Oprah’s sleep expert says we need to stop doing this before bed

We’ve been told countless times that looking at our phone or TV screens before bed is the worst thing we could do if we want a good night’s sleep. But it turns out there’s one other major factor that could determine the quality of our shut eye, and like us, you’ve probably fallen victim to it one too many times – especially if you’re in a long-term relationship.

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In an interview with Femail, Oprah Winfrey’s go-to sleep expert Dr Michael Breus revealed the one thing you should never do before going to bed – and if you’re in a couple, you might want to take notes. Breus explained that having an argument or a heated discussion with your other half before bed is the worst thing to do as this has big effects on your quality of sleep.

‘Having big emotional discussions with your partner right before bed is one of the worst things you can do before trying to fall asleep,’ he said. ‘It sets off this whole level of autonomic arousal, you’re angry, you’re upset and you can’t stop thinking right before bed.’

Instead, you should wait to have the discussion another time or make sure it is genuinely resolved before heading to bed.

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Breus also shared his ideal bedtime routine – the same one we’re sure he’s told Oprah to follow – explaining that it’s important to think about all of the hours leading up to bed. ‘The secret to sleep is to pay attention to what you’re doing in those precious hours before bedtime,’ he explained. ‘One hour before you are going to try and sleep, break up your time accordingly.’

Breus recommends you do this with three 20 minute windows within an hour. The first should be used to ‘finish up your last task of the night’. The second window is then dedicated to your sleep hygiene: ‘Remove your makeup, wash your face, brush your teeth or take a hot bath or shower in a dimly-lit bathroom,’ he said. Finally, the last 20 minute slot should be used to do something that relaxes your body. ‘Whether it’s muscle relaxation, Tai Chi, stretching or doing something for your mind like meditation or prayer, make sure you use this time for you,’ he continued.

The sleep doctor also insisted that you need to aim for around seven and a half hours – which is considered the ‘sweet spot’ for slumber: ‘The average sleep cycle is 90 minutes long and a typical night of sleep includes five full sleep cycles,’ he added. ‘So, if we apply some simple maths, 90 x 5 is 450 minutes – or 7.5 hours.’