Is Your Daily Routine Harming Your Sleep?
We often talk about having a good sleep routine when it comes to children and babies. But there’s no reason why this shouldn’t translate into adulthood. As we move through different stages in our lives, so do our circadian rhythms which is why our sleep gets lighter and shorter as we get older. But what about sleep routines? And how do we ensure our life doesn’t affect our sleep negatively?
In this episode of the Sleep Matters from Dreams podcast, sleep expert Dr Pixie McKenna and guest panel discuss how important your daily routine is and how it can affect your sleep. Issy Panayis, an early morning presenter on Radio X talks about her experience of sleep patterns and routines and Professor Kevin Morgan, a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Clinical Sleep Research Unit at Loughborough University explains the science behind our sleep and sleep cycles.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:00:07] Hello everybody and welcome to the Sleep Matters podcast from dreams. Everything you need to know about how to get a great night’s sleep and why it matters so much. I’m Dr. Pixie McKenna. And in this episode, we’re chatting about how important a set routine is for getting a good night’s sleep. So today I’m joined by Issy Panayis and Issy is actually an early morning presenter on Radio X. Welcome Issy, I hope we’re not keeping you up.Issy Panayis [00:00:33] No, I’ve got enough sleep today, I’m all right.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:00:36] So while it’s dark outside the studio she’s chatting to the nation literally in the middle of the night. And we also have Professor Kevin Morgan. Welcome, Kevin. And Kevin is a Professor of psychology and he’s the Director of the Clinical Sleep Research Unit at Loughborough University. So you definitely Kevin must have all the answers, please.
Kevin Morgan [00:00:58] Hi Pixie. I have some answers.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:01:00] Did you have a good night’s sleep last night?
Kevin Morgan [00:01:01] I’m a complete phony. I sleep very well.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:01:03] Do you?
Kevin Morgan [00:01:04] Yeah.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:01:04] Good good. What about you Issy? Well, I don’t even know what your night is?
Issy Panayis [00:01:09] And neither do I most of the time it can be a mixed bag depending on what I’ve been up to.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:01:12] What time are you getting up to go to work at?
Issy Panayis [00:01:16] I have a 02:25 alarm which goes off every day.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:01:20] 02:25.
Issy Panayis [00:01:21] Yeah In the morning.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:01:22] That’s just crazy.
Issy Panayis [00:01:23] Yes.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:01:24] Most people are coming in from a night out at 02:25. So what’s your routine? Because that just seems to have everything turned on its head.
Issy Panayis [00:01:34] I have a very solid routine I think when you wake up at that time every day, which is a very unusual time to wake up, you have to have things in order and kind of eliminate certain things to be able to function to the best of your ability. Obviously, I have to go and do the show and there are people who work far harder hours at far harder jobs than I do. And I kind of owe it to them to have the best possible routine and the best night’s sleep so that I can do what I need to do for them and keep them going through the morning. So, I can go to bed anywhere between 18:00 in the evening and about midnight. Obviously, in my line of work being in broadcast, being a music DJ, I have to go to quite a lot of gigs and that kind of things so you can’t always guarantee you’re going to have a lot of sleep. Sometimes it can be a couple of hours here and there. But yeah my alarm goes off at 02:25 and then I get a cab into work. I’m at work just after 03:00 and then the show finishes at 06:30 and I go back to bed for a few hours after that and usually wake up about midday.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:02:31] Do you sleep in your clothes because that’s what I’d be doing!
Issy Panayis [00:02:34] I do wear quite a big jumper most of the time so I can just get up make breakfast and not even think about it.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:02:40] How important Kevin, I mean with your experience, how important is routine in having a day? I mean Issy sounds like she’s got a routine even though it’s a bit wonky because she’s getting up in the middle of the night, you know her day is our night. But how important is a routine in terms of getting a good night’s sleep?
