Physiologist and leading sleep and energy coach Dr Nerina Ramlakhan believes it’s not just your nighttime routine but what you do during the day that affects the quality of your sleep.
Her recent book Fast Asleep, Wide Awake contains techniques and insights she has learnt working with everyone from burnt-out City workers, stressed-out mums, Premiership footballers and MPs to ensure they get the right type of sleep.
Why focus on sleep?
I had huge problems sleeping, and ended up studying it. I didn’t set out to be a sleep expert, but I noticed that I not only had curiosity about sleep, but had a knack for solving people’s sleep problems and there was a need for it.
We are designed to spend a third of our life sleeping, so sleep is very important. There is an innate intelligence in the design of our sleep in that it has to capacity to repair and heal the body at every level, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
What is a good night’s sleep?
Good, pure sleep gives us the capacity to heal our lives and live with extraordinary energy. It’s not just about getting sleep, it’s about getting pure sleep. We sleep in 90 minute cycles and each cycle consists of light sleep, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and deep sleep. Pure or ‘clean’ sleep is about having the right amount of these three components.
Are people more sleep deprived then they were 20 years ago?
I think people are more deep sleep deprived, or clean sleep deprived. We are getting enough sleep in beautiful, highly scientifically engineered beds, but it’s not enough of the right, clean deep sleep.
How big a problem is it?
There have been lots of surveys, but roughly, they’re pointing to the fact that a third of people in the UK say at some point in their lives they’ve had problems sleeping and more than 50 per cent of people say they are tired when they wake up in the morning.
Is our use of screens affecting our sleep?
Absolutely, that’s why I have become so busy. People don’t know how to stop or how to rest. They don’t know how to watch one screen, they always feel that they have to be doing something.
Do people want to talk to you about their sleep problems when you meet them?
They do, so I’m a bit careful these days about who I tell, but then again I am fascinated, so I can be my own worst enemy at times
What is your advice to people who say they can’t sleep at night?
Learn how to rest, that’s the most important thing. The average human being wakes 10 to 15 times a night, so it’s perfectly normal to wake up. If you can’t get back to sleep, get up, go to the loo, then go back to bed and allow yourself to drift back into a state of rest.
What is the one thing you shouldn’t do?
Don’t put the lights on and DO NOT check the time because the minute you to it brings you into wakefulness.
How do you relax?
I relax very actively and have also worked on more gentle relaxation, which might be a yoga session, sitting reading a book, I dance and I’m a climber so I climb indoors and outdoors. I do run, but not the distances I used to, because I’ve decided to be kinder to my body.
Fast Asleep, Wide Awake is published by HarperCollins, price £12.99
Dr Ramlakhan shared her expertise and knowledge at Ballymore’s Masterclass in Wellness on February 4.