When was the last time you got a great night’s sleep? Went to bed at a reasonable hour and took the time to wind down mindfully in the evening? Woke up feeling well-rested and didn’t hit snooze five (or fifty?) times?
While we tend to be in tune with the importance of our physical and mental health, it’s easy to overlook the importance of sleep,
even though it impacts both! Sleep allows our bodies to heal, rejuvenate and recover. Too little of it, and we don’t just feel tired – our health can suffer too.
In fact, a lack of sleep has been linked to brain fog and fatigue, as well as a range of health issues – from diabetes and obesity to depression, anxiety, lowered immunity and even heart issues.
Many factors can lead to a bad night’s sleep:
- Stress, depression or anxiety
- A sleep-disrupting illness, such as heartburn
- Shift-based work
- Use of blue light-emitting devices close to bedtime
- Poor sleep environment
Your window of sleep-ortunity
Our sleep is regulated by our natural sleep-wake cycle known as the circadian rhythm. Most adults need between 7.5 and 8 hours a night, with the most restorative window between 11 pm and 7 am.
But don’t fret if you’re currently achieving nowhere near that amount – you’re certainly not alone. The good news is you have more power to dictate your own sleep success than you might think. Follow these tips to create your own sleep hygiene routine.
Eat your way to a great sleep
Certain nutrients actively help to promote good-quality, restful sleep. Like melatonin, the hormone that helps our bodies to prepare for restful sleep. Natural sources include cherries, cherry juice, tomatoes, mustard seeds, corn, sprouted seeds and brown rice.
Many foods also contain the amino acid tryptophan, which converts to melatonin in the body. Good sources include eggs, turkey and pumpkin seeds. Try including these as part of your evening meal and you’ll be sleeping soundly in no time.
Nothing beats bath time
Leave your phone and your computer in another room and head to the bathroom for some comforting bath time.
Studies show that a hot bath or shower around 90 minutes before bedtime can improve overall sleep quality due to its temperature-regulating effects. Near bedtime bathing can also help you to fall asleep faster and achieve a deeper sleep.
For a truly sleep-inducing soak, sprinkle a few drops of lavender and chamomile essential oils to your bath. Lavender is a proven stress-reliever that can help you to relax and fall asleep more easily. It’s even been shown to improve the quality of your nightly snooze.
Chamomile contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to receptors in your brain and may be linked to sleepiness, reduced insomnia and generally improved sleep.
For extra sleep-enhancing benefits, why not incorporate some Epsom salts into your bath time. Epsom salts are a mineral compound made up of magnesium, sulphur and oxygen. When used in a warm bath, your skin can absorb the magnesium, which may promote a feeling of calm and relaxation.
Where the magic happens
When it comes to nodding off, the importance of a good bedroom environment can’t be overstated. Your bedroom should be a sanctuary for sound, restful, restorative sleep.
Here’s how to create the ultimate sleep environment:
Darkness – lighting is the most important environmental factor impacting your sleep ability. A dark bedroom triggers the brain to slow down and relax, and stimulates the production of melatonin – the sleep hormone. Use a low-wattage light bulb in the bedroom, invest in blackout curtains if you can, if not, wear a sleep mask.
Limit devices before bedtime – the blue light emitted from social and visual devices can delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, increase alertness and reset the body’s internal clock to a later schedule. Aim to disconnect all electronics at least an hour before bedtime.
Sounds – it’s important to block out any noises in your bedroom that are disruptive to your sleep. Invest in some comfortable earplugs. Or try a sound machine; pick the sound that you find most relaxing, i.e. a waterfall or rain beating against the window.
Good bedding – can help regulate the temperature and humidity in your bedroom, avoid synthetic materials such as polyester in favour of natural fibres like pure silk, high-thread-count cotton and linen. Make sure to wash your bedding once a week – you can’t beat that blissful feeling of slipping into a freshly made bed.
Developing healthy sleeping habits to create your sleep hygiene routine is essential for improving your sleep and achieving those coveted 7.5 to 8 hours.
But remember: it’s about quality as well as quantity. Prioritising the optimal sleep times, consuming melatonin-rich foods, bathing in sleep-inducing essential oils and creating a dreamy sleep environment will have you drifting off into a deep, restorative sleep. Incorporate these suggestions, and give that snooze button its own well-deserved rest.
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