6th May, 2022

‘How to Get the Best Night’s Sleep’ Q&A

By Max Kirsten
‘How to Get the Best Night’s Sleep’ Q&A
Why is quality sleep so important?

The quality of your sleep is more important than the amount of sleep you get each night.
Sleep supports mental and physical health and is essential for longevity and quality of life. 
Good sleep allows the body to rest, restore and renew itself during the night. It also helps your brain clean itself like a dishwasher cycle and correctly process and store the day’s learnings. 
Sleep is the foundation from which the three pillars of health rise: mental, physical, and spiritual health. Sleep quality reduces daytime sleepiness.

How many hours of sleep should the average person aim for?

Most adults usually require between 7 and 9 hours of sleep for optimal health. Less than 7 hours a night of sleep has increased health risks such as dementia, cancer and heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Other potential problems include obesity, depression, reduced immune system function and lower sex drive.
Sleeping more than 9 hours a night also increases health risks, including diabetes, headaches, heart disease and depression.

What are the top common sleep routine mistakes?

Top bad habits or common mistakes people make when it comes to the sleep routine are irregular bedtimes and wakings. Regularity is key.
It’s essential to wind down at least an hour before bed, lowering bright lights such as computer screens on smartphones. Caffeine lasts up to 8 hours in the body with a half-life, so have your last caffeine drink or shot by lunchtime. Alcohol also reduces sleep quality, particular dreaming and causes dehydration. Ideally, last drink at least 3-4 hours before bed, not as a so-called ‘nightcap’. 
Understanding the circadian rhythm for optimal health is about becoming aligned with the sunrise and sunset. A dark bedroom is essential, and a temperature should be between 16 and 18° C. it’s vital to allow the body temperature to drop for optimal sleep. It’s also essential to take regular exercise and be out in the daylight as much as possible during the day to set the brain’s clock to understand that sleep needs to become triggered at night when it’s dark. 

Are there any sleep products you think really work?

Sleep supplements or sleep aids containing natural ingredients such as Valerian, L-Theanine, Theanine, Gaba, Lemon Balm Extract, Zinc, Vitamin B6, B12, Tryptophan, and magnesium. All of these natural ingredients can be helpful to promote relaxation and sleep to happen more quickly. 
I also recommend earplugs for the ‘sound-sensitive’ and sleep masks for ‘light-sensitive’ poor sleepers. I recommend the sleep masks that block out all light around the edges.
Research to find what’s best for you. Generally speaking, mattresses, pillows, and bedding are very subjective, as your body shape and predominant sleep position should determine your optimal bedding solution. To make your bed even more comfortable, I recommend adding a topper. I’m currently using a gel-filled breathable topper made by Panda London, although there are many kinds made, usually either of synthetic foam or out of natural fillings.

Do you think sunrise alarm clocks really work?

Sunrise alarm clocks can be very effective in helping you to wake up in winter when the mornings are so dark. They don’t work so well for people who wear an eye mask. However, people who have blackout blinds because they want darkness will find sunrise alarm clocks to help create the morning light at the selected time even with the blinds still down. There are considerable advantages to waking gently rather than causing a shock to the nervous system with a noisy alarm clock. I prefer the smartwatch alarm that gently vibrates to wake me up at the correct term because I wear a sleep mask.

Do you have any other product-focused sleep tips? 

I recommend the European style 2-duvet system for optimal sleep throughout the year. The thinner duvet is for summer, and the thicker duvet is for spring and autumn. The winter version is both duvets combined and tied together at all four corners. However, on the hottest nights, a single bedsheet is usually all that’s needed. 

What do you advise people to invest in for a better night’s sleep?

As we spend more than a third of our lives sleeping, I think the selection of bed and pillows are worth taking the time to find what suits your body shape and weight. There is no one perfect bed, mattress or pillow. But there is one for each of us when we have worked out our own unique sleep position and head weight requirements, for example, whether we sleep predominantly on our side or our front or back. 
I also think it’s helpful to use technology to measure sleep quality, length and depth. There are now many good sleep tracking wearables such as Apple Watch, FitBit, Oura Ring, etc. 

How important is it to have a good mattress? Why?

A good mattress is essential to correctly support the body to keep the spine aligned and should be chosen according to your body shape and weight. I think it’s also crucial that the bed can breathe and not become too hot in the summer, as we spend a third of our life upon it. It’s worth taking the time to research the right mattress for our unique body shape and weight.

How important is it to have a good pillow? Why?

A good pillow is essential because the predominant sleep position we take dictates the shape, firmness, and depth of the pillow should be. We are all not the same. Take time to research the optimal pillow for your dominant sleep position. 
Before you start shopping for a mattress, remember that if you sleep on a mattress that doesn’t support you correctly for your sleep position, you may find you have back pain and poor sleep.
Back sleepers generally need a firmer bed so softer mattresses will not support you correctly, causing lower back pain. The spine needs to be aligned. 
Side sleepers will need a softer mattress that allows the spine to have straight alignment, allowing the hips and shoulders to sink into the mattress much more.
Front or stomach sleeper put unnecessary stress on your spine, so I would always encourage them to learn to sleep more on their side or back predominantly instead.
Combination sleepers are the ones who move around little all the time throughout the night. They need a comfortable yet medium-firm mattress to offer the right blend of comfort, whatever position they are sleeping.
Whether you’re choosing a hybrid combination, or just a foam, latex, or old fashioned springs or a blend of these, it’s best to do the needed research into choosing the optimal mattress for your predominant sleep position and body shape weight and size. Remember that you spend a third of your life lying on a mattress surface, and you want to sleep well, comfortably, and as profoundly as possible.

Choosing a good Pillow?

Choosing the right pillow all depends on your preferred sleep position. The contents of your pillow are also important as they determine how firm soft spring springy, hyper allergenic, natural or synthetic it will feel and perform during your sleep.

Any other advice or tips for a good night’s sleep?

As a Sleep Coach working primarily with insomniacs, the most common form of insomnia is ‘racing mind syndrome’. So I teach people how to relax physically and focus more on resting instead of ‘trying to sleep’. The number one rule for sleep is to ‘never try to sleep because sleep is an unconscious process that happens when you relax and get out of the way. So in other words ‘trying to sleep’ is the completely wrong approach. Only insomniacs try to sleep. The rest of us relax about sleep and let it just happen.
The best sleepers never ‘try to sleep’. They simply close their eyes, relax, and start to drift off… in minutes…

I wish you a great night’s sleep.

Max Kirsten,The Sleep Coach 


Photo by Nathan Waters on Unsplash