Warm milk, a strict routine and gentle rocking are the top three ways to get a baby to sleep, according to parents. In a survey looking into how little sleep new parents get, mums and dads revealed the tricks and tips they felt worked to…
If you’ve ever wondered why you’re up all night after one coffee but your friend can drink a double espresso after dinner and fall asleep with no issue, science might just have the answer.
A physician found a person’s response to caffeine is likely determined by two main genetic factors: whether their liver can metabolise caffeine quickly or slowly, and whether they carry a genetic variation that makes their central nervous system more sensitive to it.
Dr J Langer said coffee drinkers fall into one of three major groups: high, regular and low caffeine sensitivity.
“It’s common for people to ask their doctor questions such as why they are kept awake by one cup of coffee, while their partner easily falls asleep after five cups,” said Dr Langer. “The answer is that we are all unique coffee drinkers. Our genetic make-up programmes our reaction to caffeine, just as it programmes our hair colour and eye colour.”
High sensitivity to caffeine
If you find even the slightest amounts of caffeine gives you a boost and more than one cup of coffee keeps you up all night, it’s likely you have high sensitivity to caffeine.
This is likely due to slow-metabolism in the liver and ‘high binding’ in the central nervous system – basically it impacts the central nervous system more).
Regular sensitivity to caffeine
People with this level of sensitivity can generally drink 2-5 cups of coffee a day without sleep issues or adverse reactions.
It’s thought regular sensitivity is caused by a balance between caffeine inactivation in the liver and binding in the central nervous system.
For this group, caffeine is normally not recommended in the evening.
Low sensitivity to caffeine
If you can drink coffee before bedtime and it doesn’t affect your sleep, you most likely fall into this category. An individual with low sensitivity to caffeine probably will not experience the typically desired effects of caffeine throughout the day, such as wakefulness, alertness and increased concentration.
It occurs because their body metabolises caffeine quickly.In this group, higher intakes of caffeine can be consumed, although people should have no more than five cups of coffee per day for health reasons.
The research is shared in a new report authored for the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee.
If there’s one thing that’s a given after a bank holiday weekend, it’s that your workplace will be full of people struggling to keep their eyes open and stifle yawns.
If you’re feeling drained from three days of fun, we feel your pain. To help, here’s a handy guide for getting through Tuesday.
1. Fill your body with goodness
What you eat can have a big impact on your energy levels, according to registered nutrition consultant Charlotte Stirling-Reed.
“Food gives you energy, so ultimately making sure you’re not skipping meals and that you’re giving yourself plenty of filling and wholesome foods at each meal can help,” she previously told HuffPost UK. “Foods such as porridge, whole grains, nuts and seeds can help to top up energy levels. Don’t forget to include plenty of fruits and veggies for extra hydration and a boost of vitamins and minerals too.”
2. Keep moving during the day
When you’re tired it’s tempting to hunker down in one spot, but regularly moving during your working day can help you feel more energised. In 2012 research from sports scientist Jack Groppel found that when employees completed small but frequent bursts of movement throughout the day – such as walking around the office or stretching – they felt less sluggish.
In fact, 37% of employees reported high levels of energy in the middle of the day after taking part in a trial movement programme – an 11% increase compared to when they were static.
3. Stay hydrated
Being dehydrated can lead to fatigue and lack of concentration. Although downing tea and coffee may feel like a quick-fire way to beat this, according to the NHS, caffeinated drinks can make the body produce urine more quickly and are therefore not the best way to keep the body hydrated.
Similarly sports drinks or energy drinks may provide you with a short-lived energy boost, but are often high in sugar, meaning they’re also high in calories and contribute to tooth decay. Your best bet, therefore, is to drink water. It may seem unexciting, but at least it’s cheap.
4. Take a lunch break
More than half of people in the UK (56%) do not take the full lunch break they’re entitled to, and it could be making us feel more drained.
In 2011 research from the University of Illinois found taking a break from a task can help increase your productivity for the afternoon. So if you’re struggling to keep maintain focus, ditch lunch al desko and get outside for some fresh air, go to a gym class or find some headspace with a meditation app.
