[As featured in Hip and Healthy]
When was the last time you had eight hours of uninterrupted sleep? Okay, make that six? Five? A recent survey* revealed that, as a nation, over half of us suffer from insomnia. The worry is that bad sleeping habits don’t just make nights unbearable, they have a profound knock-on effect during the day. And as if not being able to concentrate and feeling narky as hell wasn’t bad enough, poor sleep can lead to much more serious issues such as diabetes, obesity and depression.
A good night’s rest isn’t a luxury, it’s vital for good health. During sleep the body repairs cells and muscles, the brain de-clutters itself of unnecessary information, your immune system cranks up a gear and appetite regulating hormones are released. Although you might not be able to control every sleep interference, youcan adopt habits that encourage a more restful night. In his book, Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker says that simply accepting poor sleep is a slow form of self-euthanasia. So, what can we can do about it?
Establish a sleep ritual, that you stick to fairly religiously, in the hour or so before bedtime. Eventually your body will recognise the signals and start winding down automatically. Try drinking camomile tea, dimming the lights, meditating (Headspace or Calm are both great apps) or reading. You should also aim to go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time each day, even weekends.
- Exercise is conducive to a good night’s sleep but don’t exercise too close to bedtime. Try and leave a three hour gap.
- While it’s true naps can save lives, don’t take them after 3pm as it’ll be harder to fall asleep come bedtime.
- Try and get some sun exposure during the day. Daylight is key to regulating sleep patterns.
- An Epsom salt bath can work wonders for inducing serious zzz’s. It contains magnesium which is absorbed transdermally and does a great job of easing aching muscles and promoting relaxation. Add two cups to a warm bath and soak for around 20 minutes. The drop in body temperature when you get out will also help you feel sleepy.
- Carry out a bedroom digitox. That means moving anything that emits blue LED light – especially phones and laptops – to another room or, at the very least, shutting them down a couple of hours before you turn in. If you need to set an alarm, get a clock. Blue LED light hampers your body’s ability to make melatonin (sleep hormone).
- Keep your room cool and dark – great excuse to stock up on Dyptique candles and 600 thread count bed linen.
- Avoid heavy meals, booze, caffeine (that includes green tea and chocolate) and nicotine in the run up to bed. That red wine night cap might seem like a good idea at the time, but it’ll take a good few hours to wear off and robs you of REM sleep, thus wreaking havoc on sleep quality.
You might not reach never never land overnight, but it’s worth persevering when it comes to instilling better sleep habits. Considering you’ll look, feel and perform better, this is one commitment worth sticking with. Sweet dreams.
*The Great British Sleep Survey