We all need sleep; after all, it’s the glue that holds us together. When we sleep, our body and mind has a chance to repair and recuperate ready for the following day.
But, we don’t just need sleep for energy. Consistently good sleep also plays a huge role in the health of our immune system, helping us to fight off illness. A solid sleep plays a big part in our appetite too; ever noticed how much you crave sugary foods following a poor night’s sleep? That’s because your body and brain hasn’t had the full amount of sleep it needs, so it craves foods that will provide a quick hit of energy, to keep it awake. This in turn can disrupt any fitness and weight loss goals you may be working towards.
A good night’s sleep is also vital for brain health. Your brain doesn’t actually sleep itself, it remains working throughout the night, processing information from the day, and helping to regulate our mood.
Adults typically need between seven to nine hours of sleep, with the hours before midnight supposedly being more valuable to our overall health.
However, a staggering 62% of adults across the world feel they don’t sleep well* with the Sleep Foundation revealing how 32.6% of US working adults sleep for less than six hours a night! So how can we easily improve our sleep, without the need for medication?
- Take a warm shower
If you simply don’t have the time for a long soak in the bath, a warm shower can still help you to get good sleep. Primarily, this is because a shower helps to regulate body temperature before bed, indicating to our mind and body that it’s time to sleep. In fact, studies back this up with one study** finding that a 10 minute warm shower one to two hours before bed, significantly improved sleep quality.
To really turn your shower into a pre-bed sanctuary, try a lavender-based shower gel; lavender is renowned for its calming effects on the body.
- Avoid technology
In today’s world, we spend much of our time glued to screens, whether it be Netflix on the TV, emails on our laptop or scrolling through social media on our phone. But, before bed, this screen time can be detrimental. Our screens emit a blue light, which can wreak havoc on the levels of melatonin produced in our brain. Melatonin is our sleepy hormone; it essentially lets our body know when it’s time to get some shut eye.. So disrupting these melatonin levels will do us no favors.
Aim to shut off from technology 30 minutes before bed. Instead, try reading to wind down.
The stress of emails can also stop our minds from settling as we think about the work we have to do the next day, or the people that are expecting replies.
- Sip on herbal tea
Forget alcohol, coffee, or other stimulants before bed; an herbal tea could be just the tonic to help you drift off and stay asleep.
Research*** has found that lemon balm tea could help those suffering from insomnia, with 42% those involved in the study experiencing lower levels of this disruptive sleep disorder.
Another tea to try is chamomile. This ancient herb has been used for thousands of years to help boost sleep with studies**** finding that after two to four weeks of chamomile intake, those being tested showed improved sleep as well as lower levels of general anxiety.
- Try a dimmer light
Bright lights at night can disrupt our body’s natural sleep/wake cycle; this is our body’s innate rhythm which guides us into sleep, and also helps us wake up in the morning. Opting for a gentler light, or a light that dims automatically, helps your body to naturally wind down. Yet another reason why bright screens are a huge no-no in the bedroom!
- Make a list
Busy minds can really get in the way of a good night’s sleep. If you find yourself going to bed with a brain that’s full to bursting, it’s time to grab a pen and paper, and make a good old fashioned list!
Write down anything that’s in your head – no matter how trivial, and get it all out on paper as an empty mind allows for greater sleep.
Avoid making notes on your phone however, as the blue light will only worsen your sleep.
- Sort your surroundings
Messy room? Make sure your bedroom environment is tidy as being surrounded by clutter when you sleep can actually lead to poor sleep and heightened anxiety. Plus, a study***** even found that mess can stop the brain from performing the tasks it needs to. Aim to tidy things away before bed so that your surroundings are calm and peaceful.