The health – and wellness – benefits of a good night’s sleep are many and well documented.
Better health, better bodies, better looks, better love lives – and the impressive list goes on.
But important as sleep is, many of us are still struggling to get in as many Z’s as we would like, regardless of whether it is babies, bank statements or box-sets keeping us up at night.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to maximize your chances of getting a great night’s sleep. Having a routine when it comes to both how and when you go to bed has proven successful for many, and will help your body switch off and get ready for sleep.
Here is how you do it:
Try to wake up the same time every day, whether wake-up time for you is 5 AM or 8.30. This ritual will help maintain your circadian rhythms and make it far more likely you’ll fall asleep come bedtime every night, too.
The important thing here is to make sure you get yourself into some sort of daylight situation really quickly, even if it’s just throwing open the window or stepping out into your front garden for a couple of minutes. Bright light suppresses melatonin-production, (melatonin is the sleep-inducing hormone in your brain), and will also help set your body clock right.
Note: If you’re going to have coffee today, this is the time, and then avoid it from lunch-time on.
Did you know that what you fill your plate with at lunch time has a direct impact on how you will sleep that evening? A diet high in fat, for instance, has been linked with bad and disrupted sleep – even if bedtime still is hours away.
It is also important to make sure you move around, as exercise will help deepen your sleep once you go to bed. The ideal thing is to try and pencil in some aerobic exercise in the late afternoon (but no later than three hours before bedtime). A walk home from work is a great way to get some movement into your day, and will also help you de-stress after a hard day at the office.
With busy days and the constant struggle for work/life balance, many of us are eating dinners hours later than what our parents and grandparents did. These late-night dinners might be a nice way to catch up with your significant other once the kids are in bed, but it is also bad news for your sleep.
Ideally, dinner (which tend to be the heaviest meal of the day) should be eaten several hours before you go to bed, so as to give your body time to digest it. If you are prone to heartburn, it is also a good idea to avoid spicy or harder-to-digest food this late in the day. The same goes for alcohol, which should only be consumed hours before you plan on turning in for the night, as it is proven to disrupt your sleep cycle.
Much as this really is the only time many of us have to watch TV, catch up on paperwork and scrolling through our social media feeds, these activities might not be the best ones do to right before bedtime. According to experts, you should avoid watching intense TV shows, paying bills, or engaging in other stimulating activities an hour or two before bedtime, to give your body and brain time to wind down.
Instead, try to dim the lights to stimulate the release of melatonin (which makes us feel naturally tired) or do a few relaxing yoga poses. 10 minutes of deep breathing or meditation might also be a great way of relaxing yourself before bed. If you have a bathtub, the hour before bedtime is the perfect time to use it.