How to sleep better
How well do you sleep?
I love my sleep; these days I prioritise getting a good night’s sleep over and above most other things. Although I have times when I wake in the night for an hour or so, on the whole I sleep consistently.
Sleep is really important for your health and well-being. Did you know that just one night of disrupted sleep can raise your insulin to almost diabetic levels? Good sleep is important, and if we don’t sleep well it can affect every aspect of our lives.
Tips for sleeping better
If you’re a fan of coffee or other caffeinated drinks – join the club! Cutting back on caffeine even just a little can make a big difference to your sleep quality and duration though. It is worth giving yourself a caffeine curfew: caffeine has a half life of 5.5 hours, which means that if you drink a coffee at 5pm, by 10:30pm half of that caffeine is still floating around your system, keeping you awake.
Epsom salt baths
Epsom salts contain magnesium, which we can then soak in through our skin. When it comes to sleep, magnesium can be a major player in helping us to get to sleep and to stay asleep. A warm bath at night can help us to wind down for bed; as we get out of the bath and our bodies cool back down this signals to the brain that it’s time to sleep.
Another absolute must in my life, studies have shown that magnesium is required for over 300 cellular functions in the body – and most people are deficient in it. One of the key things magnesium does is allow our muscles – and therefore us – to relax. A good quality supplement before bedtime can make a big difference.
Supplements for sleep
There are lots of different supplements out there that are designed to help you sleep. 5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin and melatonin; the body makes those hormones itself, but can often struggle so taking a 5-HTP supplement can give us a helping hand. Many brands now have a specific supplement for sleep containing several different things to help you nod off. It’s worth experimenting with a few, as we are all different so what has worked well for a friend may not work so well for you.
There are many reasons to have an hour or more away from screens before bed. The blue light emitted from our TVs and devices stimulates the brain and keeps us alert. Even with the new “night light” function on many devices, the blue light is still there. As well as this, there is the fact that whatever we are doing on our devices – from watching Netflix to scrolling through social media – will also probably stimulate our brains, keeping us awake and alert.
Get to know yourself
For me, a large part of sleeping better has come from self knowledge. I know that I am more of a morning person than a night owl, so I go to bed earlier so that I can make the most of the earlier hours. I know from experience that if I go to bed later and sleep in, I feel groggy all day. It’s not necessarily cool to be in bed by 10 every night, but if it means you can gain more from your waking hours, then frankly who cares.
A strict bedtime routine
People who go to bed and get up at the same time each day don’t just sleep better; they are actually healthier too. Did you know that people who change their sleeping/waking cycle on the weekends can actually put their bodies through as much stress as if they had changed time zones over the weekend? Changing your sleep cycles actually gives you jet lag. And the larger the gap between your usual sleep/wake times during the week and at the weekend, the higher the risk of being overweight. There is a direct link between the BMI of overweight people rising as the gap between their week day and weekend time zones increased. Just Google “social jet lag” to read about it.
Get sunlight on your face
This sounds really simple – perhaps too simple to be true – but getting sunlight on your face first thing in the morning can really help. Ideally you need to get sunlight directly onto your skin, not through glass – so you need to go outside. Feeling the morning sun on your skin tells your body that it’s morning and time to wake up – which can be great for waking yourself up. But it also sets in motion a chain reaction of hormones that then run on a timetable throughout the day, until the evening when relaxing, sleepy hormones are released. If you have trouble sleeping, getting sunlight directly onto your face first thing in the morning is perhaps the easiest thing you can do to help – and it’s free!