Kevin Morgan [00:02:56] Issy’s routine sounds like a routine, in as much as it’s rythmical and regular. Routines are important for sleep because sleep is a critical phase in that schedule of activities we call a 24-hour circadian rhythm. And what’s important about routines is they provide us with signals, with cues, and these cues, if they operate well, they kind of tell us to down regulate, to dearrouse, to go to bed go to sleep and then they encourage us to wake up at a regular time and it’s regularity of the routines that’s important. The phrase we used to define these is a German word called zeitgeber but these are the time give us the timekeepers of our circadian rhythm if you maintain a regular circadian schedule it protects those other circadian functions like sleep, like appetite, like your energy levels during the day.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:03:54] But isn’t there a problem I guess for Issy, because Issy has a job five days a week that requires her to be up when everyone else is asleep, and then she’s got a life I’m presuming at the weekend?
Issy Panayis [00:04:04] That’s a bold assumption!
Kevin Morgan [00:04:05] This is where what we call individual differences kicks in not everybody is the same one size of circadian rhythm doesn’t fit everybody. Some people have naturally flexible and robust circadian rhythms, and they select for some kinds of jobs. I mean famously postal delivery workers are very early morning people but everybody can’t be a postal delivery worker and at times of full employment, these people are people who feel most comfortable that they kick off very early in the morning. Some people would die doing that job, okay. So we tend to, in adulthood select for those schedules and demands that best suit our endogenous circadian rhythms.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:04:53] So is it possible though to train yourself to become a morning or evening person?..
Kevin Morgan [00:04:57] Well up to a point, yes. We talk about morning people and evening people…
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:05:03] Is that just a made up thing
Kevin Morgan [00:05:06] It’s a pudding that’s very easy to over egg. Most people are neither one thing nor the other. About 20 percent of the population are quite categorically morning people and some people are quite categorically evening people and these people tend to have rather fixed circadian rhythms… Some people get up very early in the morning and they hit the ground running and other people always feel uncomfortable getting out of bed before 8:00 in the morning. The rest of us were kind of moving around in the middle and were slightly more flexible if the job demands us to delay or sleep phase we can generally do that, not excessively but within limits. So most of us show flexibility, adaptability and only a minority will say they have an absolute categorical preference for working into the night or working early in the morning.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:05:58] I mean how is your weekend for example? Do you sort of wake up Saturday morning or are you the last one to leave the nightclub on Friday night?
Issy Panayis [00:06:08] I guess it depends on what your plans are and what you’re doing but it can be quite tricky to work out because when your bodies say used to five days a week waking up at one time, it’s sometimes I don’t sleep the whole night through, my body naturally wakes up at 4 o’clock in the morning thinking right we’ve gotta get out we’ve got a go and do things, and then it’s my job to kind of turn my brain back off and be like right now we’re going back to sleep now.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:06:28] Can you go back to sleep, do you find you go back sleep?
Issy Panayis [00:06:32] If wake up I might be up for a couple of hours, but a lot of the time I am sleeping through the night. I think because my sleep is split and I’m used to going to bed in the evening I can still get a full night’s sleep a lot of the time, at the weekend.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:06:47] So actually maybe some of us are hardwired to be night owls?
Kevin Morgan [00:06:53] Yeah it’s certainly the case that some of us are much more adapted to working night shifts, and as I said earlier if all other things being equal if we’re allowed to choose the jobs we do those people who choose to do almost permanent night work are rather special people and they can survive. Some people couldn’t countenance working any night shifts let alone permanent night shifts. So there is a degree of selectivity here but even that isn’t constant because what will then happen is natural human ageing related processes will kick in and they tend to weaken this robustness in our circadian rhythm. So what holds in your younger years doesn’t necessarily hold across your lifespan.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:07:38] And is it true that your circadian rhythms feel like your natural internal alarm clock I guess, that’s different isn’t it when you’re a teenager and when you’re an adult, and obviously, as you get older?
Kevin Morgan [00:07:50] If you’ve ever tried to get an adolescent out of bed in morning Pixie, yeah absolutely I mean it changes dramatically.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:07:56] So why is that? Why do they want to sleep all the time?
