Sleep does all sorts of wonderful things for your mind and body, yet according to the National Sleep Council, nearly half of the population get less than six hours sleep each night and four in five feel their sleep is disturbed, inadequate or extremely bad.
So here's five handy little tips to help you find better balance with your snoozing...
1) Get into a rhythm.
Setting a routine for your day with consistent wake-up and bed times helps to train your body and mind. All of us have an in-built body clock, known as our Circadian Rhythm, and by being consistent with when we do things, we help to set our system to naturally wake up and fall asleep when we want it to. It's essentially like writing code for a computer programme.
2) Go dark
Light is a stimulant to you body in much the same way that caffeine is. When your eyes and skin cells detect bright light, they think it must be coming from that giant ball in the sky and that it's time to get up and move around. That's because for the vast majority of time our species has spent on the planet, lightbulbs, computers, iPhones and Kindles didn't exist. The problem now is that these advances in technology are tricking your brain into believing it's time to switch on, when late in the evening the exact opposite is true. Here are a few ideas to help your body to know it's bedtime:
- Set your electronic devices to dim in the evening.
- Better still, set yourself an electronic device curfew time of a couple of hours before bed
- Get yourself a set of blackout blinds or curtains for your room
- Dim the light switches later in the evening
- Read a paperback occasionally instead of always using an e-reader (then recycle it of course)
3) Cut down on the stimulants later in the day
Your body actually starts to wind down for bed mid-late afternoon, so cutting out teas, coffees, energy drinks and high sugar foods after around 4pm can help you to prepare for a good night's kip.
Many of us find it hard to sleep as our brains are still whirring away with thoughts of the day; work deadlines, family pressures, money and everything else that makes life so busy. I know only too well that I can sit working late into the night and when I go to bed, my mind is still running through what I've been doing and what's next. Much like screen-time deadlines and closely linked, it's worth setting a curfew time for work. Choose an enjoyable task to do afterwards; read, listen to music, take a bath, enjoy a hobby, meditate, whatever it is that works for you.
5) Boost your melatonin
Your what? It's a hormone your body produces naturally that is strongly associated with sleep. As the day wears on, levels of a stress hormone named cortisol decrease, largely because the time when you are supposed to have gone and done all of your hard work has finished. As this happens, melatonin increases, helping to relax your body and begin the process of repair and recovery. It's a wonderful system when it works well, hormones acting in pairs to balance each other out nicely.
Darkness is known to boost melatonin levels, so following the tips in point 2 will help, but you might also get some benefits from nutrition too. Certain foods are high in a protein called Tryptophan and this is the thing your body uses to make melatonin. The research is still hit and miss, but the theory is that if you increase Tryptophan levels, you may just boost melatonin and therefore improve sleep. Try these as part of little evening snacks to see if they make any difference for you:
- Wholemeal bread
Hopefully there are a few helpful tips there to help you find better balance. As always, we'd suggest choosing just one to try first so that you can successfully embed it into your daily routines. Any questions, feel free to post here or get in touch.
Paul and the balance team :-)