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How to have the best sleep of your life, writes DR KARAN RAJ 

NHS surgeon Dr Karan Raj is a social media star with 4 million TikTok followers

Do you lie in bed at night tossing and turning, plagued with anxiety as the day ahead edges ever nearer? 

Or wake up early, don’t sleep as long as you’d like to or never feel fully refreshed?

Every day I get messages from people driven to distraction by insomnia and other sleep problems. 

The good news is there are many simple tricks you can try that really help – and they won’t cost you a penny!

In fact, many of us don’t realise our day-to-day habits can often be CAUSING sleep problems. Not convinced? Read on to check you’re not a serial sleep offender…

The best foods for good sleep? Eat a varied, high-fibre diet with plenty of gut-friendly foods like cultured yoghurt, fermented products, fruit and vegetables (stock image)

The best foods for good sleep? Eat a varied, high-fibre diet with plenty of gut-friendly foods like cultured yoghurt, fermented products, fruit and vegetables (stock image)

RESIST THOSE ‘SLEEP-INDUCING’ FOODS

We’ve all heard of the so-called ‘carb coma’ that certain foods like bread and pasta can bring on – which is why many people tuck into them right before bed. 

The theory is that carbs are eventually broken down into melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep. 

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that – it’s not a case of whatever’s in your blood stream goes to your brain. 

What IS likely to happen if you eat before bed is that you’ll get raging heartburn that’ll keep you awake. 

This is because you’ll lie down with a full stomach, a lot of the food will still be in there and that – along with the stomach acid which digests your food – will travel back up into your food pipe and give you a burning pain under your ribs. 

The best foods for good sleep? Eat a varied, high-fibre diet with plenty of gut-friendly foods like cultured yoghurt, fermented products, fruit and vegetables. 

A thriving, varied gut microbiome has been shown to be beneficial for good kip.

Blue light from all the screens will delay production of melatonin so try a book before bed instead (stock image)

Blue light from all the screens will delay production of melatonin so try a book before bed instead (stock image)

SWAP YOUR PHONE FOR A BOOK…

I know, I know, I’m a TikTok-er – but I am going to say screens an hour before bed (even two hours) are bad news. 

I’m not telling you NOT to watch me or read this article on your phone, TV or laptop – just time it right. This is because blue light from all the screens will delay production of melatonin. 

‘Yeah, yeah,’ I hear you say. Well, each hour of tech delays melatonin production by around three hours. THREE HOURS! Got blue light-blocking glasses or screen filters, you say? 

Trust me, they really don’t do much – just stop using the screen! I’ve always found a book great at helping me nod off – a few pages and my eyes get heavy. 

Go on, go old-school! Not a bookworm? Do a bit of meditation and some breathing exercises instead.

Avoid anything overly stimulating or distracting cna prevent you falling asleep. You want calm – or even boring (stock image)

Avoid anything overly stimulating or distracting cna prevent you falling asleep. You want calm – or even boring (stock image)

….AND AVOID EXCITING TV

It’s not just blue light that’s to blame – watching something like a horror or a thriller before bed can raise your heart rate, which you really don’t want. 

Avoid anything overly stimulating or distracting. You want calm – or even boring.

Rather than trying to force yourself to sleep, try the total opposite a trick called paradoxical intention.

Rather than trying to force yourself to sleep, try the total opposite. It’s a trick called paradoxical intention (stock image)

TRY *NOT* TO FALL ASLEEP

Do you lie there fretting as each hour ticks by, getting more and anxious?

Rather than trying to force yourself to sleep, try the total opposite. It’s a trick called paradoxical intention. 

By trying to stay awake, I don’t mean watching Netflix or playing on your phone. I mean lie there really still and tell yourself: ‘I’m going to stay awake.’ 

Your body then does the opposite and you should end up feeling tired and drift off.

The adrenaline of exercise increases your blood pressure and heart rate, which is not directly compatible with good, sound sleep (stock image)

The adrenaline of exercise increases your blood pressure and heart rate, which is not directly compatible with good, sound sleep (stock image)

AVOID GOING TO BED STRAIGHT AFTER A WORKOUT

A lot of people think: ‘Oh, I’ll exercise before right before bed, I’ll be absolutely knackered, and I’ll have a good sleep because I’m tired.’ 

But this is a misconception. Because the adrenaline of exercise increases your blood pressure and heart rate, you’re likely to be in a ‘pumped’, frenetic mood immediately afterwards, which is not directly compatible with good, sound sleep. 

What your body needs as it drifts towards the sleep stages is a lowered heart rate, lower blood pressure, a lower core body temperature and generally a calm state of mind. So try and exercise earlier in the day – morning is best. 

If the only time you can exercise is 9pm, that’s fine. It’s better to exercise than not at all. 

But you should then try and wind down a bit, give yourself a couple of hours to relax before bed or just opt for lighter exercises such as stretches.

Having a nap too laye in the day reduces levels of a chemical called ADP which stoped you falling asleep at bedtime (stock image)

Having a nap too laye in the day reduces levels of a chemical called ADP which stoped you falling asleep at bedtime (stock image)

NO NAPPING AFTER 4PM

Don’t get me wrong, I love a nap – and I actively encourage others to have them. 

But don’t do more than 90 minutes. That’s a whole sleep cycle and the perfect length. And, as with many things in life, it’s all about timing. 

If you nap too late, it can disrupt your sleep. This is because in order to drop off, you need something called a sleep pressure – a high level of a chemical called ADP, or adenosine diphosphate. 

The more this rises, the greater the sleep pressure and the sleepier you become. 

Having a nap reduces ADP, so if you do so too close to bedtime, you’re going to lower the ADP and you won’t have enough sleep pressure to nod off when it comes to bedtime.

Coffee increases alertness because it blocks the ADP receptors which help make us sleepy (stock image)

Coffee increases alertness because it blocks the ADP receptors which help make us sleepy (stock image)

AND NO COFFEE AFTER 2PM

Yes, the mid-afternoon slump often demands a nice, invigorating caffeine hit, but you’re likely to regret it later in the day – particularly if you’re already a bad sleeper. 

Coffee increases alertness because it blocks the ADP receptors which help make us sleepy. 

But you’ll still have half the caffeine in your system up to eight hours later, meaning you may well not have enough sleep pressure to drop off.

Hot water rapidly lowers your body temperature when you get out of the shower which helps promote sleep (stock image)

Hot water rapidly lowers your body temperature when you get out of the shower which helps promote sleep (stock image)

HAVE A HOT SHOWER BEFORE BED

Counterintuitive as this may sound, this helps because it rapidly lowers your body temperature when you get out of the shower – and we need a drop in body temperature in order to fall asleep. 

Alternatively, lower the temperature of your room by keeping a window open.

So, there ends my good snooze guide. 

I tried my best to make it as engaging as possible, but don’t worry if you didn’t manage to stay awake through the whole piece. I certainly won’t be losing any sleep.

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