Top tips to ensure your best night’s sleep
“Did you sleep OK?”
A common question during morning chit-chat. Fun to discuss when we feel replenished. Not so fun if we’ve been up all night with busy-bee brains. The average adult will spend 36 percent of his or her life asleep, with a purpose of rest, relaxation and restoration. The science on sleep is growing and information is more available now than ever. The benefits are numerous. Sleep clears out the brain each night, helps us burn fat and repair muscle, assists production of human growth hormone and can help regulate blood levels of cortisol (the stress hormone).
We probably all know that relaxing before bed is a good idea. listening to soft music as opposed to heavy metal, reading a book instead of watching an action thriller, or drinking non-caffeinated herbal tea over a double espresso (caffeine blocks adenosine, a chemical that makes you feel sleepy). To help you further, we’ve compiled a list of 10 proven sleep tips – along with some useful journal prompts and affirmations – to help you ‘live your rest life’.
Evaluate your room
Is your slumber chamber set up to be a place of reclining repose? A first port of call is to limit the number of devices and screens in your bedroom, in particular anything work-related. Curbing stimulus in this area of your house is highly recommended. Use candles, low lighting and decorate with soothing colours. If you have books on a shelf, consider moving that to another room. Only have books that you are currently reading in your bedroom. An interesting Feng Shui tip is to avoid mirrors, particularly within eyesight of the bed. Feng Shui master consultant Alan Stirling says: “You should never be able to see yourself when lying in bed.Your subconscious is aware of the reflection, which can result in a fitful night’s sleep. Move or cover the mirrors at night with a cloth or curtain.”
Set sleep and wake time
Waking at the same time, even if hard at first, causes us to build a strong desire for sleep the next night, eventually helping us to fall asleep earlier and more easily. If we sleep in too much, it will get harder to drop off the next night. Harvard University’s ‘Healthy Sleep Dr’ Lawrence J. Epstein says: “Keeping a regular sleep schedule – even on weekends – maintains the timing of the body’s internal clock and can help you fall asleep and wake up more easily. Even if real life stands in the way of achieving the perfect sleep routine, making just a few small changes can improve your sleep dramatically.”
Studies have shown that pre-sleep journaling reduces bedtime worry and stress, while increasing time and improving quality of sleep. Research shows that positive journaling in particular can help redirect your mind and help you fall asleep more easily, and for longer. Instead of worrying about potential future problems (all too easy when left alone with our thoughts at night) try writing about the best things that have happened to you that day. If possible, set aside 10-15 minutes each night to write about not only what happened, but also how you felt at the time. Also, forget about grammar and punctuation, this journal is for your eyes only!
Deep breathing exercises
Allowing yourself to deep breathe will slow your heart rate and make it easier to drift off to sleep. In particular, the 4-7-8 breathing technique is said to be beneficial. The technique involves inhaling through your nose for 4 seconds, holding at the top for 7, then exhaling (while making a light ‘whooshing’ sound) for 8. According to Dr Andrew Weil, of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, this technique is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. It can be used to alleviate internal tension at any time of the day.Dr Weil adds that the exact timings are not important, but the ratio is, so if you struggle to breath this deeply initially, simply breath in, hold for a little longer than your inhale, then exhale for a little longer than your hold.
Keep the temperature cool
Our body temperatures naturally drop at night, so a cool – but not cold – room, will aid us in rest. Production of melatonin, the body’s sleep hormone, increases in a cooler environment, which works to help keep you asleep through the various sleep stages. Melatonin also has anti-aging properties and helps you store ‘beige fat’ which, surprisingly, helps you burn calories instead of storing them! A lower body temperature is also linked with a lowering of metabolism, so we also expend less energy during sleep, allowing for deep, still, rest and recovery. Between 18-20 degrees is optimal.
