If I had to give myself a score out of ten for sleeping, I’d rate myself a seven. I don’t have too much trouble falling asleep at night and although I can be a light sleeper, if I wake up I can usually just roll over and fall back to sleep within 5 minutes. I don’t necessarily wake up feeling well rested though, so I feel like I could do better… Maybe you could too!
Before we get stuck into how to get a better night’s sleep, it’s important to ask ourselves why we need better sleep. Sleep is awesome! The need to sleep is one of our strongest biological urges, and (apologies for indulging in the macabre) sleep deprivation will kill you faster than food deprivation. The general scientific consensus is that about 8 hours of sleep is good for you. While there is a plethora of information about this, there seems to be a ‘two-speed economy’ situation happening. Numerous world leaders and chief executives live in a no-sleep culture – waxing lyrical about how the most useful hours of the day are between 4 and 6am making the rest of us mere mortals feel as though “sleep is for the weak”. So we make up for it by fuelling ourselves on stimulants like caffeine and sugar, and we stay up late at night with our brains wired to our TVs and phones. Whilst it’s pretty unreasonable to expect people to maintain a perfect sleep schedule all the time, here are some “clean sleep” pointers that you could apply.
Start exercising every day
When you exercise, your body needs to recover and restore itself, and its method of restoration is sleep. Those who exercise regularly have found that it improves the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnoea… and hey, exercise is pretty good for you so you should make a habit of doing something active every day. Give yourself a buffer between working out and going to bed because the elevated heart rate and body temperature might make it hard to hit the hay.
Create a bedtime ritual
Condition your body to know it’s time to wind down for sleep by developing a bedtime ritual – maybe a warm shower, listening to some music or reading a book. It’s best to resist the temptation to check your phone or watch TV, as certain wavelengths of light affect your body’s production of melatonin, which regulates sleep patterns.
Eat clean to sleep clean
Many of the things we consume affect how we sleep at night. Caffeine, large meals, and sugar close to bed time are obvious offenders, but so too are cigarettes and alcohol. It may feel like a ciggy and a night cap are a great way to relax, but nicotine stimulates your brain and your body needs to work to process the alcohol… so maybe think twice.
Nap, but not too much
Naps are a great way to relax and feel rejuvenated, but nap too long and you run the risk of ruining your night time sleep pattern, or catching ‘sleep inertia’, which will leave you feeling sleepier and worse off than before you had the nap. 10-20 minute naps should do the trick.
Adopt a ‘clean sleep’ mentality.
We pay a lot of attention to what we eat and the effect it has on our health and wellbeing, and restful sleep gets swept under the rug. If you take one thing away from this blog, it pays more attention to your sleep. Try different techniques and read more about sleep to find something that makes you feel better and fresher in the mornings. If you would like more information that expands on the points made in this article you can check out this “How to sleep better” or “7 steps to a better sleep”. If you would like more info on napping click here, or if you are just curious about the effect of sleep on the human body, you can check out this video from SciShow.
Keeping with the topic of sleep, we found this awesome recipe for a bedtime smoothie. Also, one thing I have been using for years now is the sleep cycle alarm clock. It hasn’t helped my sleep but I definitely feel like it wakes me up more naturally than my stock standard phone alarm. It’s available on Apple and Android phones.