FIRST THINGS FIRST…
Why is sleep so important?
Getting a good night’s sleep is vital for our overall health and well-being for a number of reasons:
• Sleep help improves your focus and concentration
• A good night’s sleep encourages you to make healthier food choices
• Better sleep health also reduces the risk of heart disease, strokes and diabetes type 2
• Sleep is good for your well-being and reduces depression, stress and anxiety
• Improving your sleep patterns helps your immune system
• Sleep enables you to perform better in sports and physical activities
If you’re struggling to sleep, then you may also find that this is impacting other areas of your life, such as relationships with loved ones and work performance.
How to tell if you’re sleep deprived
There are a few tell-tale signs that you might be sleep deprived. Other than feeling tired throughout the day, your symptoms might include:
• Brain fog and feeling forgetful
• Increased appetite and temptation to snack
• Mood swings such as anger and irritation
Reasons why you’re struggling to sleep
You might be desperate to try and get a better night’s sleep without understanding the reasons why you’re struggling to sleep at night in the first place. These include:
- Stress or anxiety – this could be at work or in your personal life
- Depression – contrary to popular belief, depression can also mean you sleep less rather than more
- You’re drinking too much caffeine in the day
- You’re not unplugging from electrical devices – e.g. you’re sat on your phone in bed before
trying to sleep
- You have another medical and/or chronic condition that is preventing you from sleeping well (which you will need to discuss with your GP)
- Your sleep area is cluttered and it’s overwhelming you before bedtime
If you can relate to any of the above, getting the sleep you need is going to require some lifestyle changes so you can develop healthy sleep habits.
How to get a better night’s sleep
Here are our top tips to improve your sleep hygiene, create a relaxing environment and help you prepare yourself for a better night’s rest.
Establish a bedtime routine
We’re creatures of habit so if you can create and stick to a bedtime routine, then eventually your brain and body will eventually adapt and sense it’s time to sleep. Tick off all the essentials such as turning everything off, loading the dishwasher and brushing your teeth and then start to relax and prepare for bed.
Your bedtime routine can include:
Doing something relaxing before bed: Relaxing before bed can really work wonders for helping you catch some zzz’s. Treat yourself to a warm bath or snuggle up in bed with a book.
Avoiding technology at least one hour before bed: In the evening, devices such as mobile phones and televisions emit blue light, which suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you feel sleepy. This makes it harder for you to fall into a deep sleep at night, especially if you’re using these devices right before bed.
Try and switch off from any electronic items at least an hour before bed to help you settle down before sleeping.
Starting a gratitude journal: Writing down three positive things that happened during your day can really help your mindset and help you go to bed feeling less stressed and more grateful for the good things in your life.
Go to bed and wake up at consistent times: It can be tempting to lie in at the weekends or even wake up at different times throughout the week, hitting the snooze button every now and again. However, training your body to get into a regular sleep/wake cycle can aid your sleep patterns. This means you’re more likely to want to sleep and wake up the next day at the same time naturally.
Cut down on caffeine and alcohol: Caffeine and alcohol are stimulants, which keep you awake longer and have a disruptive effect on your sleep. This can delay your body clock and as a result, reduces the amount of quality, deep sleep you get each evening. If you have sugar in your coffee or drink an alcoholic beverage with a high sugar content, this can also impact your sleep quality.
Try choosing caffeine-free drinks and reduce you alcohol intake during the evening.
Declutter your sleep environment: Keeping your bedroom environment clean and tidy is key to helping you prepare for a good night’s rest. Declutter any distractions such as piles of clothes and washing, leave electronic items in another room and light some candles to make your room a sanctuary for relaxation.
Expose yourself to natural daylight throughout the day: Exposing yourself to daylight first thing in the morning helps wake your body up and keeps your circadian rhythm cycle balanced, which is key to the production of the stress hormone cortisol first thing in the morning, and serotonin, which helps you sleep better at night.
During the day, venture outside at lunch to get a healthy dose of vitamin D and keep your blinds open at work to help keep you alert. Doing so will help your brain and body understand that when it is daylight, it’s time to wake up and when it goes dark outside at night, it’s time to sleep.
Skip daytime naps: It sounds obvious, but if you usually nap in the day, this can really have an effect on how you sleep later on at night. Try cutting down naps or skipping them altogether and see if this makes a difference to how you sleep at night.
If you’re at home and feel yourself getting tired, stand up and move around or complete a task that involves mental or physical stimulation to help you stay awake.
Stay active during the day: Our bodies need to burn energy throughout the day but this can be difficult, as most of us drive to work and sit at a desk all day long. If you commute, try getting off the bus or train as top earlier if possible and walk the rest of the way, or park further away from work.
Speak to your GP: If you are still having issues with sleep, it might be time to speak to your doctor and get the best help for your personal situation.