Sleep has become a national obsession. In some industries, living off a few hours a night is seen as a symbol of tireless ambition and hard work. In wellness, it’s the more the better — a sign of balance, health and having your sh*t together. A glowing, bag-free complexion is just a bonus.

That’s why it’s truly aggravating when, despite spritzing your lavender sleep spray and keeping your bedroom a digital-free zone, allowing you a dreamy eight hours or so (between seven and nine is ideal) you still wake up feeling snoozy and short.

We spoke to sports doctor Phil Riley to find out what else could be causing those energy lows… 

1. Stress

Stress can play a big part in a disrupted night. Not only can it be hard to get those niggles out of your head, but it can also lead to poor hydration, excess caffeine, skipping meals and grazing on unhealthy meals — all of which can have a knock-on effect on your sleep quality.

Try: Keeping a pad and pencil by the bed to note down the things that spring to mind, so you can offload them and pick them up in the morning (when everything will seem a lot more bearable).

2. Caffeine

We know caffeine wakes us up, so why do we continue drinking tea and coffee into the afternoon? It has a half-life of six hours, so you shouldn’t drink any after 5pm, if you want to be sure it won’t disturb your sleep patterns.

Try: Monitoring your caffeine levels and, if you don’t want to kick the habit, switch to decaf from mid-afternoon onwards.

3. Alcohol

Though drinking can make you drop off quickly and deeply, the quality of sleep is far inferior to an alcohol-free night. It increases inflammation, dehydration and the risk of cardiac arrhythmia, leading to that (not so) inexplicable tiredness after a booze-fuelled lie-in.

Try: Drinking less before bed, by switching to water before the end of the night.

4. Exercising at the wrong time

Working out is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but doing it at the wrong time can have negative effects on your sleep pattern. Exercising in the evening, particularly if it’s high intensity, may disturb your ability to get a good night’s rest as it takes five hours or so for your body temperature, metabolism, stress and cortisol levels to return to normal.

Try: An invigorating morning sesh or, if that’s not possible, doing it as early as you can in the afternoon or evening.

5. Eating the wrong things at the wrong times

Having a heavy meal before bed prevents you from entering sleep easily, as your body will still be digesting. Furthermore, large meals mean slower digestion and can lead to stomach pains and acid reflux, causing discomfort which can, in turn, keep you up at night.

Try: Eating a bigger breakfast of protein-rich foods to optimise cognitive functions and keep you energised until lunch, and smaller dinners.

6. Lack of regularity

Though freelance jobs and busy lives make the idea of a set ‘bed time’ seem quaint, letting your body get into a routine will allow your circadian rhythm to help you drift off at night and wake-up naturally in the morning, enabling you to avoid an early morning alarm.

Try: Using a sleep journal to track when you go to be each night, and the time you wake up. This will allow you to map out your natural sleep cycle and work out the ideal time you should be getting to sleep.

7. Keep your sleeping space for sleep (and maybe sex)

‘Sleep hygiene’ might be a bit of an overused buzzphrase, but the basis in science is clear; using phones and laptops before bed will keep the brain from switching into snooze mode.

Try: Leaving tech out of the bedroom and giving yourself time to wind down in a dark, quiet room before you want to go to sleep.


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