Kevin Morgan [00:07:59] There are several things going on here. One of them is that maturation, growing up is a process that starts in infancy where what we call the polyphasic organisation of sleep these little cycles of waking, sleeping, eating, bawling, waking, sleeping, eating, yeah you remember that, they tend to decline and the more natural adult biphasic rhythm kicks in but the biphasic rhythm is dependent upon things like hormone levels, melatonin levels, there’s a very important process in the morning called the cortisol awakening response. This is when cortisol levels increase substantially about 20 30 minutes after we wake up and in part, they’re driven by our circadian rhythms, we know that because if you just get people to nap and wake them up they don’t show this arousal response so all other things being equal. There’s a lot of physiology keeping our circadian rhythms rhythmical. Now many of these things change as we get older and not just as we get old but as we get older 20 to 30, 30 to 40. So characteristically as you move through early, middle, late adulthood your sleep will invariably become shorter, lighter and more fragmented. It’s normal. It’s what happens. And as you move towards later life and if opportunities arise sometimes biphasic sleep returns, sorry polyphasic sleep returns, so napping in the afternoon becomes quite acceptable, quite satisfying maybe, for some of my students napping in the afternoon is quote acceptable and satisfactory. But the question you asked me was why these things change as we get older, they change because everything else changes. And what also changes is the demands upon us. So work routines provide excellent zeitgebers, excellent timekeepers that keep our schedules firing off, but take those away in say post-retirement, and you have to have more flexibility to deploy.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:10:14] So, therefore, routine is the key thing. And you sound like Issy you’ve got a routine.
Issy Panayis [00:10:21] Yes it’s fairly solid.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:10:23] Is it really like I’m out of bed I’m going to do this I’m going to do that and you’ve got a defined amount of time just to do it and get into work.
Issy Panayis [00:10:31] Yes. It’s not like the kind of job you could just stroll in half an hour late or oversleep. You have to be there at that time otherwise you get in big trouble and I wouldn’t have a job for very much longer. So yes routine is massively important at getting out of bed as quickly as you can, getting out of the house and being at work for 03:00 is something that I just have to do every day without question.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:10:51] And did it take you a while to get into that, how long you been doing the job?
Issy Panayis [00:10:54] Just over two years.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:10:56] How long does it take you to get into the groove?
Issy Panayis [00:10:57] Quite a while. I think a lot of people say if you’re not sure if you ever really get used to that routine because it’s not natural to wake up in the middle of the night but you have to do everything you possibly can to make it as natural for yourself as you can. I think as you go on and on what I’ve realized over those two years is taking away external factors which can disturb your sleep so I use earplugs, obviously if you’ve got neighbours, flatmates, building works when you’re doing shift work in the middle of the day is something that wakes me up a lot. So earplugs are a staple part of what I do in both blocks of my sleep. I have blackout blinds and I have a light up alarm which is game changing if you do shift work, get a light up a lamp because it’s brilliant, It very gently wakes you up half an hour before and by that point you’re feeling quite awake and you haven’t even realized, there’s no work on your part.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:11:49] What do you think about that?
Kevin Morgan [00:11:50] I think Issy’s making some immensely valuable points and I come back to this. We’ve been emphasising how different Issy’s routines are from say a normal day at work or whatever, but there’s something they have in common, It’s the discipline that looks after your sleep. Issy’s got be firing on all four if she’s sitting in front of a microphone earning a living. Okay. You can’t fade, you’ve got to be on it. You could be processing information all the time. You’ve got to look after your level of arousal and that means looking after you asleep. And what Issy’s just been describing is very disciplined if you like an intelligent way of managing sleep under adverse circumstances. But she’s learned this is how it works. These are the things I’ve got to do in order for my sleep to function for me, when I need it now that’s a message that applies to all of us whenever we’re working, most of us in adulthood would know what we’ve got to do in order to preserve and look after our sleep and that’s when our schedules and routines are very important. We know what our natural bedtime is, we know the things we usually do before bedtime, we know the usual order of things that signal to our body time to start down-regulating, we’re heading towards bed. Okay. Don’t get excited. No. Start doing things that are quieter. And we also know that you know come a time in the morning when we really ought to get up and start moving around. Maintaining a discipline around this looks after our sleep. And if you want an example of where this discipline falls over just look at any family during the school holidays with school-age kids and what happens if they are school age kids in their teenage years they don’t have a job, they will phase advance, Bit by bit, the kids will start going to bed later and later and getting up later and later.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:13:36] And they become feral!