5. Remember it’s a short week
If all else fails, take a minute to remember all the fun things you did this weekend that made feeling this crap totally worth it. Also, it’s only three more sleeps until Friday.
If you hit snooze at the weekend or don’t bother setting an alarm at all, there is now absolutely no reason to feel guilty.
New research suggests adults under the age of 65 who get five hours of shut-eye per night or less have a higher risk of death compared to those who consistently get six or seven hours of sleep per night.
But the good news is having a weekend lie-in seems to counteract these detrimental effects. In fact, the study, based on data of more than 43,000 adults, found those who tend to catch up on sleep at the weekend had no raised mortality risk compared with those who consistently get to bed early during the week.
The study, by Stockholm University’s Stress Research Institute, and Karolinska Institute, used data from a medical survey conducted in Sweden in 1997. Researchers then used data from the national death register to calculate death rates among the participants.
Participants who regularly had under five hours of sleep, without catching up at the weekend, were found to have a 52% higher mortality rate than those who had six-seven hours of sleep or more, seven days per week. But when those sleep-deprived on weekdays slept for nine hours or more at the weekend, their mortality rates were no different to consistent sleepers.
“The results imply that short weekday sleep is not a risk factor for mortality if it is combined with a medium or long weekend sleep,” the study authors wrote. “This suggests that short weekday sleep may be compensated for during the weekend, and that this has implications for mortality.”
While weekend lie-ins may help you to live longer, previous research has suggested trying to reduce your “sleep debt” by staying in bed longer at the weekend won’t improve your brain function if you’ve skimped on sleep during the week.
The research published, in the American Journal of Physiology- Endocrinology and Metabolism, found weekend lie-ins helped to reduce inflammatory and stress hormones after a sleep-deprived working week, but brain function remained unimproved.
The moral of the story? Try to get plenty of sleep during the week and treat yourself to a weekend lie-in to stay on top form. We don’t need telling twice.
Humans might be the only mammals in the animal kingdom with access to a washing machine and fabric conditioner, but it doesn’t seem to be enough to stop us from still being dirtier than our furry cousins. This is after a study from Nort…
If you’re scrolling on your phone past 10pm at night, you might be heightening your risk of mood disorders.
A new study by the University of Glasgow has found a disrupted 24-hour body clock, typically caused by things like checking Facebook at midnight or getting up to make a cup of tea in the middle of the night, could increase your risk of depression and bipolar disorder. It was also associated with decreased happiness and health satisfaction, and a higher risk of reporting loneliness.
Circadian rhythms are variations in physiology and behaviour that recur every 24-hours, such as the sleep-wake cycle and daily patterns of hormone release. They occur in plants, animals and throughout biology, and are fundamental for maintaining health in humans, particularly mental health and wellbeing.
Professor Daniel Smith, Professor of Psychiatry and senior author on the study, told The Times a 10pm cut-off with technology would give the average adult time to wind down properly before sleeping, therefore giving them the chance to establish a regular sleeping pattern.
Interestingly it’s not just disrupted sleep that can upset the fine balance of your circadian rhythm, it’s also important to be active during the day and inactive at night – so that evening gym session probably isn’t for the best.
“Especially in the winter, making sure you get out in the morning in the fresh air is just as important in getting a good night’s sleep as not being on your mobile phone,” said Smith. “Benjamin Franklin said that ‘early to bed and early to rise makes a man, healthy, wealthy and wise’. There’s a lot of truth in that.”
Previous studies have identified associations between disrupted circadian rhythms and poor mental health, but these were on relatively small samples.
For the latest study, researchers analysed activity data on 91,105 people to measure their daily rest-activity rhythms (also known as relative amplitude). Those with lower relative amplitude were at greater risk of mental health problems regardless of age, sex, lifestyle, education and previous childhood trauma.
Prof Smith said this study is important on a global scale because “more and more people are living in urban environments that are known to increase risk of circadian disruption and, by extension, adverse mental health outcomes”.
Whether they’re not tired or they can’t find their favourite toy, all parents have heard endless excuses as to why their child just will not go to bed. Among the more reasonable excuses as to why sleep isn’t on the horizon, there are also hilarious ones.
