The seven hour sleep guide for women in midlife


Women have a higher risk than men of developing sleep problems, at a ratio of nearly three to two

Dr Shelby Harris says women have a higher risk of developing sleep problems.

She advised on overcoming insomnia in midlife with a tailor-made sleep guide.

The British sleep expert warns sleep trackers can make thing worse.

She suggests ditching caffeine post-lunch and hiding your bedside clock.


It’s common for people with insomnia to tell everyone that they haven’t slept well. Often, it’s a bit of self-protection in the hope that others then don’t expect too much from them.

But this turns up the volume on sleep, making it a much bigger issue than it needs to be.

Make a pact with yourself not to discuss your sleep with others. (Unless, of course, you need to let friends and family know that they should be concerned.)


Sleep isn’t an on/off switch — we need to treat it more like a dimmer switch, and that means establishing a night-time wind-down ritual that doesn’t involve screens.

It’s so easy to think of binge-watching box-sets as precious ‘me time’ to relax in the evening, but studies show the more TV you watch, the poorer your sleep quality and the more noticeable your insomnia and fatigue.

When catching up with TV at night, set yourself an episode limit and then hit the ‘pause’ button.


Anyone with a sleep problem tends to spend a lot of time looking at their bedside clock, worrying about how little sleep they’ve had and how bad they’re going to feel the next day.

So put your clock out of sight under your bed and don’t look at it until the alarm goes off.


Alcohol might make you feel sleepy, but the effect wears off quickly, and a few drinks can even disrupt your sleep.

Alcohol is a sedative, too, and will relax the muscles in your airway, making snoring or sleep apnoea worse. So stop drinking alcohol three hours before bed to let its effects clear your system.


People with sleep problems often rely on caffeine to get them through the day. But the average cup of coffee has a half-life of six hours (the time it takes your body to eliminate half of the caffeine you’ve drunk).

That means half the caffeine from your 2pm espresso will still be buzzing in your system at 8pm.

Plus, as we age, caffeine takes even longer to leave the body.


These apps and smart watches typically estimate sleep based on our night-time movement — but sometimes we move during sleep and sometimes we lie perfectly still when hoping to fall asleep, so they may not be accurate.

They can also lead to you being hyper-focused on sleep when you need to be less focused, not more.


For women with insomnia, a huge problem is trying to force yourself to sleep at night and placing too much emphasis on being able to sleep. Aim to go to bed at the same time each night (even at weekends) and wake up at the same time every morning.


Daytime naps steal sleep from night-time. Try to avoid them so that you’re hungry for sleep at night. If you have to snooze, always do it before 2pm and, ideally, only ever in bed.

And don’t nap for longer than 20 minutes. It’s a good idea to set an alarm for 30 minutes (to give you ten minutes to drift off) and to get up as soon as this goes off.


Our growing 24/7 work ethos has been a huge player in our sleepless society and makes it even more difficult for our brains to shut off.

Try to make a habit of shutting down your work computer and phone at least two hours before bedtime. This will allow your brain to settle and start producing the hormone melatonin. This will help ensure you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.


For optimal sleep, your body temperature has to drop slightly throughout the night, so keep your bedroom cool. A fan by the bed can help if you are woken by hot flushes.


We need complete darkness to activate the hormone melatonin, which keeps us asleep. But your brain can sense light through the eyelids when they are closed, so invest in heavy curtains or wear an eye mask at night.


The irregular noise of voices elsewhere in the house or traffic outside can disrupt sleep. But background ‘white noise’, such as a fan, can help, or invest in an app such as NoiseZ, Noise Generator: Full Spectrum, or Pink Noise.

Pink noise is similar to white noise, but is thicker-sounding, with more low frequencies, making it similar to the torrent of a large waterfall. Researchers believe it can induce brainwave patterns involved in deep sleep.


Exercise can deepen your sleep, so that pain, noise and hot flushes are less likely to wake you up. But allow a four to six-hour buffer before bedtime, to enable the heart rate to slow and body temperature to return to normal.


Having to digest a heavy, large or spicy meal within three hours of bedtime can wreak havoc on your sleep. Creamy or acidic meals can worsen acid reflux, making your sleep more restless.


A warm shower or bath just before bedtime sounds like a great way to relax and unwind, but hot water can actually warm up your body temperature too much and stop you falling asleep.

So take a warm (not hot) shower or bath one-and-a-half to two hours before bedtime, to allow plenty of time to cool off.

My menopausal patients say a warm evening bath can help reduce the number and severity of hot flushes later that night.


The blue light given off by electronic gadgets, including many Kindles, reduces melatonin and can affect your ability to fall and stay asleep.