Kevin Morgan [00:13:37] And they become feral, well they will attract opprobrium and they will be labelled lazy and all these things and all they’re really doing is they’re moving their circadian rhythm bit by bit forward into the night, to a point where they actually can’t get up any earlier. Now one of the really important rhythms underneath our circadian rhythm is our temperature rhythm. Temperature starts to fall off towards bedtime and it reaches its lowest point maybe between 2 and 4 in the morning after which we start getting warmer just like lizards. So we operate at our peak when our bodies are nice and warm okay. And what happens with kids during school holidays is that their whole circadian rhythm moves such that if you try to get them up first thing in the morning they think it was the middle of the night. They’d wonder what was going on here, they’d be like the walking dead. So what can you do? Well you have to live with it and the wonderful thing about teenage kids is that they switch relatively quickly, you know when the school bell rings at they’re back. But don’t be surprised by this, this is what we would all do if those times givers, those zeitgebers were removed from us in the morning and we were allowed to slip forward in our schedules. Unemployed people do this. Some retired people do this.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:14:58] Is there a set amount of time that we should sleep? You know we all kind of sleep seven or eight hours and then there are all these other people, you know famous people who’ve only slept four hours and they’ve changed the world.
Kevin Morgan [00:15:10] Here’s a rule for life Pixie there is no one size fits all recommended amount of sleep that we should all aspire to. It just doesn’t work like that and most adults just know that intuitively. If you want to know what the answer to the question how much sleep do I need is, it’s not a number, It’s an experience, Okay. The amount of sleep you need is the amount of sleep you require to allow you to wake up feeling reasonably refreshed, hit the day and meet its challenges and then feel a healthily sleepy towards the evening at what you identify as your normal bedtime. Okay now by and large that would be a correct amount of sleep. Now for some people, it might be six, seven hours for some people it might be eight, nine hours. Okay. About 45 percent of the population would sleep between seven and eight hours. But the people sleeping slightly more than that slightly less than that aren’t abnormal people. That’s just what they’ve learned is adequate for them. But keep in mind what I said earlier that as we get older that amount will decline. We will sleep less as we become older.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:16:23] And what about the way Issy is doing it? So Issy just remind me, you’re doing a little bit either side, you’re like a sandwich, like a sleep sandwich in between work.
Issy Panayis [00:16:32] I like that. Yes so usually in blocks of around four hours I’d say, it usually works out about eight, nine hours. It can depend if I need to catch up on a bit more sleep from the week if I’ve had some busy nights beforehand but yeah usually around that time.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:16:45] So what’s that doing to her circadian rhythms?
Kevin Morgan [00:16:49] It’s probably working well given that the work demands when they’re occurring which is what 02:00 until 06:00 in the morning.
Issy Panayis [00:16:55] Yes so waking up just before half 2:00 and then the show finishes just after half six.
Kevin Morgan [00:16:59] Wonderful in the summer. Yeah, it’s probably adequate, if you want a good example of this. When Helen MacArthur was taking her yacht around the world she was sleeping in these two-hour cycles. You don’t have a choice. You can’t go to sleep or you’ll wake up under a big boat. And by and large this works quite well quantums of two seem to work extremely well. You can identify a 90 minute cycle of complete cycle of sleep, that’s the one that starts with light sleep, boots into deep sleep, includes a rem period, a dreaming period asleep and then the cycle starts all over again, so our periods of time long enough to accommodate one or two complete sleep cycles, dreaming cycles this is healthy sleep.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:17:54] What you were saying there about the blocks of sleep because we hear that a lot. I know you’d say you shouldn’t even be thinking of hours or any time limit, but that when we are thinking about sleep we should be trying to time ourselves into 90 minute cycles so that we wake up when we’ve completed a cycle rather than in the middle of the cycle because otherwise we’d be exhausted.
Kevin Morgan [00:18:16] Okay I’ll give you two examples of how you can use that one particular piece of sleep science to inform a sleep habit. Let’s imagine you wanted to take a nap, Okay. And I work with athletes who, they do a lot of napping athletes.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:18:33] Probably tired I’d say.
