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What is the 10-3-2-1-0 Rule?

Have you heard of the 10-3-2-1-0 rule for sleep?

10 hours before bed: No more caffeine.

3 hours before bed: No more food or alcohol.

2 hours before bed: No more work.

1 hour before bed: No more screen time (shut off all phones, TVs and computers).

0: The number of times you hit snooze in the morning.


10 hours before bed: No more caffeine

Most coffee drinkers experience the effects of drinking caffeinated drinks soon before bed. Caffeine levels peak one hour after consuming coffee and stay at this level for five hours. By the sixth hour, around half of the caffeine is still in the body. Finally, only after 10 hours will the caffeine no longer be in the body.

Remember, it’s not just your coffee that can contain caffeine. Other products may also be stopping you from getting a good night’s slumber. Caffeine is present in sports drinks, some soft drinks, and some foods. Some prescription medications and over-the-counter medications contain caffeine too. The caffeine in medications helps the body absorb the medicines quicker. Ask your pharmacist if any of the medications you’re taking contains caffeine.


3 hours before bed: No food or alcohol

Eating and drinking alcohol before bed can impact your ability to fall asleep. Eating late at night can disrupt your circadian rhythm because muscles that digest and metabolise food have to keep working instead of resting. When parts of the body are still working, it can make falling asleep more difficult and prevent you from getting into the deep stages of sleep. A study found that women’s sleep patterns were impacted more than men's when eating before bed. Higher fat intakes in the evening caused women to take longer to fall asleep, longer to reach REM sleep and were more likely to wake up after falling asleep.

Late-night meals often end up as extra calories stored as fat while we sleep. At night the body is more insulin resistant than it is in the morning when you’re refuelling after fasting overnight. People also tend to make less healthy and comforting food choices when they’re eating late at night. They’re more likely to choose a bowl of ice cream, chocolate, or chips.

While some people feel that drinking alcohol relaxes them before bed, it can still disrupt their sleep. Drinking alcohol late in the day can reduce REM sleep and cause sleep disruptions. Drinking excessive amounts in a short period of time (binge drinking) can be particularly detrimental to sleep quality. Poor sleep at night makes people snack more during the day as well due to the hormone ghrelin being high from not getting adequate sleep. Notice that you crave more crap when you're sleepy? There's a hormonal reason why!

2 hours before bed: No more work

Finishing work or studying two hours before bed can help with sleep. Whether it’s mental or physical work, your body and brain need time to decompress and prepare for a night of sleep. With more people working from home since the pandemic and flexible hours, it’s tempting to read emails or do some work before bed. Moreover, working from bed can make it even harder for your brain to associate your bed with sleep, instead of work.

Creating a buffer time between finishing work and going to bed allows stress and adrenaline to diffuse and for the brain to disengage from work. Try to engage in activities that signal your brain it’s time for sleep within the next couple of hours. You might take a shower, tidy the living room, or read a book. If thoughts of work keep you up at night, keep a notebook and jot down your thoughts. This releases the worry of forgetting. Once it’s jotted down, let it go until the next morning when you read your notes. We call all these pre-seep activities "off switches".


1 hour before bed: No more screens

It’s not just your work laptop and phone that you should avoid before bed, it’s all screens. If you enjoy binge-watching a series or playing a game on the computer, it’s time to turn them off one hour before you intend to head to bed. The blue light emitted by screens reduces the production of melatonin which controls your sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm). It makes it difficult to fall asleep and wake up the next morning. Blue light reduces the amount of time you spend in the rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, which is needed for cognitive functioning.

Avoiding any electronic devices in the bedroom such as TVs and phones can be one way to release the temptation as these can negatively impact your sleep. Hours of electronic use can cause a shorter sleep duration and sleep deficit. We call screens "on switches".


0: The number of times you hit snooze in the morning

If you tend to hit the snooze button and fall back to sleep, it’s a habit you should break. The sleep we get just before waking is usually the REM or dream stage of sleep. Hitting snooze disrupts this stage of sleep, and if the snooze button makes your heart race, it’s a flight or fights response your body doesn’t need so early in the morning. Waking up and falling back to sleep can make us feel groggy during the day. Instead, go to bed earlier so you don’t need to sleep after that first snooze button. Getting up as soon as the alarm goes off contributes to a better feeling during the day. If you’re struggling to break the habit, move the alarm away so you can’t reach it without getting out of bed to turn it off. You’ll be less likely to fall back asleep. Something like an Eight Sleep will wake you via heat which is a game changer instead of a panic-inducing alarm screaming in your ear. 

Test out the 10-3-2-1-0 rule and see how much it can drastically change your sleep!

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