By Patricia B. Mirasol, Reporter 

SLEEP and sex should be the only two things done in bed in order to avoid sleepless nights, a sleep expert said. 

The pandemic and the subsequent shift to a work-from-home setup compelled some people to turn their bedrooms into offices to their detriment, noted Dr. Deborah A. Bernardo, a sleep specialist and neurologist. 

“That’s a no-no in sleep medicine. We want the bed to be only for sleep and sex,” she said in a Sept. 13 event on sleeplessness organized by Bounce Back Network, a community of startups and freelancers. “There should be no TVs and computers inside your bedrooms.”  

Insufficient sleep syndrome, which is a shortened sleep below an individual’s usual baseline, is different from insomnia, which is a persistent nighttime complaint of difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. The former is self-imposed as a consequence of obligations; the latter occurs despite an adequate opportunity to sleep.  

Dr. Bernardo said that sticking to a schedule that synchronizes one’s brain to circadian rhythms helps. So does ticking off an insomnia-proof bedroom checklist, including a calming color palette, comfortable room temperature, a quiet environment, and opaque window blinds — especially for shift workers.  

“If you snooze, you lose,” she added. “If you try extending sleep in the morning, it’s no longer restorative sleep. Better set an alarm on the time you really want to get up from bed.”  

Diet considerations, meanwhile, include avoiding big meals within two to three hours of bedtime, minimizing fluid intake within two hours of bedtime, and not taking caffeine past 2 p.m.   

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a food and health watchdog based in Washington, DC, notes that a 16-ounce Starbucks Caffè Americano has 225 milligrams of caffeine. One brewed bag of Lipton Black Tea, on the other hand, has 55 milligrams of the same stimulant.  

“We are the only species that voluntarily delay sleep,” Dr. Bernardo said. “There is no cure for sleeplessness except getting enough sleep.”  

Chronic insufficient sleep has a myriad of health consequences, including anxiety and obesity. 

“Start as soon as possible in improving your sleep,” said Dr. Bernardo, who recommended seven hours of sleep for adults. Fewer hours of sleep, especially in mid-life, can contribute to dementia in the future, she added.  

Vanna R. Reyes, a mother and influencer at Madiskarte Moms PH, shared at the Bounce Back Network event that she was starting her three children young on healthy sleeping habits.   

“Let your kids know that sleep is very important in their lives. I collect their gadgets before they sleep. When it’s light’s off, it’s light’s off,” she said. “I tell my kids, ‘You can succeed in life if you have a good foundation in sleep.’”