10 STEPS TO YOUR BEST REST YET!
Sleep is crucial to our immune-health, cognition, exercise recovery and even our insulin sensitivity, so it should come as no surprise that trying to function after a sleepless night is absolute torture.
Almost everyone is familiar with the frustration of being unable to fall asleep, especially when we have a big, important day ahead of us. Many of us are self-proclaimed insomniacs, having succumbed to the feelings of powerlessness and despair that come with prolonged sleep deprivation.
Although spending a third of our lives in dreamland might seem like a waste of our limited time in the land of the living, no doubt getting sufficient, good quality sleep leads to a healthier, longer and more fulfilling life.
If you’re one of the many who suffer from insufficient or poor quality sleep, you’ll be relieved to know that there are many scientifically-backed ways to combat your bedtime blues. Even if you have a diagnosed sleep disorder, are subject to frequent jet lag, or even if you’re shift-worker, there are several simple things you can do to improve your sleep.
As for the lucky ones who already have their sleep sorted, stay tuned; there is always room for improvement when it comes to our health, and you might learn a few tricks that could take your sleep game to the next level.
1. Consider your consumption
Too often, we forget that what we eat and drink has a direct influence on all aspects of our life, including our sleep.Having a healthy diet can do wonders for our sleep, but there are a few foods and drinks we should be particularly careful to avoid if we are struggling to snooze.
Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol are all substances that are well known for the way they interfere with our sleep. However, many of us don't think of this when we have that 3 pm coffee, a cheeky glass of wine with dinner or an evening chocolate indulgence. Chocolate does contain a small amount of caffeine, but more importantly, the high sugar content of most chocolate will spike your insulin levels and could affect your ability to fall asleep.
It’s also important to avoid going to bed overly full, as digestion takes a lot of energy and slows down the body’s processes of repair and renewal that take place while you sleep. The solution is to finish eating at least a couple of hours before bed, but not so early that you go to bed starving because the hunger pangs will keep you awake!
Finally, be sure to stay hydrated, but avoid drinking too much water too close to bedtime, or your sleep will be interrupted with those annoying, nocturnal bathroom trips.
2. Hello darkness my old friend
Whether for work or otherwise, many of us are spending all day looking at screens. Continuing screen-time into the evening, long after the sun has set, means that the natural darkness is unable to prepare our bodies for sleep.
As the rising sun in the morning stimulates our alertness, the darkness of night stimulates sleepiness. Exposure to darkness triggers the production of the hormone melatonin, which physiologically prepares the body for sleep by lowering our core temperature, relaxing our muscles, and making us feel sleepy. Turning off your screens before bed, or at least removing the blue light on devices, is a good way to allow melatonin to do its job and help us fall into a restful sleep.
If you usually watch a movie or go on social media to wind down before bed; try reading a book or talking on the phone instead of texting. To further assist our bodies in the natural, biological preparation for sleep, we can also turn off all the bright lights in the house at least one hour before we jump into bed. Try using candles instead of electric lights (very romantic, but don’t forget to blow them out before you fall asleep). You can also improve your sleep by blocking out light with an eye mask, such as Mindfold.
3. Sleep-friendly supplements
Deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, potassium, calcium, and vitamins D and K2, have been linked to insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Fortunately, eating a varied and abundant plant-based diet can help prime your body for good sleep. However, even the biggest health nuts struggle to hit all their nutritional targets consistently, so it's a good idea to add nutritionally dense supplements to your diet.
It’s also possible to supplement the sleep hormone, melatonin, and there are a variety of herbal teas which, when enjoyed before bed, can help you get ready for a good night of premium quality slumber. If you’re looking for an organic, naturopath-approved herbal tea option, Tropeaka Sleep Herbal Infusion will calm your senses and ease you into a blissful night's sleep.
4. Relaxing routines and rituals
Most of us thrive when we have solid daily and weekly routines. We can't help it; we are creatures of habit. Something as simple as waking up and going to bed at the same time each day, as well as having a relaxing bedtime routine, can have a surprisingly profound effect on how well we sleep.
Developing a pre-sleep ritual, or a series of bedtime habits can be a great way to ensure a good night’s sleep. We can use routine and ritual to mentally and physically prepare ourselves for the task of nodding off. Taking a hot shower just before bed is an excellent addition to your bedtime routine because the slight drop in body temperature when we get out of the shower helps our muscles relax.
Whatever your sleep routine involves, make it a rule that anything work-related or emotionally stimulating must wait for the morning. If you can't calm your mind, it helps to write problems down before bed, then put them aside to be dealt with later. This really helps!
5. Turn your bedroom into a sacred sleeping sanctuary
Your bedroom should be your special place for only two activities; sleep and intimacy. In addition to making your sacred sleeping space a stress-free conversation zone, there are other things you can do to turn your bedroom into an ideal sleep environment.
All entertainment and work-related items should be removed and kept in other rooms. For the best sleep possible, upgrade your mattress, sheets and pillow, and ensure your room is at the ideal temperature (15-21 C) for inducing sound sleep. To take it to the next level, you could paint your bedroom walls a calming shade of blue.
6. Exercise early
You’ve probably experienced the positive effect a good workout can have on your sleep. Did you know that the best sleep health comes when your workouts are consistent over time?
It’s true that exercise can make you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly, but only if you do it at the right time. As exercise stimulates the secretion of cortisol, which makes us feel alert, try to avoid working out within 3 hours of going to bed.
7. Cutting complex carbs = potentially cutting sleep
There is a strong link between good sleep quality and the consumption of complex carbohydrates in the evening. Eating complex carbs before bed won’t make you fat, but it will help you get to sleep faster.
Not only do carbohydrate-rich whole foods help us feel calm by increasing the production of serotonin, but they also lower the stress hormone cortisol, which can inhibit sleep when elevated at night. Try one of these delicious treats for your next evening meal; the carbs may be complex, by the recipes are easy!
Most meditation techniques are based on paying attention to the breath. Deep, steady and focused breathing can help to relax the mind and body, especially if we release our thoughts with each breath.
A relaxing massage from your partner, a friend, or a family member, is not only a wonderful way to release the physical tension accumulated throughout the day, but a massage can also help to calm the mind, by making us feel loved.
This calm and contented frame of mind is an essential ingredient in the recipe for good sleep.
That said, if you don't have some spare loving hands available, don't worry; self-love counts too! You can also benefit from using a foam roller before bed. Similarly to a massage, foam rolling will help get rid of any stored physical and mental tension before you hop into bed, ensuring a better quality sleep along with faster exercise recovery. There are many foam rolling exercises, but here are 7 your body is begging you to do!
10. Avoid long afternoon naps
If you take naps, stick to having 20-minute power-naps as early in the day as possible. Even if you're feeling tired later in the day, long afternoon naps may be what's stopping you from getting a good night's sleep, which only perpetuates day-time drowsiness. It's a vicious cycle!
Busy, stressed out people tend to get less sleep than those who have more relaxed lifestyles, but this doesn’t mean you need to quit life just so you can get some decent shut-eye.
Despite the many benefits of consistent, high-quality sleep, many of us seem all too willing to get by without it. We focus diligently on our diet and exercise routines but often fail to maintain healthy sleeping patterns. The reality is, the busier and more stressful our lives are, the more we need to make sure our sleep is up to standard. Are you ready to optimise that forgotten third of your life so you can thrive throughout your waking hours? Apply the 10 points above to have your best rest yet!