Sarah Turner, a.k.a The Unmumsy Mum, shared some of the comical reasons her boys have given to her for not being asleep when she’s gone to check on them. They included: “There is a slug in my bed” and wanting “a little chat about wrestling”.
Amused by the reasons Turner shared, other mums decided to comment on the post with their kids’ hilarious reasons as to why they weren’t asleep.
We’ve picked some of our favourite excuses parents shared on the Facebook post. Have your kids said anything brilliant to get out of sleeping? Let us know in the comments below!
“My eyelashes hurt!”
“A fly landed on my willy and woke me up.”
“I can’t go to sleep because she (pointing at her sister) will breathe all my air and I might die.”
“You didn’t cut my nails mummy.”
“My left eye has fallen out.”
“I can hear a baby ant outside.”
“The doll needs a wee.”
Also on HuffPost
People who go to bed late are more at risk of premature death than those who turn in early, new research has shown.
“Night owls” tend to stay up late but struggle to drag themselves out of bed in the morning, while “larks” often go to bed, and wake up, earlier.
Scientists who studied a population of nearly half a million Britons found that over a six-year period, owls had a 10% greater risk of death than larks.
The difference held true even after adjusting for expected health problems in owls, such as metabolic dysfunction and heart disease.
Society should wake up to the real difficulties faced by night owls, said the researchers. They called on employers to be more flexible towards staff who suffer when forced to clock in early.
Dr Kristen Knutson, a member of the team from Northwestern University in Chicago, US, said: “Night owls trying to live in a morning lark world may have health consequences for their bodies.
“They shouldn’t be forced to get up for an 8am shift. Make work shifts match people’s chronotypes. Some people may be better suited to night shifts.”
The study, published in the journal Chronobiology International, found higher rates of diabetes, mental disorders and neurological conditions among night owls.
The researchers drew on data from the UK Biobank, a storehouse of medical and genetic information provided by 500,000 people aged 40 to 69 from across the UK.
British co-author Professor Malcolm von Schantz, from the University of Surrey, said: “This is a public health issue that can no longer be ignored.
“We should discuss allowing evening types to start and finish work later, where practical. And we need more research about how we can help evening types cope with the higher effort of keeping their body clock in synchrony with sun time.”
Larks are better able to adjust their body clocks to the light and dark rhythms of the rising and setting sun, said the researchers.
Owls may have a body clock that fails to match their external environment, said Dr Knutson.
Being a night owl was associated with psychological stress, eating at the wrong time, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, and drug or alcohol use.
Genetics and the environment played roughly equal roles in determining whether you are a night or morning person, said the scientists.
One way night owls could help themselves was to ensure they are exposed to light early in the morning, but not at night, according to Dr Knutson. They should try to be disciplined about bed-times and get jobs done early in the day rather than leaving them until late, she said.
Dr Knutson added: “You’re not doomed. Part of it you don’t have any control over, and part of it you might.”
On this night in particular, Melanie Darnell, who shares fitness and parenting posts on Instagram (Fit Momma of 3), had a two-year-old with an ear infection and a 10-month-old baby who struggled to sleep. She taped a camera to the ceiling to show others how her nights often go when her husband works away.
The video shows Darnell getting into bed alone at 10pm. Soon after, her 10-month-old joins her in bed. Fast forward several hours and her toddler is in bed with them too.
“Parenting doesn’t end when the sun goes down,” she wrote on Instagram on 5 April. “It’s a tough balance. Realising that the last sweet hours of restful darkness are almost over. The 4am wake-up call is especially excruciating. Still, we haul ourselves out of bed, and with bleary eyes pull our babies in close.”
Darnell wanted to show other mothers who are struggling with sleep deprivation that they are not alone. “To all of the tired mothers out there, breathe in and breathe out,” she wrote. “These days are intense but short-lived. Both you and baby will be sleeping more soundly before long.
“For now, cuddle your babies, nurse them and love them no matter what time the clock says. The baby you rock tonight someday may have the opportunity to be gazing at the stars while holding a sweet baby of her own. She will be thinking of, and appreciating, you.”
