Fact: we could all benefit from more sleep. Author and TV presenter Dr Rangan Chatterjee
tells us all there is to know about getting a better night’s rest

1. How important is a good night’s sleep?

“Sleep deprivation can affect many elements of our lives, including our memory, our relationships and our appetite. Long-term lack of sleep can contribute to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s. On average, adults should be having between seven and nine hours every night.”

2. What if you can’t sleep?

“If you can’t sleep for more than 20 minutes, don’t stay in bed. Your brain will associate your bedroom with not being able to sleep. Leave the room and read a book under dim light or try some deep breathing or meditation.”

3. Is it normal to wake in the night?

“Yes, we have 90-minute sleep cycles and it’s not uncommon to wake at the end of each sleep cycle. This is when we’re in a lighter phase of sleep, so we are a bit more alert and awake.”

4. Can a lie-in at the weekend make up for lost sleep?

“No, unfortunately the brain has no capacity to make up for lost sleep”

5. What would be the ideal room temperature?

“The best temperature would be 17 or 18°C [62 or 64° Fahrenheit]. It’s also a good idea to cool your body down to prep for bed. You can do this by having a hot bath or shower; the heat enables your core body temperature to drop as your blood will rise to the surface of your body.”

6. Is screen time affecting our sleep?

“Absolutely. Blue light is emitted from the screen, which reduces levels of the sleep hormone melatonin, and that’s an issue when falling asleep. Also, our screens keep us emotionally stimulated, which will keep your mind too active to sleep. You should switch your devices off at least 60 minutes before bedtime.”

7. Does drinking alcohol affect our sleep?

“Yes, when you drink alcohol before bedtime, an important phase of sleep called REM (dream sleep) is reduced. The alcohol fragments your sleep – you wake up more frequently and you’ll have a lower quality of sleep.”

8. How does caffeine impact sleep?

“Caffeine keeps us awake: if you have a coffee at midday, by 6pm half is still going around your brain and at midnight a quarter is still going around your brain. It’s best to stop drinking coffee at lunchtime. Too much caffeine can be a cycle because we reach for it all day after a bad night’s sleep.”

9. Can lack of sleep make us look older?

“Yes, it’s one of the biggest stresses on the body. Lack of sleep ages our body on the inside, at our cellular level, and on the outside, resulting in our skin looking older.”

10. Are naps a good idea?

“Some cultures thrive on taking a nap after lunch. Just make sure that your naps are not too late in the day or too long and they shouldn’t impact your overnight sleep.”

11. Does lack of sleep affect our mental state?

“Sleep affects our emotional volatility. There’s a part of our brain called the amygdala – it’s the emotional part of our brain – and if you only sleep for four hours a night, just for one night, your amygdala is up to 60% more reactive. The results are that we can be irrational, emotional and highly strung.”

12. And finally, what time should our kids be in bed?

“It depends what time they need to wake up, plus it varies with age. Children from age 3 to 5 need 10 to 13 hours every night, and 6 to 13 year-olds need 9 to 11 hours.”

Interview: Sam Dean Images: Ben Ridolfi Styling: Tamala Ayres Grooming: Vaneza Londono



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