Bamboo sheets, bedroom temperature between 15 and 19 degrees Celsius and foregoing an alarm are the most important ingredients for a perfect night’s sleep, top doctors and psychologists have revealed.
Three specialists from Australia and New Zealand answered questions about exposure to blue light, eating before bed, bedroom layout and which mattresses and pillows provide the best support to help people sleep longer and deeper.
Auckland-based sleep specialist Jane Wrigglesworth, who is the founder of How To Sleep Well, says depending on an alarm to wake in the morning is a sign of poor quality sleep, which can causes serious health issues over time.
Ms Wrigglesworth told Daily Mail Australia that continuously disrupted sleep is linked to digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, heartburn, inflammatory bowel disorders, ulcers and even gastrointestinal cancer, as well as exacerbating mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
To protect mind and body, here’s the recipe for a solid eight hours of rest.
Scroll down for video
Relying on an alarm to wake in the morning is a sign of inadequate, poor quality sleep, according to Auckland-based specialist Jane Wrigglesworth (stock image)
Dr Bei Bei, Senior Research Fellow at Monash University’s Healthy Sleep Clinic in Melbourne
HOW LONG SHOULD I WAIT BETWEEN EATING AND GOING TO BED?
Going to bed too soon after eating is a surefire way to disrupt and reduce the quality of sleep, warns Dr Bei Bei, Senior Research Fellow at Melbourne’s Monash University Healthy Sleep Clinic.
Eating immediately before bedtime robs the body of the time it needs to digest food, which forces it to metabolise as you sleep, waking you up.
But going to bed hungry has much the same effect as blood sugar levels drop and shock the body awake, Ms Wrigglesworth says, so it’s important to strike the right balance.
‘Eat dinner as early as you can, and if you need a snack afterwards, choose something that has no or low amounts of sugar,’ she said.
‘If you get home late from work and find yourself having dinner at 9pm, consider eating your largest meal at lunchtime and enjoy a lighter meal in the evening.’
Very Well Health recommends eating your last full meal two to three hours before bed, avoiding spicy or inflammatory foods that trigger heartburn and caffeine rich liquids like coffee, alcohol and fizzy drinks that stimulate the body and put the mind into overdrive.
WHEN SHOULD I SWITCH MY PHONE AND TV OFF?
Phones, laptops and tablets should be powered off one to two hours before bed to give the brain and body time to unwind, according to Dr Bei Bei.
Watching TV from a reasonable distance is less intrusive because it emits a lower concentration of artificial blue light that stimulates the brain and disrupts sleep.
‘Hand-held devices used closer to the eyes have greater impact on sleep,’ she said.
If using a phone or laptop right up to bedtime is unavoidable, Dr Bei Bei says screen brightness should be turned to the lowest setting and blue-blocking ‘nightshift’ mode switched to the highest.
She also advises leaving electronic gadgets outside the bedroom to create a restful, calming environment that’s conducive to sleep.
Sydney psychologist Nancy Sokarno agrees. She says the quality of our rest is largely determined by how we feel when our head hits the pillow, with stress, exercise and food consumed during the day all affecting how we sleep.
‘It’s best to look at sleep from a holistic point of view and consider how you can best prepare for a good night’s sleep, which we call sleep hygiene,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
Dr Sokarno structures plans for patients to ensure they exercise, nourish themselves with healthy food and switch off from screens and social media at least an hour before bed to improve the quality of their sleep.
‘The key is to ensure that both your mind and body is de-escalated from the day, so anything you can do to exercise your mind and body, whilst ensuring that you get to a ‘still’ place right before bed,’ she said.
Auckland-based sleep specialist Jane Wrigglesworth
WHAT TEMPERATURE SHOULD MY BEDROOM BE?
While optimum temperature varies from person to person, Australia’s National Sleep Foundation advises sleeping in a room between 15 and 19 degrees Celsius.
Ms Wrigglesworth says the cooler the better, because a drop in our core body temperature sends signals to the brain telling it to release melatonin, commonly known as the ‘sleep hormone’.
It works together with the body’s circadian rhythm, which is essentially our internal body clock, to let us know when it’s time to sleep, wake and eat.
Melatonin plays a major role in our general health, helping to regulate body temperature, blood pressure and hormone levels.
WHAT POSITION SHOULD I SLEEP IN?
