Sleep hygiene are healthy habits that promote a good night’s rest. In the last two posts we have looked at the importance of sleep, what happens whilst we sleep and the common mistakes we all make that disrupt the quality of our sleep. Research has shown that sleep is just as important as exercise and diet, but it is most often neglected. Poor sleep can have immediate impact on our hormones and brain function as well as the physical body. But I’m sure we can all appreciate, that getting your 7-9 hours shuteye is a lot easier said than done. So here are some simple, tried and tested tips, that encourage good sleep hygiene.
Having a strong routine in which you go to bed and wake up at the same time (yes even on weekends!) helps to regulate the body clock meaning that you fall asleep and stay asleep. Studies show that sleep before midnight is the most effective so aim to be in bed between 9-10:30 and waking between 6-7:30.
This has been one of the most helpful tips for my sleep difficulties. It is so easy to fall into bed at the end of a stressful or high energy day, but this does not allow sleep to come easy. The mind and body need time to unwind. Create a ritual to bookmark your day with relaxing activities such as colouring, Yoga, meditation, reading or my favourite Aurelia’s nighttime skin ritual.
Is your room messy? Is the bed unmade? Is it a sauna or an ice cube? How much light enters your room? All these seemingly small details make a huge impact to our sleep hygiene. Consider blackout curtains, eye masks, ear plugs and fans to get the optimal sleeping environment. And make your bed every morning!
Most digital devices emit a blue light which inhibits the production of melatonin, the hormone needed to fall asleep. So stay away from phones, laptops and TV’s for at least an hour before bed. Use this time instead to engage in your evening ritual, allowing the body to prepare for sleep.
Breakfast like a King, lunch like a Queen and dinner like a pauper. With working hours and commute times, many people in London don’t end up eating dinner till past 8pm. If this is the case, keep it light. A heavy meal is only going to keep the body awake digesting food and processing sugar which might contribute to middle of the night wakings.
The Lumie Lamp was one of my favourite purchases last winter and completely revolutionised my sleeping pattern. Light plays a vital role in our bodies response to sleep. Lighting that stimulates the sun setting and rising is a great way to restore the bodies natural circadian rhythm so that you start to feel sleepy at bedtime and wakeful in the morning.
Exercise is one of the best scientifically backed ways to improve sleep. This can be a run, a class, or a walk in the park; anything that gets the body moving and the heart rate up. However, exercising too late in the day, can contribute to sleep issues by increasing wakeful hormones such as adrenaline. You may get away with it, but if you exercise late and struggle to sleep it might be worth experimenting with.
Avoid Alcohol & Caffeine
As we saw from last week’s post, a glass of wine before bed might help us unwind from a stressful day and fall asleep quickly, but it is also responsible for keeping us up with anxiety or the sweats. Switch to non alcoholic wine or try a Seedlip and tonic. Coffee past noon means that there could still be caffeine in your system at midnight.
If you find that you go to bed and your mind is still racing with thoughts and to-do lists then this might be the solution you have been looking for. Before you go to bed, write down everything that is on your mind. EVERYTHING. Then you can let it go until tomorrow. Many of my clients find that writing down their ruminations helps them to fall asleep more easily.
This breath exercise works wonders for an overactive mind. Inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of seven and exhale for a count of eight. This will effectively slow your heart rate down and immediately relax your mind and body. Next time you can’t fall asleep or wake during the night, give this simple breath meditation a try.
Gentle movement and stretching can help to release any physical tension that has stored in the body as well as bring the mind into a quieter space. Opt for something nourishing like Restorative Yoga, Yin Yoga or specially designed sequences for sleep. Annie Clarke and Yoga with Kassandra have great selections on YouTube.
This wonder is something I have turned to a lot this past year (thanks to a busy schedule and a snoring partner). Yoga Nidra is a deep and powerful meditation that relaxes the mind and body into a state of sleepfulness so that you can drift into a pleasant rest. There are so many amazing options, but my favourite is Jennifer Piercy on Insight Timer, her voice is magic.
Like with all things, we are all unique and what works for me, might not work for you, so give these a try, keep what works and let go of what doesn’t. Any sleep tips that you have for me, send them my way!
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