A good night’s sleep is just as important as a well balances diet and regular exercise – but it unfortunately tends to be the most common aspect of our health to not receive the attention and dedication that it deserves.
Research has shown that poor sleep has immediate negative effects on our hormones, neurotransmitters, thyroid function, brain function, exercise performance and body weight. In contrast, good sleep can help you eat less, feel more energised, exercise better and have better overall mood.
If you are wanting to optimise your health, loose weight and feel and perform better on a day to day basis then getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do.
Here are a few tips to try and help you get there…
1. Increase your exposure to natural light during the day
If you work in an office environment it can be very tricky to get yourself out into the sun during the day but this might be contributing to your poor sleep. Natural sunlight during the day helps to keep your circadian rhythm healthy and improve sleep quality, especially if you have severe sleep issues or insomnia.
Try to use your lunch break, team meeting or personal calls as an opportunity to get out into the daylight.
2. Reduce your exposure to blue light in the evening
Evening and night-time light exposure has the opposite effect. Again, due to its impact on your circadian rhythm. Bright lights at night trick you brain into thinking it’s still day time and reduces your production of melatonin (our sleep hormone). Blue light emitted by TV’s, computers and hand-held devices are the worst culprits for this.
Either avoid 1hr before bed, try glasses that block out blue light or download an app such as f.lux on all your devices.
3. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day
Your circadian rhythm loves routine – specifically by aligning itself with sunrise and sunset. Being consistent with your sleep and waking times can really help long-term sleep quality and may even eliminate your need for an alarm in the morning.
Try to get into the habit of waking up and going to bed a similar times to kick off this healthy sleep habit.
4. Consider supplementation
Herbal and nutritional supplements such as magnesium, glycine, l-theanine, valerian root and gingko may aid in falling sleep, relaxation, stress reduction, staying asleep and enhanced sleep quality.
Only one of these should be tried at a time. While there is unfortunately no magic pill for sleep, these can be very useful in conjunction with the other suggestions in this list.
5. Avoid alcohol
Although we might feel that alcohol can be the key to helping us fall asleep at the end of the day, just a couple of drinks can negatively impact your sleep and your hormones. It alters night time melatonin production which plays a key role in your body’s natural circadian rhythm.
Avoid sleep apnoea, snoring and disrupted sleep patterns but switching that glass of wine for some kombucha (in a wine glass!) or that full-strength beer for a non-alcoholic version.
6. Optimise your bedroom for sleep
The noise and amount of light in your bedroom are very important to consider when trying to get a good night’s sleep!
Block out as much noise as you can by closing doors and windows or use white noise to block out any noise that is unavoidable (such as traffic). Make your bedroom as dark as possible and remove any artificial light from alarm clocks or devices to improve your sleep quality.
7. Don’t eat too late in the evening
Eating a large, heavy meal before bed can impact your sleep quality and the natural production of hormones.
Try to finish dinner at least 2-3 hours before you go to sleep and avoid sugary treats afterwards.
8. Try the “Hour of Power”
The “Hour of Power” is something I share with my clients all the time and works extremely well in preparing people for better sleep. Particularly reducing the time it takes them to fall as well and the quality of their sleep. How it works: switch off all devices and split the last hour of your day in 3 x 20-minute blocks.
1st 20 minutes: prepare yourself for the next day (pack your lunch, tidy the kitchen, choose your outfit)
2nd 20 minutes: practice self-care (take a bath/shower, put on a face mask, brush your teeth, do some dry body brushing)
3rd 20 minutes: calm your mind (read a book, do a meditation, write in a journal/gratitude diary)