Kevin Morgan [00:18:36] We’ll come back to that probably- Possibly not. But anyway they do a lot of napping. And the idea of what’s an optimum nap, what’s the best thing. And if you want to talk about power naps, OK. I’ll mention it now. There’s no such thing as a power nap, OK a power nap is a terminology invented by young people to make their napping, their sleeping during the day seem more dynamic. So if you go around an old people’s home in the afternoon you’ll see a lot of people napping and somehow they’re not allowed to be having powers nap. Only young people can have a power nap but they’re doing exactly what young people do when they’re sleeping in the libraries. Okay so they’re just napping, daytime sleep is napping. The ideal daytime sleep could borrow from sleep science and you say well what you don’t want to do is sleep so long that you descend so deeply into sleep that shaking off sleep will create a problem, we call it sleep inertia. When you wake up maybe after an hour’s nap and you feel heavy. So what’s an ideal nap. Maybe 30, 40 minutes. You’ll wake up feeling refreshed you won’t feel as if you’re wearing a mantle of weight that you’ve got to shake off and you will feel benefit, on the other hand, if you just put in a night shift, and let’s imagine is if you didn’t have access to your full four hours, let’s imagine some family demand required your presence okay. And this often happens on the first off period at the end of shifts. People trim, you say well what would be the ideal sleep to have. Well not less than 90 minutes I’d say two hours sleep, two hours sleep, you could probably function quite well for well into the day on two hours of compensatory sleep but not less. And this is just using what we know about sleep cycles and sleep science to inform, basically sleep management strategies.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:20:28] So it’s give or take two hours? A couple of hours.
Kevin Morgan [00:20:32] If you want compensatory sleep, if you genuinely need sleep go for a couple of hours sleep. If you really need sleep go for a full night. If pressure demands that you need a compensatory sleep prior to meeting some demand during the day go for a couple of hours. Okay. But if you’ve really only got a small pocket of time and you just want a nap, you just want to you recharge go for half an hour to 40 minutes.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:21:04] No longer, as a junior doctor I was actually a big fan of the power nap, I countless times fell asleep on duty because I’m one of those old people who did terribly long shifts for days and days and days you never knew when you were kind of going to finish. But we used to, if we had ten minutes before we knew the next patient was coming in we’d just lie down and go to sleep and we convinced ourselves that that 10 minutes was gold and it would get us further through the night.
Kevin Morgan [00:21:37] It probably would, the interesting thing is that we don’t have these junior doctors to work on in research anymore.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:21:43] It’s probably a good thing.
Kevin Morgan [00:21:51] Junior hospital doctors used to be able to allow us to make the point that it wasn’t just the accumulated sleep that delivered restoration, so you could monitor a junior doctors sleeping hours over 36 hours to say look they had eight hours sleep but they did have in 27 different packets and they feel wretched. So it made the point that it’s not just accumulated added on time of sleep that really matters it’s the continuity entity that delivers real restoration.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:22:24] Issy how do you find the seasons? That must affect you getting up in the really pitch black?
Kevin Morgan [00:22:34] Seasons are massively affecting on sleep, the winter night shifts are the hardest bit of the entire year and it’s like Christmas at the moment because it starting to get light out, we’ve just hit the spring at equinox and then the last couple of days I’ve left work and it’s been light. It’s like Christmas for presenters, we all go round saying ‘you see it’s like outside the studios’. That’s massive because leaving work and feeling, I feel like feeling part of the waking world is really important. You can feel very cut off when you wake up it’s dark you go to bed and it’s dark and obviously, I think we’ve all heard of seasonal affective disorder, that can massively come into play when all you see in your waking hours is darkness.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:23:14] But is it a problem then when you leave work and it’s bright and you feel like ‘hello what will I do now?’.
Issy Panayis [00:23:20] It’s great you feel very giddy but at the same time it takes adjusting to you have to really check those blinds are in place, because I think the signals of it being light tells your brain always we should still be out we should still be doing things. So in the last couple of days since that’s happened I have had to adjust because my brain thinks right well we should be up at this point. It’s all about training yourself to do what you need to do.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:23:42] Yeah. Just kind of getting regimented into to it. So Kevin with the seasons’ change, the dark, the light you know the extra hour, the hour taken away, how is that affecting us? Tell us the science behind it how that’s affecting us.
Kevin Morgan [00:23:58] I can tell you the epidemiology behind it what people actually do is they tend to go to bed slightly later they get up slightly earlier if you compare with the best example we took to compare a tropical country with northern Europe. Within the tropics very little happens throughout the year in terms of changes in sleep patterns, sleep durations stay the same bedtimes stay the same getting up times tend to stay the same, in Northern Europe and that would include us, our sleep patterns do change. We do tend to go to bed slightly later. We do tend to get slightly earlier. We also tend to drink more during the summer which actually has an impact as well, but we’ll just park that for the time being.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:24:46] Drink more alcohol?
