifteen times as much light as office light. Daylight is important for your biological clock.”
So try to get enough daylight during the day and be careful with bright light sources in the evening. According to Van de Laar, a small lamp in your bedroom can already disturb your sleep. “So make sure that all light sources or charger lights are switched off at night.”
Make sure all charger lights are turned off at night
Window open or socks on?
Some people swear by sleeping with the window open while others prefer to sleep with socks on. Temperature affects your sleep quality, says Van der Laar. “You can sleep better when your body starts to cool down. Make sure your bedroom is not too hot and be careful with a hot bath before going to bed, as this disrupts the optimal relationship between skin temperature and core temperature.”
Socks in bed can help you sleep better if you have cold feet. “A rule of thumb is: keep your head cool and your feet warm.”
Just as your body needs time to wake up, it is also important that your body comes to rest before you go to bed, says Van der Laar. ,, Try not to eat a heavy meal two hours before you go to sleep and avoid or limit alcohol. It is also not smart to plan an intense workout just before you go to sleep, as this will put your body in an overstimulated state. It is better to walk quietly.”
And try not to have emotional conversations or heated discussions just before going to bed, says Van der Laar. “Your brain doesn’t rest that way.”
Try not to eat a heavy meal two hours before going to sleep
Have faith in yourself
Someone who knows all too well what you should and should not do to fall asleep properly is experience expert Jelmer Jepsen, who wrote the book together with somnologist and psychiatrist Alexander van Daele Never sleep again.
Jepsen suffered from chronic insomnia for years and indicates that it may be obvious for people with sleeping problems to drink wine, smoke weed or take a sleeping pill before bed, but that you should stay far away from it. “Alcohol, occasional blowing or sleeping pills helped me to fall asleep well in the short term, but in the end it will work against you.” Jepsen therefore advises that you should have confidence in your own ability to sleep.
If we want to sleep a little longer one night, we tend to go to bed extra early, but according to Jepsen you have to be careful: ,,What helped me is sleep restriction. I often went to bed at half past 9 because I thought: then I’ll just lie in it and increase my chance of sleep. But often I would lie awake for hours and only get annoyed because I couldn’t sleep.”
Build up a “sleep debt.”
Under the supervision of somnologist van Daele, Jepsen went to bed at 00:00 every evening for a longer period of time and got up again at 07:00. “In this way you reset your sleep and you build up a ‘sleep debt’, which makes it easier to go to bed earlier.”
Sleep scientist Van de Laar adds that it is indeed important to pay attention to your sleep pressure. “So be careful not to go to bed too early and watch TV for hours in bed, then you are not sleepy enough to fall asleep and you are probably just tossing and turning longer.” He explains that it takes your body an average of twenty to thirty minutes to fall asleep.
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