Commenting on the video, which was viewed 1.2 million times in four days, one person wrote: “Ah that’s an amazing post. I needed to see that this morning after being awake all night.”
Another wrote: “Your video made me realise that no matter where we are from, all mothers are same and so kids are. I am an Asian and felt like it’s my video. Sending love to you.”
Also on HuffPost
“My husband and I genuinely care about having a great relationship. But if we are tired, our relationship just suffers,” says Jennifer Adams, who has been in a relationship with her husband for 12 years and spent the last eleven of those sleeping in a separate bed to him.
For many couples sleeping away from your partner is synonymous with relationship woes, matrimonial discord and as a result of arguments: you only have to look at celebrities being described as ‘kicked out’ of bed by their partner when they say they are no longer bed-sharing. Even if it is due to children, hectic schedules or other plausible factors.
But as more people in the UK are choosing to sleep alone – a survey last year of 1500 Britons found one quarter (24%) of couples were regularly sleeping away from their other half (more than three times a week) – is it time to reconsider the potential benefits rather than just seeing it as the beginning of the end?
“There are lots of reasons why a couple may choose to sleep in separate beds or rooms,” says Martin Burrow, Relate counsellor and sex therapist, saying that the majority of reasons he hears are practical ones, things that interrupt sleep patterns – like working different shifts or being a loud sleeper. For example, Adams says her husband snores and has to wake up early for work, whereas she sleeps lightly and doesn’t need to get up until much later for her job. They worked this out in the first month of living together and never looked back.
Another reason for lots of couples, says Burrow, is having children. Couples might want to sleep separately to facilitate co-sleeping with young family members, in fact one sixth (16%) of those asked in the survey attributed their arrangement to the presence of a child in the main bed.
Although many couples might be able to see they would be less argumentative or short-tempered if they had eight hours rest every night – and weren’t constantly being kicked by a toddler – you’ve got to ask the question: how does this affect your closeness both emotionally and physically?
Sarah Ryan, a relationship expert, tells HuffPost UK that she, like many people, is suspicious about couples taking this road. “I am all for absence makes the heart grow fonder but I do not believe in the bedroom it is the case.” In fact, she says sleeping together makes couples more connected. “It also creates a sense of closeness emotionally due to physical proximity. We let our guards down and have full disclosure of our vulnerability,” she adds.
“I am all for absence makes the heart grow fonder but I do not believe in the bedroom it is the case…”
When asked about intimacy Adams says, matter-of-factly: “We still have sex.” In fact, she says they make an effort to spend bedtime together. It’s just the sleeping that is done separately. “We spend time lying next to each other in bed, chatting, catching up on the day’s events, lying next to each other in silence, and all the other ‘normal’ bed-related activities,” she explains.
But what about the spontaneity? “In reality, sex is rarely truly spontaneous and most couples (even those sharing a bed full-time) would benefit from scheduling in time for intimacy,” says Burrow. “It removes the predictability of lying next to each other every night,” agrees family counsellor Armele Philpotts. “And means couples might have to make more effort to connect.”
While being either side of a wall might require you to make a bit more proactive, it’s not impossible to see how this would work. Afterall couples who live in separate houses and infrequently share a bed, don’t just not have sex. And perhaps if you’re better rested it could be a positive step for your sex life.
Indeed Adams says that being able to get a good night’s rest enables them to be better spouses to each other during the day. “When we were in the early throes of romance, the last thing either of us thought would be a distinctive feature of our relationship was heading to separate rooms each night. But it is.”
For many couples this might raise the (not easily-dismissed) point that this is only really going to work if you have another bedroom to go to. A spare room rather than a sofa, which inevitably will lessen the quality of sleep and comfort for the party drawing the short straw.
So do you need to sleep in the same bed to have a good quality of relationship? It depends. Ask yourself: is sleeping separately is down to a conscious or proactive choice or a habit you’ve passively adopted over time? Also was it a decision made between you or enforced by one?
