Energize yourself at the right times

Image of Professor Colin Espie
by Professor Colin Espie

What we eat, drink and do can have a huge impact on the quality and pattern of our sleep – and not just in the time before bed. Think of your sleep as just one component in your 24 hour cycle of wake and rest; to get the most out of it you need to control what you eat and drink and when.

The principle is simple: undertake energizing activities earlier in the day, and avoid them as you approach the evening. As you would expect this includes consumption of caffeine (avoid any tea, coffee or energy drinks after lunchtime) but also when we eat our evening meal – we should ideally leave a few hours after eating before heading to bed, to allow digestion to get underway and our metabolism to return to baseline.

Similarly exercise can elevate our alertness for several hours, so we should ideally exercise no later than late afternoon. Certainly we shouldn't expect to be able to exhaust ourselves and fall straight into bed!

Many people use alcohol as a tool to relax and unwind at the end of the working day. However you should be wary of using alcohol as a sleep aid. Alcohol is an effective sedative, so can help us get off to sleep, but also tends to create a more broken up and unsatisfying sleep. In addition using alcohol this way can create an unhealthy reliance on it as part of our sleep routine.

Next: Common questions

Read now