Diffuse aromatherapy oils
Aromatherapy has been used for centuries. Essential oils are produced by steaming or pressing various parts of a plant (flowers, bark, leaves or fruit) to catch concentrated extract that produces the fragrance. Sometimes a kilogram of plant is required to produce a single bottle of oil. They impact our emotions when inhaled through the nose because, once they pass the olfactory nerve, they travel directly to the amygdala, which is the emotional center of the brain. As such, using relaxing scents such as chamomile, lavender, valerian, bergamot and clary sage help to alleviate anxiety, overthinking and help induce a state of relaxation. Why not try dropping some into your pre-bed bath for an extra special sedative effect?
Cut out blue light exposure
Before technology, the sun was humankind’s only major light source, so evenings were spent in relative darkness. Looking at lights – particularly directly into screens – into the evening is not natural. A Harvard study showed that exposure to light – particularly blue light – can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates our circadian rhythm. The study revealed that blue light blocked melatonin production for twice as long as green light. Using a dim red light in the bedroom is the least likely light source to upset your circadian rhythm. Switching mobile phones and computers to ‘night mode’ or purchasing a pair of blue-blocking glasses is a recommendable way to go.Also, having as much exposure to natural daylight as possible will boost your ability to sleep at night.
Don’t eat too late
After eating, there are muscles in our body that must work to digest and metabolise our food. Late night consumption means these muscles are still working when we should be resting, thus preventing the deep sleep we desire. Waiting 2-3 hours before sleep is optimal, as it allows the food to move into the small intestine, preventing issues such as heartburn or indigestion. According to Dr Brandon Peters on verywellhealth.com , the consumption of food prompts the release of insulin, which is linked to the circadian rhythm. The body associates eating food with wakefulness, so eating large amounts late at night can hinder sleep. However, a small snack before bed is not the end of the world. In fact, a2015 study in the journal Nutrients concluded that a small snack (150 calories or less) might even be beneficial for muscle protein synthesis and cardio-metabolic health.
Take a bath or hot shower
Our body’s core temperature varies throughout the day, and tends to drop by about 2-3 degrees fahrenheit before bed. While it may seem like a contradiction in terms, taking a warm bath or shower actually helps to cool our core temperature before bed. A hot bath or shower (even a foot bath) allows us to control this by ensuring the temperature drop occurs. As the skin – particularly of the hands and feet, warms up, the body’s core heat actually radiates out from the centre, thus allowing us to drop into a restful sleep. Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist and sleep specialist at the University of California, suggests taking the bath at a temperature of around 104 degrees fahrenheit, 1 to 2 hours before you go to bed.
Recent research indicates that exercise decreases sleep complaints and insomnia in patients. The effects of aerobic exercise on sleep appear to be similar to those of sleeping pills. According to Dr Charlene Gamaldo, Medical Director of John Hopkins Center for Sleep, exercise can help to stabilize our mood and decompress the mind, which is “a cognitive process that allows for us to transition to a sleepy state”. Moderate exercise increases the amount or ‘slow wave’ or ‘deep’ sleep we get. However, doing so right before bed can have detrimental effects. This is Because exercise releases endorphins, How many followers create a level of activity in the brain That keeps some people awake.Exercise also raises the body’s core temperature, which signals to the body that it is time to be awake. For this reason, it is recommended to finish exercising 1-2 hours before going to bed.
Try these 5 journaling prompts as you wind down before hitting the pillow
What was great about today?
What thoughts can wait until tomorrow?
Tonight, I would like to dream about…
I’m proud of the way I ____ today
Today, I’m grateful for…
Here are some sleepy affirmations to say while you lie in bed
“I am relaxed”
“The more I breathe, the closer I become to a sleeping state”
“My thoughts allow me to empty my mind”
“The more I think, the closer I become to dreaming”
“I am grateful for this opportunity to rest and replenish”
“In this moment, all I have to do is drift away”
“As I inhale peace, I exhale release”
“I can feel deeply relaxed”
“All is well and I am supported”
“An ease is in the air”