Kevin Morgan [00:24:47] What I’m saying is that there are other things going on. I mean we don’t, we’re not living in a greenhouse. We’re not plants, there’s a lot of things going on in our lives that change winter to summer but we tend to eat differently, we drink differently, we exercise differently. But by and large and notwithstanding Seasonal Affective Disorder and other effective disorders that Issy has just mentioned, sleep patterns change but they change in a very manageable way. OK. Mood Changes are insidious, mood changes will invariably affect sleep it’s very difficult to experience a mood change without it negatively impacting your sleep and the further north you go in Europe the higher the levels of seasonal affective disorder in the winter are, so that will carry with it all lots of risk factors for insomnia. But by and large throughout northern Europe insomnia’s tend to peak during winter months and tend to be less expressed during summer months.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:25:53] OK so what are your top tips for for getting a good sleep routine.
Kevin Morgan [00:26:01] If you are going to manage your sleep and look after your sleep through your routines then you, first of all, have to kind of appraise the quality of your sleep and most adults know whether or not they’ve got fragile or robust sleep and what I mean by that is that, if you’ve ever taken a test, caught an aeroplane, met a family crisis you will know if your sleep wobbles or if it by and large fires for you okay. If you know you’ve got wobbly sleep then you really are going to have to look after your sleep routines to make sure that you get the quality of sleep you need and that quality of sleep is preserved by those things you can adjust and you can adjust your routines, and most people will know what they’ve got to do. Observing routines means just that, it means ritualizing certain activities, going to bed in roughly the same way on most nights, make sure your sleep preferences which we all have are in place. Sleep is a highly ritualised environment and if you think about it you know everything from the texture of our bedding to the height of our pillow to even the compass direction our bed is facing is important to some people, whether they’re the bedding is heavy or light, whether the window is open or closed, all these things matter. Some people can’t sleep without a light on, not many but some. So all of these things become our sleep preferences. Teddy, No Teddy this kind of stuff, having all of that stuff in place is important, making sure it’s in place becomes important. Doing normal things in the normal way. I’ll give you a good example of this- there’s a relationship that many people assume between drinking milky stuff and getting a good night’s sleep. Okay. Now the real story behind this is far more subtle but far more interesting. People who are accustomed to drinking half a pint of milk before they go to bed mixed with whatever, if that’s their habit and that’s what they believe helps their sleep, these people actually show signs of sleep disturbance if they’re not allowed to do that. On the other hand, people who never do that if you give them half a pint of milk with something mixed into it and say this is a sleep aid, you can measure sleep disturbance in those individuals. What we’re looking at here is routine. It’s the routine that matters not the dietary addition of milk, can you imagine never having grown accustomed to drinking half a pint of milk before you go to bed and somebody saying this is going to be really good for you. I mean why would anybody believe that?
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:28:50] You’ve ruined it for loads of people Kevin!
Kevin Morgan [00:28:53] It’s routine, most people intuitively know what is and what isn’t in their routine. If it’s a drink, if it’s a cup of tea fine, if it’s not that’s fine too. There are no rules here about what should be in the routine other than the routine should guarantee what we call dearousal, quieting, calming as you move towards bedtime and then if you really want to preserve your environment and you’re beginning to feel that maybe sleep isn’t always coming the way you want it to, try one one single injunction and that is just keep your bedroom for the things we do in bedroom sleeping and sex and that’s it. Don’t take food don’t take the newspaper don’t take just do what’s appropriate in a bedroom. Okay but if you sleep very well and you have no problems with your sleep and you’re waking up shining and you always go to bed to read the paper, fine. Does this make sense?
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:29:59] Yeah yeah yeah yeah. I mean you’ve got your obviously science, evidence-based hat on, speaking about sleep. Here we’ve got Issy, she’s living the dream, big up in the middle of the night and you’re doing it completely you’ve turned it all on its head. How do you do it?
