Pillow sprays, ‘sleep tea’ and mindfulness are being sold as the answers to getting a better night’s sleep.
But poor sleepers should be careful, as these “sleep hygiene” solutions are likely to make their problem worse, an expert has warned.
People who become overly obsessed with their bedroom routine — tricks like chamomile tea, pillow spray, a bedtime bath, blackout curtains and yoga — can become too “vigilant” about sleep, according to the insomnia expert Kathryn Pinkham, a former NHS psychologist.
It might be best to try a technique of ‘retraining’ your body clock by spending less time awake in bed and going to bed later, to increase your body’s ‘appetite’ for sleep.
Speaking at the Midlife Live Postcards event in London, Ms Pinkham said: “Most people who come to me have tried everything, those will be their words, bought everything, changed everything, read everything, and still they are not sleeping well.
(File Image) People who fixate too much on their bedroom routine can become too ‘vigilant’ about sleep, according to insomnia expert Kathryn Pinkham
“If you think about the formula where sleep problems come from, really, the more you do to try to improve it, the worse it will be, because you’re trying too hard.
‘Sleep hygiene is things like giving up caffeine, turning down the blinds, giving up alcohol.
“None of that is bad advice, but it’s not a cure for sleep deprivation.”
She added: “You have this long relaxation routine where ‘I have to take a shower, I have to do my yoga hour, I have to have a sleepy tea and I’m going to listen to my attention.
“Actually, all you’re doing there is creating a really long (until) routine not to sleep.”
The sleep expert, founder of The Insomnia Clinic, advises against using digital sleep monitors if they feel anxious about not getting a good night’s sleep, as this is just another example of sleep “micromanaging.”
Describing how people often respond to a few nights of bad sleep, he said: “We googled it.” The first thing we would probably do would be to go to bed earlier, maybe we would buy a sleeping tea, maybe we would buy a spray for our pillow.
On the effect of this approach to sleep, he added: “We go from having a sleep pattern that works, a body clock that knows what to do, to just really being aware of something that we can’t really interfere with.” much or worse it gets.’
People need to change their relationship with the bed, so they don’t lie there for hours if they can’t sleep, according to the expert.
(File Image) The sleep expert also advises people who are trying not to worry about their nighttime anxieties to set aside time to think about them and maybe write them down.
Most people wake up at 2 am or 3 am, and it’s not clear why these times are so common, but the advice for people frustrated and anxious to wake up is to get out of the room, perhaps to read. a book or watch television, before returning. when they feel tired again.
Ms Pinkham said: “Instead of lying in bed desperately trying to calm down and feeling so hurt and stressed, just forget about it.”
Give up the battle, get out of bed, do something else.
Rather than having people who don’t sleep well go to bed earlier, the Insomnia Clinic advises that they try increasing their “sleep drive” (the desire for sleep that builds during the day) by using mild sleep deprivation. in the short term it should reset your biological clock.
Ms Pinkham said: “An example of sleep scheduling would be, if someone goes to bed at 10, they get out of bed at 6 for school and work, but within that period, they only They sleep six hours.” – maybe even broken too, maybe not in one fell swoop – what I would be saying is that you can only sleep for six hours right now.
“So the two hours you’re in bed is the problem, that’s the insomnia.
‘So what I’m going to suggest is that you can only sleep for six hours right now, so instead we’re going to shorten your sleep window to six hours.
‘So, for example, you’re not going to bed at midnight, and you’re going to set your alarm for six.
“So now when you get out of bed at six, you have these two extra hours to create a much bigger sleep boost.”
The theory is that people can train their biological clock like we do with young children who don’t have a sleep pattern until they learn it.
And instead of going without sleep in bed, people can use the extra time before bed at night, short-term, to move on their to-do list or spend more time on a hobby.
The sleep expert also advises people who are trying not to worry about their anxieties at night to set aside time to think about them—and maybe write them down—during the day.
She says people need to be realistic about not getting a perfect night’s sleep.
And they shouldn’t overcomplicate things with sleep hygiene techniques, and Ms Pinkham concludes: “If you don’t really enjoy yoga before bed, but do it for sleep, let’s not bother doing it anymore.”
‘If you really don’t like chamomile tea, let’s get rid of it.
“A lot of this is about wiping the slate clean.”