Unless you’re someone who always gets their eight hours and glides through the world feeling well-rested and ready for the day (lucky you, if so), you could probably do with improving your sleep.
A good amount of good quality sleep is essential to our wellbeing.
It forms the essential foundation to everything else we do – no matter how much meditation you’re doing or how many superfoods you’re eating, your health is going to suffer if your sleep isn’t where it needs to be.
To help us get on track, Elisabeth Clare, the founder and director of MBST UK, shares her top tips to switch off, get to sleep more easily, and improve your wellbeing as a result.
Check in on your diet
Elisabeth tells Metro.co.uk: ‘What we put in our bodies can have a huge effect on our sleep and the cliché “you are what you eat” is certainly true when it comes to catching Zzzs at night.
‘While feeling tired during the day can have many of us reaching for caffeine, if we limit our intake and switch to decaf after 3pm then there’s a stronger chance that the adrenaline boost will be out of our system, allowing us to switch off and sleep at bedtime.
‘A poor quality diet can also affect our digestive system and cause issues with rest.’
You know what not to eat a load of – piling your plate high with sugar and processed carbs isn’t great for rest – but what should you be eating for better sleep?
‘Foods rich in L tryptophan are great for helping the body to sleep as they convert to melatonin in the presence of vitamin b6 and this can make falling asleep easier,’ says Elisabeth. ‘You’ll find this sleep-inducing nutrient in oats, bananas, tofu and pumpkin seeds.’
Watch your alcohol intake, too
‘Reducing your alcohol intake might sound like a no-brainer, but lowering your units or cutting it out completely can mean you sleep better and for longer,’ notes Elisabeth.
‘Drunken sleep is often not restful enough, and you can wake up feeling tired as well as battling a potential hangover.’
Consider your bedroom setup
Is your bedroom a sleep sanctuary designed for great snoozing? Or is a cluttered space where you also try to work and play?
Do whatever you can to make your space a place that’s conducive to rest, from moving your screens out of the bedroom to investing in some cosy bedsheets.
Elisabeth tells us: ‘From the pillows to the mattress to the bedding and even to the layout of your bedroom, where you sleep is a huge factor in getting good quality rest.
‘A room that’s too light can mean you’ll be waking up at sunrise, and while this is fine in winter it’s not so great in peak summertime when the sun can rise before 5am. Consider blackout blinds or curtains to keep your room as dark for as long as possible.
‘Natural aromatherapy can also help you to unwind and fall asleep. Lavender in particular stimulates GABA receptors, which can aid sleep by assisting in the production of melatonin and have you falling asleep quickly and easily.’
Consider your bed and pillows, and make sure this is an area where you get the best you can afford.
‘Your bed is crucial to getting a good night of shut-eye too,’ Elisabeth states. ‘Your mattress should be good quality and supportive, and ideally no older than eight years old.
‘A poor mattress can result in back problems and aches, which can cause ongoing musculoskeletal problems, and trouble falling asleep in the first place.
‘Pillows are another vital part of our sleep quality. They can support a variety of sleeping positions, but ideally lying flat on your back with one supportive pillow is best for maintaining the spine’s natural curves and supporting the neck.
‘If you suffer from lower back pain, a small pillow under your knees can relieve any pressure in the lumbar region at bedtime. However, it’s important not to rely on this indefinitely as it may result in tightening of the hip flexors, especially if you sit a lot throughout the day.
‘Protecting your body while sleeping is vital for long-term wellbeing.’
Sort out your evening routine
‘How you wind down for bed should be a carefully considered process and subliminally instruct your body that it’s time for sleep,’ says Elisabeth.
Start by reducing screentime a while before it’s time to rest.
‘Reducing our use of devices such as phones and TV can be helpful for an hour before we switch out the lights as it decreases the amount of blue light stimulus,’ Elisabeth explains. ‘This blue light suppresses the body’s release of melatonin, a hormone that makes us feel drowsy.
‘While this may be helpful during the day, it becomes unhelpful at night when we’re trying to sleep.’
Make sure you have a regular bedtime, and a wind-down routine you can repeat every night to signal to your mind that it’s time to calm down.
What that looks like is up to you – perhaps a skincare routine, some meditation, or reading a book. It’s the consistency that matters.
‘Setting a bedtime might feel like a throwback to being a child but heading to bed at the same time every night has been proven to help sleep,’ notes Elisabeth. ‘A study in the UK of over 88,000 people found that 10pm was the optimum bedtime, but consistency with the same time for going to bed and getting up was the key to feeling rested and recharged.’
Use exercise to your advantage
Moving your body more during the day can have a beneficial effect on your sleep when the nighttime rolls around.
And gentle exercise before bed can also help you to switch off your busy mind and more easily slide into a deeper and more restful slumber.
‘Provided any exercise stops at least 90 minutes before bedtime, our bodies will still have time for endorphin levels to return to normal and our core body temperature to drop to an optimum level for sleep,’ notes Elisabeth.
Focus on your breathing
‘When you’re tucked up in bed and wondering how exactly to fall asleep, there are a few breathing techniques that can help signal the body to wind down, relax and nod off,’ Elisabeth shares.
‘One method that has gone viral is the Military technique, which promises sleep in under two minutes.
‘The method involves calming the body and systematically focusing on relaxing and shutting down each part of your body from head to toe.
‘The method is designed to be ‘practised’ nightly and then sleep should come easier each time, thanks to the meditation style breathing and mindfulness.’
Remove the pressure of falling asleep
Finding it impossible to drift off? Stop trying to force it. The more you stress about not getting enough sleep, the harder it’ll be to rest.
‘Instead, get up and distract yourself for a short period with a book or get a warm drink that can help you to settle down for sleep,’ says Elisabeth. ‘Your mind and body will thank you for it.’
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