Dr Kat Lederle
Tielle sleep specialist & founder, Somnia
Sleep specialist and chronobiologist, Dr Kat Lederle, translates scientific findings and proven therapeutic techniques into practical solutions for people with sleep problems, whether that’s chronic insomnia or the odd bad night. Dr Kat, the author of Sleep Sense, will be sharing advice about why sleep and circadian (aka body clock) health matters, and how to sleep well and feel good as a result.
Where is the craziest place you've slept?
Good question, several crazy places I'd say! I think from a sleep perspective it was on a beach in Grenada in the Caribbean. I was a research assistant on a project investigating leatherback sea turtles and we have to take turns in patrolling the beach at night.
Which hotel, B&B or luxury retreat would you most like to visit or revisit and why?
An eco-friendly lodge and safari. I love the outdoors and my first degree is in zoology and animal behaviour. I’ve been to Africa several times and would happily go again. Being able to see the animals in their natural habitat is an amazing experience. Travelling always means leaving a carbon footprint, but there are ways to reduce this. Ideally, I'd like to participate in an expedition with Earthwatch, an organisation that pairs researchers with volunteers.
Where do you sleep best?
In a comfortable, quiet and familiar place with a good solid mattress.
Tell us about your own bedroom?
This is tricky as it's currently being renovated and I do not know what it will be like. However, I live in a Victorian conversion flat, so the room is big with high ceilings and green walls. There's the typical furniture and my husband's favourite piece - his Eames chair and stool by the fireplace. This is the perfect place for relaxing and daydreaming. We have full-length curtains which limit the light while at the same time letting some light through so the body clock knows when day is starting.
What gets you up in the morning?
The excitement of the day and the prospect of a cup of tea from my favourite brand (Miss TeaSmith). I am a natural morning person and fully awake within a couple of minutes. I typically go for a short walk with my husband to catch some sun rays and get physically moving before going into work.
What helps you sleep at night?
Darkness and quietness are important, but I think the most crucial thing is a sense of fulfilment things that align with my values and purpose in life. Supporting others to sleep well and live in sync with their own body clock brings meaning to my life. With that also comes calmness and felling centred, which gives my mind less to think or worry about, making it easier to sleep well at night.
Do you have any sleep rituals?
Well, preparing for sleep starts in the morning when you wake up. You have all day to prepare for sleep the next night, not just the two hours before you go to bed. Personally, I like starting my day with a meditation. I already mentioned that I go for a walk in the morning, I also go for another walk at lunch or cycle. During the day I make sure I move and take mini-breaks. I also stay hydrated and try and have dinner around 7pm to have a fasting window of 12 hours. I have Night Shift installed on my screen devices which comes on in the evening. Crucially though, I stop working after 8pm whenever possible. While there have been moments of pause during the day, in the evening I make sure not to overstimulate the brain. I chat with my husband, read, watch something specific on TV, or just listen to something random.
What luxury item would you take on a desert island?
An eye mask. I am light-sensitive and desert island often don't have proper buildings!
What are the top three tips for the best night sleep and why?
- Identify your personal sleep window: How much sleep do you need and when do you sleep best? Stick to these times weekday and weekend. This will provide you with the most efficient sleep during which your energy resources can fully recharge.
- Spend time outdoors in natural daylight: This helps your body clock know it is daytime and later when it’s dark, it knows to promote sleep. It also boosts your mood.
- Do something you enjoy: Make some 'me time' during the day or evening to do something that helps you to relax and switch off from work. Quality of time is more important than quantity in this instance.
Why is sleep so important?
Where to start and where to end?! In a nutshell, sleep helps your body and brain to restore itself so you can be the best you can be during the day. Think of it like a bank account. If you keep withdrawing money but not paying any in, you sooner or later get into the red and have to face negative consequences. Similarly with sleep, if you don’t get the sleep you need (a question of quality and duration), your physical health, cognitive performance, and emotional wellbeing will start to deteriorate. You get ill, both mentally and physically and that reduces the quality of your life. Not just yours but also that of your loved ones and the people around you at work and friends. Sleep is the social glue that ties humans together, it promotes social interaction. If you have had a poor night, you are less empathetic and instead more irritable and withdrawn with potentially negative consequences for human-to-human interaction.
How can you get a better night's sleep when the evenings are so much lighter?
Make your bedroom dark and quiet and use an eye mask if necessary. Spent time outdoors in the daytime so your body clock ‘sees’ light and knows that it is daytime. It can then better register the change in light levels in the evening, and while it might take a little longer until it is fully dark outside, the body clock will notice the change and start to prepare the body for sleep. To help with that, keep indoor lights low or even better off. That includes blue-light emitting devices.
How can you improve your sleep during the warmer summer nights?
- During the day, keep the curtains and windows shut. Open them in the evening before bed to try and create a breeze. Some people find fans helpful.
- Make sure you hydrate throughout the day and evening.
- While a chilled glass of rosé in the evening is nice, alcohol can contribute to poor sleep at night. The same goes for spicy and heavy food.
- Use thin sheets instead of duvets and wear thin bed clothes. In exceptional heat, some people shower in their pyjamas before going to bed, others put them in a plastic bag and pop them in the freezer to cool them down. Cooling the neck and/or back can also help to improve sleep.
- Let go of the worrying because that can get you worked up and hinder sleep even more.
Sleeping during the heat can be tricky but it is not impossible. Experiment to find out what helps you best!
How can we look after our sleep as lockdown eases?
- Changes to routines and rituals can create uncertainty and anxiety which in turn can have a negative impact on your sleep.
- Acknowledge feelings of anxiety and worry. The world changed dramatically over the last 12 months and continues to change. Spend a moment with your worrisome thoughts and feelings during the day - is there anything helpful in them, anything you can address? If they are unhelpful, learn to disentangle from them. By stepping back and observing your thoughts you can also decide where to shift your attention next – onto the same unhelpful thoughts about the future or back to the present moment.
- Try and stick to your personal sleep window as much as possible. Sleep is not the number one priority but it should be high up there on the list. It’s ok to go out, just make sure that most nights you go to bed and get up at your regular time.
Dr Kat Lederle
Sleep specialist and chronobiologist, Dr Kat Lederle, translates scientific findings and proven therapeutic techniques into practical solutions for people with sleep problems. Kat is Tielle’s Sleep Specialist, the Founder of Somnia and author of Sleep Sense: Improve your Sleep, Improve your Health.