Raise your hand if you want to sleep longer at night and not face endless awakenings? We think that about a third of us We will encounter sleep problems at some point in our lives. So if you’re struggling with interrupted sleep, take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone and that there are ways to learn how to sleep longer.
Fortunately, there are a number of tips you can try to help you fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. Here, Dr. Lindsay Browning, neuroscientist, licensed psychologist at Sleeping troubles and author of Navigating insomniatells us how to sleep longer.
Why do some of us suffer from interrupted sleep?
To understand if you suffer from interrupted sleep, let’s first look at what it entails. “Sometimes we are aware of waking up between sleep cycles, which is perfectly normal; normal sleep cycles last about 90 to 110 minutes and repeat throughout the night,” says Dr. Browning. “Other times we may wake up during a sleep cycle itself, which is more damaging to our sleep.
What is sleep maintenance insomnia?
“This is where someone falls asleep fine, but wakes up after a certain number of hours and is unable to go back to sleep in order to meet their nighttime sleep needs,” says Dr. Browning. “Someone can find themselves awake at 3 or 4 a.m. and unable to get back to sleep until a few hours later, so they didn’t get enough sleep that night.” If this sounds familiar, you may want to speak to a doctor or sleep specialist for further help.
“As long as your wake isn’t too long and you can get back to sleep fairly quickly, and as long as your sleep cycles themselves aren’t interrupted, then ‘interrupted sleep’ isn’t a major issue,” explains Dr. Browning. keep on going. However, some of us are unfortunately more susceptible to sleep disturbances causing problems.
“We’re more likely to be aware of waking up during the night if we’re stressed, if there are outside noises or disturbances, or if we’ve had a lot of alcohol to drink,” Dr. Browning reveals. “Awakenings also tend to become more noticeable as we age.”
Do our sleep cycles and needs change with age?
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘sleep like a baby’, and it’s true that this is the age when we need the most sleep; about 14-17 hours a day, actually. This amount gradually decreases as we age, but it’s not just the recommended amount of sleep that changes with age.
“Our sleep cycles themselves change as we age, as we tend to sleep less soundly,” Dr. Browning tells us. “Children have a much deeper sleep than adults, and as we age our deep sleep tends to decrease. older adults (65 and older) probably only need seven to eight hours.
How to sleep longer: tips for falling asleep and staying asleep
So what can we do to help us fall asleep in the first place and, more importantly, stay asleep longer through the night? Here, Dr. Browning outlines seven expert tips that should have you sleeping soundly in no time…
1. Don’t drink alcohol before bed
There’s a common misconception that drinking alcohol at night can help us sleep better but, as Dr. Browning explains, that’s unlikely to be the case. “Alcohol is a sedative, but it also disrupts your sleep at night,” she says. “It’s not a good idea to use alcohol to help you sleep because even if you fall asleep faster, your sleep will be negatively affected for the rest of the night.”
2. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon
We all know it’s not a good idea to have that espresso after dinner if we want to get a good night’s sleep. “Caffeine is a stimulant that keeps your body from realizing how much sleep you need,” says Dr. Browning. “Therefore, you may find it difficult to fall asleep if you’ve had caffeine, because your body won’t think it needs it.”
But while we should avoid caffeinated drinks and snacks before bed (we’re sorry to report that there’s also caffeine in chocolate), it may also be a good idea to avoid them during sleep. daytime. “Caffeine has a half-life of about six hours, so it’s a good idea to avoid caffeine within six hours of bedtime,” Dr. Browning advises.
3. Create a bedtime routine and stick to it
There’s a reason sleep training for babies involves sticking to a rigorous routine; it really helps close your eyes. “Having a bedtime routine helps your brain and body prepare for the night, because you’re giving it constant signals that bedtime is approaching,” says Dr. Browning.
And is there anything in particular that we should include in our adult bedtime routine? “Incorporating relaxing elements, like a bath or reading a book, will help your brain and body be in a more relaxed state ready for sleep.”
4. Go to bed and wake up at the same time
It’s not the most fun solution to fixing interrupted sleep, but sticking to a specific bedtime and wake-up time could really make all the difference in helping you learn to sleep longer.
“Our circadian rhythm loves routine, and we fall asleep and stay asleep better when we go to bed and wake up regularly at the same time each day,” says Dr. Browning. “By shifting our bedtimes and waking times day by day, we’re essentially giving ourselves jet lag.” You heard it here first: no more late mornings on weekends.
5. Avoid electronic devices
You may find it hard to put down your phone or tablet before bedtime, but electronic devices can interfere with our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep in two main ways. “First, the devices often emit blue-frequency LED light which has a particular impact on our ability to produce melatonin (our sleep hormone),” says Dr. Browning.
“When our eyes are exposed to bright blue frequency light, our brain interprets this as evidence that it is daytime and is actively trying to keep us awake by shutting down melatonin production.
“Second, if we browse social media or check our work emails in bed, it will distract us and engross us in the content, and we may forget to stop and fall asleep.” So try to avoid using your devices about an hour before bedtime and keep them out of the bedroom if you can.
6. Try not to nap
There’s nothing more appealing after a night of interrupted sleep than settling down for a nap, but Dr. Browning warns that it could do more harm than good for your overall sleep.
“If you take a nap during the day, you won’t need as much sleep at night. Therefore, if you nap because you have trouble sleeping at night, it can lead to a vicious cycle,” she explains.
“Taking a long nap, or taking a nap later in the day, can be particularly harmful to our ‘sleep hunger’ at night. An evening nap on the sofa in front of the TV can significantly impair our ability to fall asleep when we go to bed, even if the nap on the couch was short.
7. Consider your comfort in bed
It makes sense that a soft, comfortable bed can help improve sleep, so if you’re struggling with interrupted sleep, it might be time to audit every part of your bed. “If your mattress or pillows aren’t providing the right level of support for your sleeping style, or if they’re too old and have lost their composition, it’s likely that your sleep will suffer,” says Dr. Browning.
“You may have trouble falling asleep if you can’t feel comfortable, or you may wake up more frequently at night if you feel pain or are uncomfortable. Generally, a mattress has a lifespan of approximately seven to eight years and should be replaced after this period.
“In addition, pillows and duvets need to be washed regularly to stay hygienic as they can absorb a lot of sweat and other bodily matter overnight. If you’re too hot or too cold in bed, your duvet may not be the right one. You may want to change the thickness of your duvet from winter to summer, and if you are too cold in bed while your partner is too hot, you might consider using two single duvets separated in thicknesses. different, so that you are both comfortable.
For help, check out our guide to the best mattresses, as well as our list of the best pillows and duvets for a more comfortable sleep.
Ultimately, learning how to sleep longer is worth the effort because even with a few simple changes to your diet and lifestyle, you’ll soon know you can make a big difference to your sleep, and it will help you feel healthier. and happier in the days too.
Meet the expert
Dr Lindsay Browning, BSc MSc (Oxon) CPsychol AFBPsS, is a licensed psychologist, neuroscientist, sleep expert and author of Navigating Insomnia: How to Sleep Deeper and Better for Longer. Dr. Browning founded his sleep clinic, Sleeping troubles, in 2006 to help people improve their sleep and well-being through sleep therapy based on the universally recognized cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). Dr. Browning is a graduate in neuroscience and psychology and holds a PhD from Oxford University where she studied the relationship between insomnia and worry.
This article is part of Tom’s Guide’s Sleep Week 2022 celebration, until Saturday, March 19. Stay tuned for lots of sleep tips, advice, and expert-reviewed products to help you sleep better this year.