With COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to get a good night’s rest, because of the link between our sleep and our immunity. Here are Dr Michael Mosley's top tips.
I’ve been obsessed with sleep for decades and have personally tried almost everything under the sun to help with my insomnia.
With COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to get a good night’s rest, because of the link between our sleep and our immunity. We know that during deep sleep, our body makes a type of protein that targets viral infections and not getting enough shuteye suppresses infection-fighting antibodies.
So, here are my top tips on how to keep your sleep and immune system in good shape from home.
TIP 1: STICK TO A SLEEP WINDOW
Sleep should be a habit and a massive part of that is your wake up and go to bed routine. That’s called your sleep window. I go to bed at 11pm and wake up at 7am and I aim to do that every day of the week. Forget the weekend lie in or staying up late on a Friday. Sticking to a sleep window keeps your body’s urge to sleep consistent and that results in better sleep efficiency, which is the proportion of time you spend asleep in bed rather than lying awake or tossing about.
TIP 2: CUT THE CLUTTER
Your bedroom is for sleep and for sex – nothing else. If you have a TV in your bedroom, get rid of it. And don’t take your mobile to bed or you’ll be tempted to use it. It’s not an issue of the blue light keeping you up, it’s that you excite your brain, so avoid these activities in the hour leading up to bedtime.
TIP 3: PUT THE BISCUIT DOWN
I did an experiment on myself that showed two nights of sleep deprivation alters my hunger hormones, leaving me ravenous, as well as causing an escalation of stress hormone, cortisol. As a result, my blood-sugar levels soar into the diabetic range. Poor sleep, then, leads directly to overeating, weight gain and increases your risk of type 2 diabetes. So put the biscuit down and cut out sugary foods at night. If you’re sleeping better, you’ll notice your cravings for these foods will also subside.
TIP 4: STOP EATING
In fact, you should stop eating altogether at least three hours before bed. Experts think this helps us keep our body temperatures down. As we get to our bedtimes, our body temperature starts to drop which helps trigger sleep. When a late-night snack hits your stomach, your body starts breaking it down and absorbing it. This increases gut activity and your core temperature will stay high, so don’t bother with the pre-bed hot chocolate or glass of milk. These are common myths.
TIP 5: EXERCISE EARLY
Not only does resistance exercise help with sleep quality it also improves anxiety and depression, which will in turn help you sleep better. I like to exercise first thing in the morning and it’s worth getting straight out into the early morning light. Your sleep clock is reset every day by bright morning light, which tells your body that the day has begun.
TIP 6: SUB OUT SUPPLEMENTS
Over-the counter supplements don’t really help with your sleep long term. Some small studies show magnesium could help elderly people sleep faster, but you’d be better off eating magnesium-rich foods like avocadoes, leafy greens and nuts. Valerian, sometimes taken as a tea, has no long-term studies to back its use and there’s limited evidence for essential oils like lavender, but if it makes you focus on the lovely scent rather than your worries, go for it!