Healthy adults sleep best on their side or back, according to Dr Bei Bei, but underlying health conditions mean certain positions carry different risks and benefits.
Those who suffer from respiratory disorders like sleep apnea, where breathing repeatedly stops and starts, should avoid sleeping flat on their back because gravity causes the airways to narrow, making breathing more difficult.
Dr Bei Bei says sleeping on one side of the body reduces the risk of stillbirth for pregnant women.
It’s best to consult with a doctor to determine which position is best for you if you are suffering from a chronic health issue.
Setting bedroom temperature between 15 and 19 degrees Celsius is ideal for sleep, because it reduces core body temperature and sends signals to the brain to release melatonin, commonly known as the ‘sleep hormone’ (stock image)
WHAT MATTRESS SHOULD I USE?
While it’s tempting to choose a mattress purely based on softness and comfort, Ms Wrigglesworth says we should pay most attention to its’ thermal properties which will determine how hot or cold your bed will be.
Memory foam mattresses hold heat better than other types of mattresses, making them a good investment for people who sleep better in warmer temperatures.
Mattresses with coils and springs typically have better airflow and tend to be cooler than memory foam models, which makes them ideal for those who prefer to nod off in the cold.
Soft mattresses affect the spine’s curvature and should be avoided if you suffer from back or neck problems.
Natural sleep aids to slip inside your pillow
Putting a teaspoon of dry rose petals, two drops of lavender oil, a teaspoon of fresh thyme and a sage leaf into a clean handkerchief or a square of muslin cloth and slipping inside your pillow will improves the quality of your sleep, according to Australia’s ‘queen of clean’ Shannon Lush.
WHAT PILLOW SHOULD I USE?
Pillow choice comes down to personal preference, but it’s important to invest in one that supports your head, neck and shoulders, Ms Wrigglesworth says.
‘It might seem obvious, but it’s actually a very individual choice. It depends on your body size and the position you sleep in, and whether you have neck or head pain,’ she said.
For people with back or neck problems, Ms Wrigglesworth recommends memory foam or latex pillows which hold their shape and support the spine.
For those who like to rest on a cool surface, she suggests investing in a woolen pillow which draw moisture away from the head and regulate body temperature as you sleep.
‘Wool pillows are also naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to mould and dust mites, which can keep you awake if you have allergies,’ she said.
WHAT BED LINEN SHOULD I USE?
Ms Wrigglesworth says ‘hot sleepers’ who often wake flushed or sweating should try ‘cooling sheets’ made from breathable fibres like cotton, bamboo or eucalyptus, which draw moisture and heat away from the body.
Linen with a high thread count should be avoided because the dense material holds and insulates heat.
‘It’s a myth that the higher the thread count, the softer the sheet,’ Ms Wrigglesworth said.
‘A high thread count traps the heat and the warmth [of] your body, which for some is great, but not if you’re always hot. If you are looking for something cooler, a lower thread count is best, as airflow is better.’
Electronic gadgets that emit blue light like phones and laptops should be left outside the bedroom (stock image)
WHAT SHOULD I HAVE IN MY BEDROOM?
Anyone who is serious about improving their sleep should keep electronics, work tools and trinkets out of the bedroom, Ms Wrigglesworth advises.
‘No TVs, no computers no phones. Keep your room free from clutter – it should be a sanctuary, a place you go to relax,’ she said.
Dr Bei Bei agrees, saying anything that could make an ‘unexpected noise’ or trigger stress like a work desk, computer or exercise machine should be stored outside the bedroom.
‘For those with insomnia, keeping clocks or watches turned away for the night could reduce anxiety. If you sleepwalk, put away any items that may cause falls or injury,’ she said.
Dr Bei Bei recommends cognitive behavioural therapy for anyone struggling with insomnia, which is covered under Australia’s Medicare mental health plan.
Sleeping on your side is the best position for uninterrupted rest, specialists say (stock image)
WHAT ALARM SHOULD I USE?
Nothing, according to Ms Wrigglesworth, who says depending on an alarm to wake is a sign you’re not getting enough sleep.
‘If you get adequate sleep, you don’t actually need an alarm. You will wake up naturally,’ she said.
For those who can’t getAnd by without, Dr Bei Bei recommends light-based devices – also known as ‘wake-up lights’ – that simulate sunrise, which gently stir the body in a gradual, natural manner.
She also suggests syncing alarms with music that evokes happy emotions to start the day on a positive note.