Sleep has long been heralded as one of the 3 pillars of wellness alongside diet and exercise. Counting the Zzz’s is as essential to our well-being as breathing, food and water. But for so many of us, it’s one of the first things we’re likely to forfeit.
The importance of getting a good night’s sleep has been reinforced into us since birth (although maybe that was more for our parent’s sanity rather than our increased well-being). However, until we’re suffering the apparent effects of lack of it, we rarely seem to make it a priority.
When it comes to our sleep habits, if we’re not putting in the right amount of attention and effort, we’re actually causing ourselves harm. Far beyond being a bit snappy and sporting some puffy under eye bags, we’re damaging our physical and mental health.
The benefits of sleep… (aside from the obvious)
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Getting adequate sleep on a regular basis – which for adults is usually between 7-9 hours per night – helps to:
– Lower your blood pressure and cholesterol
– Keep your heart healthy
– Reduce your risk of cancer
– Raise your daily energy
– Improve your mood and emotional state
– Increase your focus,
– Strengthen your immune system
– And make you more productive
Additionally, sleep and metabolism are both controlled by the same sectors of the brain which impact the balance of hormones that drive appetite, helping you to maintain a healthy weight or even aid with weight loss.
Plus, when we’re sleep deficient it sends the body into a state of stress which leads to the production of stress hormones. These hormones are particularly damaging and can also make it harder for us to fall asleep, which becomes a vicious cycle.
Sleep is our body’s opportunity for recovery and repair. Which is why top athletes make sleep an important part of their training.
And did you know, whilst your body is in full repair mood, your brain is still really busy?
Sleep plays an important role in a process known as memory consolidation. Deep sleep is a critical time for your brain to make memories and links between your experiences, learnings and emotions. It’s the point where your brain is really processing everything. If you’re studying or training for anything, achieving a good quality sleep is essential for information retention and improved performance.
Hopefully you’ll agree these are pretty compelling benefits to encourage you to up your sleep game.
It’s not just about how much sleep you get either…
It’s actually about the quality of the sleep you have within that time too. So it’s important to give yourself the best chance of achieving sleep-master status with it comes to sleep.
Want to know how to get a better night’s sleep?
– Create the right environment –
Where we choose to sleep undoubtedly has a massive impact on the quality and length of our sleep.
Our mattress is critical to this. Granted if you share your bed you may need to compromise on the style of mattress you opt for, especially if your partner requires something firmer for orthopaedic reasons. But getting the base you sleep on right should be top of your list.
Whilst you might have to compromise a bit on the mattress, when it comes to pillows you should make it personal. Just as I’d encourage you to spend time trying and researching mattresses, you should also do the same with your pillows. This ensures you get the right levels of comfort and support with these too.
Your bedding is important too, ensure you’re opting for comfort over style. Consider a flat sheet under your duvet so you can adjust the level of cover you have as appropriate.
Top Tip: Open a window for at least 15 minutes every day to ventilate your room, reducing carbon dioxide levels and in turn improving sleep quality.
The room should also be dark – really dark – as light indicates to our brains that we should be awake. Blackout curtains and blinds are a great way to minimise outside light coming in. Also, in the lead up to bedtime, start to switch from main lights to lamps, which is a signal that we’re counting down to sleep.
Finally, you need to consider temperature. Nothing stirs us more than feeling too hot or too cold. Our heads should be kept cool and uncovered, but the rest of the body should feel nice and snug.
Good to know: Only two types of magic should occur in your bedroom – sleep and well, you know the other! Avoid screens, working, anything that doesn’t signal that your bedroom is a sleep haven. However, if you really must use a smartphone or tablet right before bed switch to their night-time mode (if available) which is suggested to reduce the amount of sleep-blocking blue light you’re being exposed to.
I love getting into a warm and toasty bed, so an electric blanket is a bit of a no-brainer for me. However the husband doesn’t feel the same, so we love our dual control blanket, which creates the required environment for both of us.
The Intelliheat dual control blanket by Dreamland* takes only 5 minutes to heat up and features 6 heat settings. It’s machine washable and energy efficient and only costs as little as 1p per night to operate.
Eye pillow masks* are a simple way to keep all light out and are especially great for when you’re travelling. I always take one on long-haul flights.
As parents we’ve found lots of value in using the Gro-anywhere blackout blind*. The handy suckers fit to any window glass and help to create the right sleep environment for your little one whether you’re at home or away. Plus it’s great in the summer when it’s still light at bedtime!
– Address the stress –
Stress is a sleep destroyer. Our levels of stress and worry become particularly heightened at night – often due to a level of physical and emotional exhaustion and the space to really process things.
