Last month we highlighted Arianna Huffington’s book ‘The Sleep Revolution’ and discussed how not getting enough sleep can affect us physically and emotionally – sorry for the doom and gloom! Today we are going to put a positive spin on any sleep suffering and give you some of our best hacks to get a great nights sleep!!

To be able to sleep well we need to be physically tired and our modern routines of sitting down for most of the day to work just ain’t cutting it! If you have a non-physically demanding job you need to make sure that you get some good quality exercise in every single day to physically wear yourself out in preparation for sleep. When we exercise during the day it helps us to feel more alert and energetic so that we are more likely to feel tired in the evening. Every day aim for at least 20-30 minutes of good quality exercise.

We have an article coming up discussing caffeine! Caffeine can wreak havoc on our central nervous system, our hormones and our immune system which can mean that we will find it much more difficult to wind down and relax. Caffeine is a drug and a stimulant. Our body produces adenosine to help us feel sleepy. Caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors in our brain stopping us from falling asleep. Caffeine can also mess with the timing of our body clock, the length of sleep and also the amount of deep sleep that we get. The deep sleep is really important for us to wake up feeling well rested. In ‘The Sleep Revolution’ Arianna recommends avoiding caffeine after 3 pm! Genetically if you are a slow metaboliser of caffeine it will hang around in your system for much longer and cause more issues over time.

Obeying our natural circadian rhythm is really important for sleep. When we sleep our brain produces melatonin which helps us to regulate our sleep cycles. When we eat meals late at night this raises our blood sugar. When we are asleep our body is designed to fast. Eating right before we sleep can mean that our blood sugar can crash while we are asleep which results in cortisol production ramping up and melatonin production winding down. The relationship between cortisol and melatonin is an inverse one so when our bodies produce too much of the hormone cortisol over time it can lead to adrenal fatigue and exhaustion. Also during the day we also need to make sure that we eat regularly and don’t snack on too many starchy or sugary foods to keep our hormones and blood sugar balanced.

This for many is easier said than done! Everyone has different levels of sensitivity but often screen use or working in the evening can be very stimulating. You might find that you find it harder to wind down and relax in the evenings that you work. It might be more beneficial for your body to switch to early morning work. Get up early and tackle some of those extra tasks then or set yourself a cutoff point say 8 pm where you shut down your laptop and start your evening wind down routine. If you do need to work in the evening make sure it is out of your bedroom space if it all possible!

Oftentimes sleep issues stem from anxiety issues. Spend a little bit of time each evening to pick up the house and organise anything that you need for the next day. If you have kids get them to be responsible for organising their own belongings for the next day. Write out your to-do list earlier in the evening so that when you are ready for sleep you won’t have thoughts floating around in your head of what you need to get done the next day. Get it all out earlier!

If you can incorporate some relaxing yoga or meditation into your nighttime routine then your body will thank you! Yoga can help our bodies and minds relax particularly if you are dealing with any stress or anxiety. In anxiety GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) a chemical that helps to regulate nerve activity in the brain is low. Yoga postures have been proven to help increase GABA function in our brain which has a calming effect on our mind and body. Other mindful practices like meditation are also beneficial because they help to promote our natural ‘relaxation response’ and encourage us to focus on our breathing and the present moment.

This may seem silly but research has shown that many of us don’t really wear p.j.’s!! We need to psychologically create that shift in our brain that prepares us for sleep. Changing into p.j.’s allows us to mentally wind down and start preparing our bodies for sleep. Purchase some really beautiful and comfortable sleepwear that you reserve just to go to sleep!

Take some good quality magnesium half an hour before you sleep. Magnesium helps our muscles to relax and recover and it is something that a lot of us are deficient in due to depleted soils. It can also help to decrease cortisol production in our bodies and help to calm us down and prepare us for sleep.

Try and engage in some sort of relaxing activity before you go to sleep for at least 30 minutes! Have a warm bath, read a book, listen to relaxing music or make some herbal tea that promotes sleep. If you watch t.v. before you sleep try and watch only relaxing programmes rather than anything scary or violent. Often when we sleep our subconscious remembers the things that we exposed ourselves to right before we slept. Try and avoid reading or listening to the news before you sleep. Focus on something positive and write down one thing that you are grateful for before you go to sleep.

We wrote an article last month about creating a non-toxic bedroom space – check it out! It is so important that our bedroom is clean and clutter free. Work to remove any sleep distractions. Also, make sure that your bedroom is a good temperature for sleeping. If too hot you can install or buy a fan and if too cold make sure you have heating or extra blankets nearby. Dim the lighting at night if you can and make sure you have some good quality blackout curtains on your windows to block light while you sleep.

Our bodies circadian rhythm is heavily influenced by the amount of light or dark it is exposed to. It is our circadian rhythm that psychologically prepares us for sleep. When it gets dark outside our body starts to produce melatonin which helps us to feel sleepy. Exposure to too much light in the evening and during the night can suppress our production of melatonin. Blue light is particularly damaging to our natural circadian rhythms more than any other light. Screen use and Florescent/LED lighting can be large contributors of blue light in the home. LED lights are much better for the environment but can be much more disruptive to our natural melatonin production. Try to dim lighting or use less lighting when you prepare yourself for bed.

The earlier that you can get to bed – the better!! If you aim to fall asleep before 10 pm or around 10 pm you will get more of the restorative deep sleep that only happens between 10-2 pm. If your body is aligned with your natural circadian rhythm you should start to feel sleepy from around 9 pm. Getting into bed earlier will mean that you will make up more easily and feel more well rested the next morning. Also, try and stick to a regular bedtime so your body knows when to start preparing itself for sleep!

Do you have any tricks that help you sleep better? Please share in the comments ♥

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