“If it’s a habit that you’ve fallen into but not happy about, talk about this with your partner and see whether there are any solutions such as ear plugs for snoring or getting into the habit of going to bed at the same time,“says Burrow.
“The main thing is that fears and ‘unsaid’ worries are rarely helpful, if one partner doesn’t want to move back to the same room, it should be explored to see why,” says a spokesperson for Tavistock counselling services. “But as an agreed joint decision it could spark something fresh in both partners’ lives.”
“I never feel that refreshed feeling you want out of a night’s sleep. I can’t even remember what that feels like,” says Sophie Eggleton, from Surrey. “Often I’m already awake when the alarm goes off, and it only serves as a reminder that I’ve managed to get through another night without falling asleep, and it’s now time to crawl out of bed and shower.”
Having suffered sleepless nights for more than a decade, Sophie is among the 10% of the population who suffer from chronic insomnia, while around 30% of us will experience insomnia for a shorter period at some point in our lives.
According to psychologist Dr Vikki Powel, a Counselling Directory member, while we all have periods of poor or disturbed sleep, insomnia refers to regular difficulty with getting to sleep, which can include waking after initially falling asleep. “For a clinical diagnosis of insomnia, individuals typically experience these symptoms three times a week, and for six months or more,” she tells HuffPost UK. “A brief period of sleep difficulty can be a very normal response to a particularly distressing – or exciting – period or event in your life. But insomnia is when your body does not return to normal after this period, or events that disturb sleep pattern are prolonged.”
At its worst, insomnia can be debilitating, causing extreme fatigue and preventing sufferers from completing basic daily activities, which often leads to distress. For Sophie, this includes memory loss, such as forgetting people’s names. “There’s also been plenty of times I’ve worn clothes inside out and strangers on the tube have let me know,” she says. “I’ve put my debit card pin code into microwave. I’m always extremely clumsy and dropping things which always drives partners and family members mad – they often mutter ’what’s the matter with you?’ as I spill, trip over, drop and crash things.”
[READ MORE: Insomnia: what is it and why do we suffer from it?]
The causes of insomnia can vary from stress and anxiety, noise, an uncomfortable bed, shift work, caffeine, an underlying health condition or a combination of factors. In fact, Dr Powel says one of the most frustrating things about insomnia for many sufferers is that they struggle to pin point the cause. This is the case for Sophie, who doesn’t know exactly what started her sleepless nights, but noticed they worsened during a period of stress.
“It was a combination of all the negative and worrisome voices in my head, heart palpitations as a result of anxiety, and bad IBS, that would ensure I would get very little, if any sleep,” she says.
As a freelance presenter, blogger and YouTuber, Sophie is often juggling multiple work commitments, which can be challenging when she’s experiencing extreme tiredness. She “beats herself up” when she feels she hasn’t completed a job to the best of her ability.
“This week has been one of those weeks where I’ve felt completely hopeless about my situation, and have been on the verge of tears the whole time. When you’re tired your ability to cope crumbles, and then you feel angry at yourself for being such an emotional wreck. It’s an endless domino effect,” she says. “I hate letting other people down, or giving them the impression I can’t cope.”
Almara Abgarian, 28, experiences insomnia “off and on” and, like Sophie, says it has affected her work life in the past. “When I worked the usual nine to five life and the insomnia was very bad, I’d stay up until 3-4am. When the alarm went off at 6am, I felt like crying. I’ve always been a motivated person and worked a lot of jobs with long hours, but I don’t function very well on no sleep. I was exhausted and cranky,” she explains.
Now, Almara, from London, works as a freelance journalist and PR consultant and the flexibility of being her own boss has taken some of the pressure off from sleeping. However, she still has periods of troubled sleep, which she believes are linked to the anxiety she feels about not getting sleep. “It’s a vicious circle,” she explains. “I feel anger with myself about not being able to sleep. I remember one night back in 2015, my ex-boyfriend had to calm me down in the middle of the night because I was so exhausted and sleep-deprived, I couldn’t stop crying.”
