Making the changes needed in order to get good sleep can impact your life in some fantastically positive ways. However, breaking habits and making lifestyle tweaks can be hard in the beginning.
Here are your top five motivators for remembering that the changes are truly worthwhile (even if they get tough):
- Good sleep helps to reduce worry and lessen feeling of anxiety or depression
- Good sleep supports you in being able to cope better so you can face life’s challenges
- Good sleep boosts productivity and motivation – it leaves you ready to take on the day
- Good sleep helps you feel stronger and therefore make better choices – positively contributing to your overall wellbeing
- Good sleep re-energises, giving you the energy you need to properly look after your physical wellbeing
In Part 1 of our Sleep Blog, I covered how poor sleep can have a truly life limiting effect on you, and we looked at the Top 6 Supplements To Help You Sleep. Supplements can really help kick start improvements in your sleep – if you haven’t seen it, you can find it by clicking here.
However, lifestyle can be one of the biggest factors in achieving good quality sleep, and how well you are able to get to sleep (and stay asleep).
So, in this part of the blog, I am focusing on other changes that you can make. Putting even some of these into practice is likely to start helping both your sleep patterns and sleep quality to improve (especially if you make these a part of your life alongside the supplement that you have found works best for you).
DIET - HEALTHY AND BALANCED
Try to eat a balanced diet, reduce the amount of processed foods you eat and start including (if you don’t already), lots of fresh veg and fruit.
Processing can often leach foods of the valuable nutrients you need to keep your body working in tip top condition. For example, we get tryptophan purely from our diet (your body doesn’t make it) and it is a key component in getting to sleep. Poor diet, or lots of processed food, might mean you are not getting enough. This is just one example.
EXERCISE - REGULAR AND GENTLE
This will help to make sure your body is physically tired enough to need rest. Trying to ensure that you have done a minimum of half an hour gentle to moderate exercise at least five days out of seven is recommended.
However, if you struggle to sleep after doing exercise in the evenings, try not to do in the 2 hours prior to bed, and aim for a morning stroll or workout instead.
Don’t worry (!) I am not suggesting you cut it out completely. I love a good coffee! However, it really helps me not to have any caffeine after lunchtime (I switch to caffeine free or herbal hot drinks).
It is recommended to reduce or stop caffeine intake between 2-6 hours before sleep, depending on your own tolerances. Starting this was a huge turning point for me – especially after years of shift work and caffeine reliance!
It was quite a revelation - even though I no longer work shifts, I had no idea my afternoon cuppa was having any kind of impact.
THINK ABOUT WHERE YOU SLEEP
Try to keep noise and light to a minimum, and maintain a comfortable temperature in your bedroom. Ear plugs and blackout blinds can really help, as well as keeping your room well ventilated and not too hot or cold.
Too hot can leave you tossing and turning half in and half out of the covers. And, if (like me) cold feet keep you up, a hot water bottle popped in the bed and hour before sleep time and a pair of sleep socks can work wonders!
Keeping your bedroom clutter free can also really help your mind to relax and ease you into sleep.
YOGA - IT'S TRUE, ANYONE CAN DO IT!
Although this also comes under ‘exercise’ it deserves a second mention, as it is especially helpful when it comes to promoting good sleep.
Practiced for thousands of years in the promotion of mind-body health, yoga is not simply exercise (and good exercise too!), but also combines the mindfulness and guided relaxation you might just need to help you switch off.
Yogic breathing is also key in learning to relax from everyday stresses and can make a huge difference in how you sleep.
MEDITATION - BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT
Like Yoga, meditation has been used for thousands of years in the East and it is now becoming very common practice in the West too. Learning to work with your breath and how to use it in order to relax and switch off can be extremely beneficial.
There are an abundance of short and long, guided and non-guided meditation videos available for free on YouTube (as well as some fantastic free and paid for apps you can download).
There is a wide array of choice in terms of style and pace, and from beginner to pro, so you are bound to find something that works – just keep going until you do (and persevere – it can take a few attempts).
NAPS - TRY TO RESIST TEMPTATION
If you are tired in the day from the previous poor night of sleep, try to resist the urge to nap. This will make you much less likely to fall asleep easily when evening comes, and can also start a unhealthy nap / poor sleep cycle that is hard to break. Try to wait it out, and head to bed a little earlier than usual if needed.
ALCOHOL - NOT QUITE AS GOOD AS IT SEEMS
Often regarded as helping people get to sleep, when it is actually the reverse. Although it may help you feel sleepy and drop off, alcohol actually contributes to poor quality sleep. So after even a small amount, you are likely to feel groggy.
BLUE LIGHT - TRY TO REDUCE USE BEFORE BED
The blue light emitted by many devices reduces your natural melatonin production (needed to send you off to the land of nod and regulate your ‘sleep clock’).
Using an iPad for two hours before bed is said to reduce your melatonin production by as much as 22%, making good sleep much trickier.
Try not to expose yourself to blue light near to bed time, or use your phone or tablet in bed, and for at least the last hour before bed.
WHERE WILL YOU START?
As well as supplements, I started by cutting out caffeine in the afternoons, and gradually began adding yoga, exercise and meditation. If I am completely honest, I still battle with turning off my devices! However, a bedroom wide ban on phones, tablets and laptops helps to keep me under control.
We have more great content for you! If you missed it, you can read SLEEP: Part 1 - The Top 6 Supplements to Help You Sleep Better by clicking right here.
Make sure you check out all our wellbeing blogs by clicking here, and see how you can help to Empower Your Wellbeing.
IT'S TIME YOU TOOK BACK CONTROL OF YOUR SLEEP...
Which are you going to start with?
Do you currently use any of these?
What can you recommend?
Do you have other ideas to add?
What do you struggle with most, and what works best for you?
I can’t wait to hear how you get on with these – I am looking forward to hearing about how you have helped improve your sleep, and how you have Empowered Your Wellbeing as a result.