We all long for a restful night’s sleep and to wake up feeling fully refreshed. But, how much attention do we really pay to our sleep hygiene?
Are we really giving ourselves the best opportunity of getting some good shuteye?
Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top tips for ‘cleaning-up’ your bedtime routine.
Your day is as important as your night
What you eat and drink during the day has a massive impact on how well you sleep. For example, if you’re overloaded with caffeinated or fizzy drinks, or alcohol, these are all sleep disrupters. It’s best not to have anything caffeinated or stimulatory after lunchtime. Whilst the effects of caffeine may wear off after a few hours, they have a lasting effect on blood sugar balance which will stimulate stress hormones, keeping you more awake.
Additionally, drinking alcohol during the evening (or even throughout the day), may make you feel drowsy at bedtime, but it will still disrupt your sleep. Waking in the middle of the night is pretty normal after a ‘heavy night’ again partly due to imbalanced blood sugar levels and dehydration.
Stress can keep you awake
Most of us lead busy and, often, stressful lives. However, it’s how we deal with stress that has the biggest impact on how well we sleep. If you’re constantly juggling during the day, then your adrenal glands that secrete stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, require some support to help you feel more balanced and calmer.
To work effectively, the adrenals need plenty of vitamin C, found in most fruits and vegetables. Therefore, make sure you’re eating plenty of colour every day. The more stressed you are, the more vitamin C you’ll burn. Additionally, the family of B-vitamins, especially vitamin B5, is key to good adrenal function. Include plenty of fish, eggs, broccoli and legumes in your diet – all especially rich in vitamin B5.
Take some herbal helpers
There are several herbs, known as adaptogens, which balance the body and help support it through stressful times as well as regulate sleep patterns. The herbs ashwagandha, rhodiola and ginseng will all provide great help at getting sleep back on track.
Sleep patterns can often be disturbed because cortisol levels are too high in the evening. In these cases, cortisol maybe low in the mornings (when it should be higher) which is why some people struggle to get out of bed. Adaptogenic herbs are effective at getting stress hormones back into good balance.
Adopt a regular routine
Just as the body loves (and needs) to be fed regularly, it craves a regular sleep pattern. Sleep is essential for the body to rest, repair and detoxify. The body is much better able to complete all these functions if it’s used to a regular routine. For example, try to go to bed at roughly the same time each night and get up at the same time.
Good sleep hygiene means trying to achieve seven or eight hours of sleep per night. If this is a struggle for you because you wake early, then find a sleep or calming app that you can use if you find yourself waking too early.Try to resist the urge to get up, just because you’ve woken up. You can re-train your body, it just takes a little patience and perseverance.
Don’t sleep with electronics
Falling asleep in bed with your laptop, tablet or phone is definitely not good sleep hygiene. Research suggests that emissions from electronic devices can have a negative effect on the body. Try and keep electronic devices out of the bedroom and resist the urge to use them in the hours leading up to sleep too. Blue light keeps up awake, so it can have an adverse effect on how easily you can fall asleep.
Instead, have a warming bath, maybe adding some Epsom salts, rich in soothing magnesium. Play some gentle music, spray some lavender on your pillow and grab your favourite book. You’ll be amazed just how effective a strong bedtime routine can be when trying to get sleep on track.
Your body works hard for you so treat it to the best rest you can!
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