When her insomnia was at its worst, Almara felt nauseous because of the lack of sleep and as a result, wasn’t able to eat properly because she “just wasn’t in the mood for food”. Almara admits she wasn’t “pleasant to be around” during this time, which is something Louise Waters, from Brighton, can relate to.
The 51-year-old, who runs a PR consultancy, has never been a heavy sleeper, but started suffering with insomnia when she was expecting twins 14 years ago. “Once they were born, my sleep was so disrupted I’ve never been able to sleep properly since,” she says. “I wake up most mornings at around 3am and lie awake for at least an hour – sometimes longer- before being able to go back to sleep. My poor family can sometimes get the brunt of it as I can be really irritable for no good reason.”
Louise is yet to find a method that consistently helps her insomnia, but says reading a read a book until she drops off again sometimes helps. Meanwhile Almara finds wearing earplugs at night and making time to go to the gym in the evening helps. For Sophie, meditation coupled with lavender pillow sprays can sometimes ease the stress and anxiety she believes are the root cause of her insomnia.
For those struggling with insomnia, Dr Vikki Powel shares these tips:
:: Accept that we all have individual variations in our sleep need and sleep drive – tune in to yours, are you better sleeping early or later, how much do you need to feel restored?
:: Know that it is a normal pattern of sleep to wake briefly four-five times in the night, typically after the repeating pattern of light sleep, deeper sleep, REM sleep. This cycle repeats approximately every 90 minutes.
:: Reduce stimulation from screen time, food, alcohol and caffeine. Exercise regularly and develop a robust ‘wind down’ routine for the hour before trying to sleep.
:: Increase conditions for good sleep (often referred to as sleep hygiene) – these include having bedroom that is dark enough (get black out blinds), warm enough but not overly warm, protected from outside noises and buying sufficient pillows. This can extend to managing disturbance factors from partners, i.e. ear plugs or an eye mask if partner snores or reads.
:: Increase your relaxation, which can be helped through mindfulness, meditation, gentle music, and diaphragm breathing.
:: Allow yourself time before starting ‘wind down’ to write a list of worries or actions that may otherwise play on your mind.
:: Focus on sleep quality vs quantity.
:: If your insomnia is no longer attributable to a trigger event (which can range from a long-haul flight to a traumatic life event), seek help from a sleep specialist. Often these are psychologists and CBT therapists who can work with you on a 6-8 session basis.
Researchers examined more than 10,000 infant deaths from 2004 to 2014 and found that 1,375 cases (13.1%) occurred during the absence of a parent. They found infants who died of sleep-related causes under non-parental supervision were less likely to be placed in the “supine” position – lying horizontally with their face and torso facing up.
Among the babies who died under non-parental supervision, those supervised by relatives or friends were more often placed on an adult bed or couch for sleep and were more likely to have objects in their sleep environment. The researchers urged paediatricians to educate parents that all caregivers must always follow safe sleep practices.
“If someone else – a babysitter, relative, or friend – is taking care of your baby, please make sure they know to place your baby on the back in a crib and without any bedding,” said Dr. Rachel Moon of the University of Virginia School of Medicine.
Dr Moon added: “It’s always best to discuss where and how your baby should sleep. You can’t make assumptions that the person with whom your baby is staying will know what is safest.”
So if you’re leaving your baby with a family member or friend for the first time, what should you ensure they know before you leave the house? Kate Holmes, support and information manager at The Lullaby Trust told HuffPost UK: “Whether caring for your own baby, or babysitting a friend or relative’s little one, it’s important that you’re aware of the risks of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). While SIDS is rare, it’s important that anyone taking care of an infant knows the safer sleep practices that reduce the chance of SIDS occurring.”
The Lullaby Trust advised that parent should make sure all babysitters are aware to:
:: Place the baby on his or her back.
:: Put the baby (if aged 0-6 months) to sleep in their own cot or Moses basket in the same room as where you are for both day and night-time sleeps.
:: Avoid letting the baby get too hot.
:: Don’t cover the baby’s face while sleeping or use loose bedding.
:: Keep cot as clear as possible, with no pillows, duvets, cot bumpers, soft toys or baby products.
The charity suggested parents could pass on their Easy Read cards that encourage safer sleep.