If you have a lot on your plate, a good night’s sleep can make the difference between coping and feeling overwhelmed. For many though, this concept will seem like a real luxury!
To help we asked our in-house naturopath, Ingrid, to share her top tips for getting a great night’s sleep. She has, and she’s also given us a few reasons why making sleep a priority is important!
Why do we need restful, refreshing sleep?
Why do we need restful, refreshing sleep?
- Sleep can put you in a better, more balanced mood during the day; and make it easier to learn, concentrate and focus
- It can give you energy to do the things you want to do, not just the things you have to do.
- Sleep helps keep your immune system in tip top shape, and helps you to fight off common infections like colds more quickly.
- Sleep can help with weight management – sleep deprivation can affect the way your body stores energy, and make you feel hungrier.
- It can even help to keep your heart healthier – research has linked sleeping problems to high blood pressure and increased stress hormone levels.
7 Top Tips for a Great Night's Sleep
Are you having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night? If you are tossing and turning during the wee hours, try some of these tips to get a better night’s sleep.
- Dim (or get rid of) the lights
The environment you sleep in strongly affects your sleep quality. Your hypothalamus (the part of your brain that controls your sleep/wake cycle) responds to light levels. The brighter the light level, the more awake you feel. So for a better night’s sleep, make your room as dark as possible: use heavy curtains and turn off any light-emitting appliances. If you can’t get rid of a light source, try using a sleep mask.
- Avoid overheating – keep your room comfortably cool
Although sleep experts don’t always agree on the “best” room temperature for sleep, the consensus is definitely that cooler is better. This may be because your body temperature actually drops slightly as you sleep. It’s also important to ventilate your bedroom properly – nothing causes sleepless nights like a hot, stuffy room.
- Block out or get rid of distracting noises
Whether it’s traffic noise from the road outside, or the heavy snores of a congested partner, noise can play havoc with your sleep. Try using ear plugs, white noise generators, a softly humming fan, or relaxing music and see if they help.
- Create a sleep schedule and stick to it
Decide that sleep is important enough to be a priority for you. Then try to go to bed and wake up at around the same time every day, regardless of whether it’s a workday or a weekend. Sleeping in some days can actually confuse your biological clock, and can make it harder to wake up early when you have to. Also try to avoid napping during the day. Or, if you find you really need a nap, keep it short (10-30 minutes maximum) and early (before 3pm).You may find that creating a relaxing bedtime “ritual” is also useful. This might involve preparing for the next morning, taking a warm bath, reading something light, meditating, or listening to relaxing music. Whatever you do, start at least an hour before you need to sleep, and do it every night. Not only will your routine relax you physically, but starting your “ritual” will signal your subconscious that it’s time to start winding down.
- Eat and drink with sleep in mind
Researchers have shown that some foods and drinks can encourage sleep, while others tend to disturb it. Eating any kind of large meal – especially one that’s high in fat – late in the evening can leave you too stuffed to sleep. But the right kind of light snack can help you doze off more easily. Try combining a carbohydrate-rich food (e.g. wholemeal bread or a banana) with something that contains the amino acid tryptophan (e.g. yogurt or a slice of turkey).Also, avoid caffeine or alcohol too close to bedtime. Caffeine is well-known as a stimulant that helps to keep people awake. And while an alcoholic “nightcap” may make you feel sleepy after you drink it, it actually interferes with your sleep patterns later on. Better bedtime beverages include pure water or a hot milky drink.
- Exercise at the right time for you
As a general rule, increasing your daily physical activity will help you to fall asleep faster, and sleep more deeply. BUT there are exceptions: some people find that exercising too intensely late in the day will stop them sleeping. It’s highly individual though – others don’t seem to be affected.Try exercising at different times of the day and see how energy levels respond. You may find you need to keep more intense exercise like running or group classes to the morning hours. Most people find more gentle exercise forms (e.g. yoga, tai chi or stretch classes) are fine in the evenings.
- Try a natural herbal sleep supplement
Several herbs have been shown to work as natural sleep aids, and may help you to fall asleep faster, and stay asleep longer. Many people find Valerian helpful, although be warned that it can actually have a stimulating effect in some people.
Other well-respected sleep-supporting herbs include:
- Wild Lettuce
Remember: everyone is different, so not every tip will work for every person.
Try each tip out, one at a time to avoid getting overwhelmed, and see how they work for you. Your brain – and your immune system – will thank you for it!