Studies have shown that people who read on a tablet take longer to fall asleep and longer to wake up the next morning, and spend less time in REM sleep (the active sleep when we process emotions, learn, consolidate memories and dream) than those who read a traditional paper book.


Women are so busy and the female brain is programmed to think about a million things at once, which is why mindfulness, which teaches you to focus on the present, is useful for those with sleep problems. It’s something I routinely practise myself.

Think of it like watching your luggage going round the airport carousel. Each piece of luggage is a separate thought.

Most insomnia patients will be inclined to lie in bed with tangled thoughts, grabbing on to each piece of luggage and dragging it off the conveyor belt for further inspection. They can easily end up overwhelmed.

The mindful method would be to notice each piece of luggage, acknowledge it, but instead of picking it up, let it continue around the conveyor belt until you’re ready to deal with it.


Tips: 10 things to do to wake up early without struggling


If you struggle to wake up in the morning to go to work or school, it is probably because of some things you do before sleeping.

However this can change by following these simple tips;


Tokeo la picha la waking up early

Take dinner early

This will help digestion to take place much faster such that by the time you go to bed you can have a peaceful sleep.

Drink lots of water

Water helps the body generally and prevents dehydration. When the body is dehydrated chances are that you are going to feel tired and exhausted. Take at least 3 glasses of water before going to bed.

Tips: 5 ways to improve the health of your gut

Do a to do plan

Before you go to bed its better for you to plan the next days activities. Set out the clothes you are going to wear before sleeping.

Morning stretch

Starting the day with some exercise will enable your muscles to relax. It will also help you to get set for the days activities and keep you active.

Picha inayohusiana


Have a specific bed time

Create your own timetable on when to sleep and when to wake up. This will enable your body to get used to the daily routine hence it will react to that mechanism.

Skip alcohol

When you take alcohol before bed chances are you are going to struggle getting out of bed the next morning. This is because of the hangovers that you will be having hence should be avoided.

Mike Mondo opens up about his relationship with father 

Sleep early

It is obvious that when you go to bed earlier you will have enough sleep hence early rising.

Keep your phone away

At times you can keep busy by being on the phone til late in the night. This can lead to cases of oversleeping because you slept late while chatting. Keep your phone away when it is bed time.

Tokeo la picha la sleeping while using phone

Shower before bed

This helps you to freshen up. When you are fresh before going to sleep you will have a peaceful night hence you will not have difficulties in waking up the next morning.

Meditate before sleeping

This will help you to calm your muscles and relax. At times you may be having a stressful day hence you need to forget about all that to have a nice sleep. That is why you need to meditate for at least 10 minutes before bed to free your mind for a better rest.

Read more:

Lack of sleep linked to mental health problems like depression

Poor sleep may be linked to a greater risk for poor mental health on college campuses, new research suggests.

With each night of insufficient sleep, the risk of mental health symptoms increased by roughly 20 percent, according to findings presented June 11 at Sleep 2019, the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

The findings suggest college students might benefit from sleep health education, lead author Thea Ramsey, an undergraduate at the University of Arizona in Tucson, told Reuters Health.

Her advisor Dr. Michael Grandner, senior author of the study and director of the university’s Behavioral Sleep Medicine Clinic, told Reuters Health that the importance of sleep in mental health has been shown before.

But: ‘Our study represents one of the largest to date that shows this link, and it shows that the more nights of insufficient sleep you get as a college student, the more likely that you will exhibit a wide range of mental health symptoms.’
Ramsey, Grandner, and colleagues analyzed data from more than 110,000 students, acquired through the National College Health Assessment. They defined ‘insufficient sleep’ as the number of nights that students did not sleep enough to feel rested.

In their analysis, insufficient sleep was linked to a 19 percent-29 percent increase in mental health symptoms.

Loneliness increased by 19 percent for each night of insufficient sleep, depressed mood increased by 21 percent, anxiety by 25 percent, desire to self-harm increased by 25 percent, suicidal thinking increased 28 percent and exhaustion increased 29 percent, among other symptoms evaluated. The researchers examined nearly 8,500 student-athletes as a subgroup and found similar associations.

Ramsey had suspected there might be differences in athletes’ response to insufficient sleep, but the data did not appear to bear that out.

‘What I thought was striking was the number of students they were able to study and the strong relationship between insufficient sleep and multiple domains of mental health,’ said Dr. Raman Malhotra, an associate professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, who was not involved in the research.

‘This is an important finding as mental health problems are common in this age group, and unfortunately, insufficient sleep is also very common in this group.’

‘This study would suggest that healthcare providers and universities should put more emphasis on getting adequate amounts of sleep to not only help (with) overall physical health, but (also) mental health,’ Malhotra told Reuters Health by email.