Practicing mindfulness at night can be particularly helpful to draw a line under your day and create the right conditions for a restful night’s sleep.
I love the Headspace app’s Sleepcasts, which help quieten and focus my mind through a mix of ambiance and vocal guidance. They also have a range of sleep sounds. If you have a habit of waking in the middle of the night and struggling to fall back to sleep (been there, done that!) they also have a specific meditation to help you back to slumber.
You could also try reducing stress levels at night though the use of aromatherapy. It’s long been advocated that essential oils carry great weight in facilitating the perfect wind-down ritual for bedtime. Aromatherapy helps to calm, soothe and trigger the brain into a restful sleep. Often a blissful way to transport us off to dreamland.
Finally try to do at least one thing each evening that helps you to relax. Be it a warm bath or getting curled up with a good book.
Top Tip: A little mind trick is to make relaxation your goal rather than sleep. Sleep will follow naturally when you are relaxed and removes that ‘why aren’t I sleeping yet?’ pressure!
The Scentered Sleep Well range* is a soothing blend of 14 carefully selected essential oils to relax your body, clear your head and quiet your mind. The Sleep Well Home Therapy candle* is made from 100% natural ingredients and is a great companion for a relaxing evening bath.
The Therapy Balm* is applied to pulse points and inhaled deeply. Resetting your mind ready for sleep. Highly portable, so well suited to anyone who is regularly travelling.
**I’m able to offer readers a 10% discount on any Scentered product by clicking any of the Scentered links* and entering IMNEW10 at the checkout**
Good to know: If you’d prefer not to apply balms to your skin, pillow sprays* are another great way of calming the body and mind through aroma.
I recently discovered (and have gained benefit from!) Blooming Blends Sleep Easy botanical boosting tincture.
Ingredients such as Oat Straw, Passion Flower, Lavender and Camomile are combined to help ease you into a healthy and natural sleep. The tincture formulas are created using a ratio of 1:3 to 1:1 herb to liquid so they are at their best possible strength. I personally find it very calming. Plus it’s really simple to use, just half a pipette 3 times per day prepares me for optimum sleep satisfaction. Find out more here.
– Feed your sleep –
What we eat and drink has a massive impact on our quality of sleep.
Although we may view a glass of something alcoholic as a ‘night cap’, encouraging us to feel more sleepy – alcohol actually disrupts the crucial REM stage, which is essential for a deep, satisfying night’s sleep. Therefore try to avoid alcohol within 2 hours of going to bed.
The same can be said for caffeine. The earlier in the day you can switch from caffeinated drinks to decaf the better. Also remember that foods such as chocolate contain caffeine too.
Good to know: Sleep enhancing pre-bed drinks include warm milk and camomile tea with honey.
Protein foods that are rich in an amino acid called tryptophan should be on the menu. Tryptophan helps boost the sleep enhancing hormone, melatonin. Foods such as chicken, turkey, dairy, nuts (in particular walnuts) and seeds are all good choices.
So despite the old wives tale that cheese causes nightmares, eating some before bed helps the brain to use the tryptophan.
Unplug Nighttime Nootropic is a vegan friendly gluten-free nutritional supplement. Designed to aid sleep, relieve stress and mediate anti-inflammatory effects that commonly increase with ageing. Containing ingredients such as Montmorency Cherry – a natural source of melatonin and Brahmi to promote deeply restorative sleep and increased energy in the morning! Find out more here.
“Stress and anxiety are damaging our sleep at an unprecedented level – we are mentally more challenged than ever before, and on top of this we are glued to our screens until late in the evening and our diets may not be the best. This is exactly what we address with Unplug. Our goal is to give people a helping hand in switching off in the evening and getting proper rest and recovery, to wake up strong and energised. We do this by providing the brain with the right nutrients for a calm and peaceful night.”
Joe Welstead – Commonwealth Games Finalist, ex-professional swimmer & CEO of Motion Nutrition.
Time to sleep well!
Sleep and in particular – quality sleep of the deep kind – is critically paramount to our long term health and well-being.
If you find that despite trying a lot of these suggestions, sleep still evades you, then it’s probably time to seek professional help.
Plus if you’re uncertain of how well you’re sleeping, sleep trackers are a good way of monitoring this.
Once we fully understand how our habits affect our sleep, start addressing what we can do to aid a better night’s sleep and make sure we keep sleep a priority, we will reap all the mind and body benefits.
Want even more ways to focus on your well-being? Read:
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I hope this has been useful in providing some helpful tips and advice on how to get a better night’s sleep and of course why it’s so important that we do! Do you already do any of the recommended tips or use any of the recommended products? What has your experience been? Any other top tips to share? I’d love to hear from you! Get in touch via the comments box below.