We all know how important sleep is. Studies have shown that sleep benefits our overall health - weight management, focus and concentration, memory, mood... the list goes on. The experts tell us that we should aim to achieve 8 hours of sleep every night. But how do we manage 8 hours of sleep, quality sleep, every night when we're living busier lives than arguably any generation before us?
Many of us find it difficult to switch off when coming home from a long day at work... emails continue to bounce onto your smartphone, messages make various beeps and whistles through Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. And of course you may have children to pick up from school, dinner to prepare and partners to share your day with. PLUS, you're supposed to be tucked into bed by around 10pm to ensure that you get your recommended 8 hours of sleep each night. That sounds far-fetched for many of us!
Even if we can't realistically extend our hours of sleep, we can try to improve the quality of the sleep that we do get.
Here are 5 tips to help you -
1. Make your sleep space dark.
Invest in blockout blinds to reduce the light entering your bedroom while you sleep. This is important in ensuring the body produces melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain that activates at night and is the key to restorative sleep.
An alternative (cheaper) way to block out light is to wear a soft sleep mask. Opt for natural breathable materials such as silk or cotton, which won't make you sweat and will be soft against your skin.
2. Create an inviting, tranquil sleep space.
It goes without saying that when we feel relaxed and comfortable, we're more likely to WANT to fall asleep, just as we are more LIKELY to fall asleep.
Keep your bedroom space tidy, remove any distraction to sleep such as electrical devices like phones and laptops. Consider using an aromatherapy diffuser with a few drops of a relaxing essential oil like Lavender or Roman Chamomile, and turn the diffuser on 30 minutes before bed time. The aroma should be subtle for maximum benefit.
Note that too many drops of essential oils can have the opposite desired effect, such as energising instead of relaxing, so don't overdo it!
3. Invest in good quality, breathable bedding.
A supportive pillow and comfortable cotton sheets are often overlooked but so important to a good night's rest. Natural, breathable sheets will stop you from overheating and having a restless, sweaty sleep.
Hint - Layers of lighter bedding can be more effective than one thick blanket or duvet, allowing you to fold down the sheets to your level of comfort.
4. Take a warm bath or shower.
So simple and effective! After a stressful day, a warm bath or shower can help wash away constant thoughts and worries. Before bathing, light some candles, turn off the lights, put on some soft soothing music (keeping your phone away from arm's reach) and immerse yourself for up to half an hour.
For maximum relaxation, add Magnesium flakes to your running bath water. Your body will absorb the Magnesium while you soak, relaxing your muscles and easing any body aches and tension.
5. Write down any tasks/ideas before bed.
The literal act of writing down what's on our mind at the end of the day can help us to relax. We do not need to spend energy remembering those things, and can feel at ease knowing that we can make a fresh start on our list in the morning. Leave your list on the kitchen table along with your phone.
Your phone should not enter your bedroom space. We will cover the reasons why in a later article. If you argue that you need the alarm, invest in a simple clock alarm, old school style! No phone message beeps or lights will bug you through the night and you won't be tempted to open your eyes to check it.
There are so many sleep aids available today to help us get shut eye. Some basic practices can help to create an ideal environment for relaxation, making it easier to fall asleep, and stay asleep. We'd love to hear from you and what you've found that works!
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Reference: www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/melatonin-and-sleep, updated 06/08/2020.