Issy Panayis [00:30:19] I think is what we were saying before about eliminating those external factors. In my brain I know this is what I have to do this is my job I love doing my job, I love going to work is the best job, so that helps having something great to wake up to is always going to make you want to get out of bed in that sense. For me eliminating external factors, figuring out what’s going to disturb your sleep, how you get the best night, be that having the best possible bedding for you be it cutting down on caffeine a lot of people will hate me for saying that but I allow myself to have one cup of coffee when I get to work at three and no more for the rest of the day because that really messes with my sleeping patterns. It’s earplugs it’s blinds, it’s whatever works for you making sure that you know that that routine is gonna be in place for you.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:31:03] So s
Issy Panayis [00:31:05] I don’t think you need to be strict with it. I think what I do, yes there needs to be those things in place, I think I can get quite anxious if things aren’t in the way they should be, so I lay my clothes up the night before so it’s not something I have to think about or worry about when I’m lying in bed. I know exactly what I’m going to have for breakfast every day just to take away that choice, not to be too hard on myself or to be strict with myself but because I know that’s going to make it easier for me and for my brain to function in the right way when I need to get up. I think when you do shift work and when you do the kind of job that I do it’s a very different thing to waking up naturally and getting those solid eight hours in a row. I don’t think other people need to be as hard on themselves.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:31:47] And could you see yourself doing this, I mean for a long period of time? You’ve obviously done it for a couple of years. There must be people there who’ve done it for years and years and years I’m guessing. Loads of people do shift work for their entire life.
Issy Panayis [00:32:00] Yeah. Some people were really happy doing that, I think what we were saying about morning people and night people, there’s someone at my station who’s been doing the same overnight show for 20 years now and he’s one of the most respected men in the industry. I don’t think that specialist music show would work at any other time. So you know it all has its part to play in that sense.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:32:19] It’s funny I never really thought about that, so you at 03:00 in the morning have to be exactly what you’re like at 15:00.
Issy Panayis [00:32:28] I would say even more so. Yes you have to be switched on.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:32:31] You’ve got to keep everyone else going.
Issy Panayis [00:32:32] Yeah and it’s just me in that studio, I am in control. The entire output of the radio station at that time is down to me. You’ve got me on the ball.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:32:41] But you love it?
Issy Panayis [00:32:42] Yeah I do. It’s a brilliant job.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:32:44] So we’re going to get a bit of routine and we’ve got to be strict on ourselves to get a good night’s sleep, naps are OK but keep them to 40 minutes, if you need sleep rather than a quick nap we’re looking at a couple of hours, but not longer during the day. Do think there’s anything else, what would be your top take home?
Kevin Morgan [00:33:07] Okay. It’s interesting because we’re focusing on sleep and routines in relation to sleep. We’re kind of making the assumption that the only routine that matters in relation to sleep are routines around sleep as if having a routine during the rest of the day really makes no difference, of course, it makes an immense difference. Your circadian rhythm is a 24-hour rhythm. So if you want to look after your routine this really makes you boring but it looks after your sleep. It means that your exercise routines are going to be routine, they’re going to be rhythmical it means that your meal times are going to be rhythmical, if you eat haphazardly say sometimes I eat a large meal at 18:00 sometimes at 21:00. This is going to play havoc with sleep routines because it’s simply going to confuse your body it’s not going to know where it is in its phases. So, by and large, the routines aren’t just sleep-related, although they’re very important, they work throughout the 24 hours, like I say it doesn’t make you interesting. I guess there’s flexibility in the system. There’s what we call plasticity in the system. You’re allowed to have time out now and again, but by and large, if you want to look after your biorhythms you maintain regularity in your habits, end of.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:34:30] Regular as clockwork, and for you. Same thing really. I guess routine, routine.
Issy Panayis [00:34:35] Regimented.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:34:36] Yeah good. Well, hopefully, we’re all going to sleep well tonight. I hope so.
Kevin Morgan [00:34:40] Thanks very much Pixie.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:34:41] We picked up a few tips, thank you so much it’s been really fascinating to sort of you know real life activity here and obviously the science brain behind it all.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:34:52] That’s all from this episode of sleep matters from dreams if you want to hear more. Go to dreams.co.uk, YouTube or any of your usual podcast places. And if you enjoy this podcast if you could subscribe and leave us a review.
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