Daily Mail

Sleeping with the light on or TV on could lead to weight gain

Falling asleep with the light or TV on could lead to obesity because it confuses the body clock, scientists have warned.

Those who are exposed to artificial light of any kind in the evenings are 17 per cent more likely to gain weight, a study found.

Women were followed for five years and those who reported leaving the lights on gained up to 11lbs (5kg).

The researchers believe this is because sleep was disrupted – which has an effect on hormone balance and makes people seek out calorific food.

Experts said the findings made ‘perfect sense’ and add to mounting evidence against artificial lighting in the lead up to sleeping.
The study, by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, North Carolina, included nearly 44,000 women enrolled in the Sister Study group.

The women had no history of cancer or cardiovascular disease and weren’t shift workers, daytime sleepers or pregnant at the study’s start.

The women, aged between 35 and 74 years of age, self-reported the amount of artificial light they were exposed to at night.The findings, published in Jama International Medicine, found light – especially sleeping with a light or television on in the room – increased the risk of weight gain and obesity.

Compared to those not exposed to artificial light, women who slept with the light or TV on were 22 per cent more likely to become newly overweight and 33 per cent more likely to become newly obese.

The authors said this could be because a lack of sleep changes the hormones that regulate appetite.

As well as this, a shorter sleep simply means more time awake, and therefore more time to eat food. The researchers, led by Dr Yong-Moon Mark Park, were quick to point out that exposure to artificial light at night can be reflective of unhealthy behaviours, such as an unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle or stress, and socioeconomic disadvantage.

Casual inferences cannot be drawn from these results and more studies are needed to examine this association.

But reducing exposure to artificial light at night while sleeping could be considered in obesity prevention interventions, the authors said.


Professor Malcolm von Schantz, from the University of Surrey, said the findings ‘make perfect biological sense’.

He added: ‘We know that light in the late evening will delay our body clocks. We know from experimental studies in people that light at night affects our metabolism in ways that are consistent with increased risk of metabolic syndrome.

‘What is novel with this paper is that it is a longitudinal study comparing the weight of the same individuals at baseline and more than five years later.

‘These new findings won’t change the advice to maintain good sleep hygiene, and avoid light and electronic distractions in the bedroom, but they add further strength to the case for this advice.’

Dr Michelle Miller, associate professor of biochemical medicine, University of Warwick, said: ‘It shows that even after adjustment for potential confounders that light exposure whilst sleeping is associated with obesity.

‘The authors have adjusted for many potential confounders including sleep duration, which in this and previous studies has been prospectively associated with increased obesity, particularly in children.’

The experts said the study could have been stronger if participants had been wearing instruments that tracked their activity and exposure to light, rather than relying on self-reports

‘The findings are however consistent with current advice that sleeping environments should be as dark as possible,’ Dr Miller said.

Daily Mail

9 things we all do when we can’t sleep

You’ve gone home excited to know that the only thing you intend to do is jump right into bed.

But the minute you lay your head down, the sleep disappears. Hate when that happens.

These 9 reasons may be the reason why your brain is restless as you toss and turn.

1. Pull out your phone to check out the internet

This is the one thing most Kenyans do. You figure that you might as well check out Instagram as after all  it will take your mind off trying, but hours later, you are still awake.

Urggh isn’t this annoying?

2. Change your body position a million times

You will turn left, then right, then sleep on your back, flip around to your belly, before kicking the blankets and blaming everything for your lack of sleep.

3. Count the amount of time you’ll have to sleep before your alarm goes off

I have read that this is the wrong thing to do, as your brain loses sight of the sleep. Looking at the clock forces you to do a countdown of the hours left.

4. Obsess over every stupid thing that happened that day

Like every event that happened at work or class. Did you fight with some chick and wish it went different? Whyyyyy?

5. Obsess nonstop over that little noise that came out of nowhere

Shhh, did you hear that? Did the curtain move or is that shadow a thief hiding in your room?

Your brain at this point has lost sleep and is trying to figure out the noise.

 6. Think about that weird fact that you learned that day for hours on end

 How, how, hooooow do elephants have nini? How?!

 7. Text all your friends about the struggle being real

 Uhhmm has anyone responded yet?

 8. Freaking out over the next days epic plans

Perhaps you have a lit day planned kesho, like a surprise birthday party and you can’t help but obsess if everything will go according to plan.

Wait until you wake up and spend the next day with bugs in your eyes. Not pretty sis.

9. Obsess over all the sleep you’re not getting.

Like how is this happening?

You know for certain you will not be able to function tomorrow. And even though you know stressing out over the lack of sleep you’re getting isn’t helping, you still can’t stop.

Also read more here