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Nearly a third of people in the UK suffer from sleep-related problems. Read on to find out how to create a great sleep routine.
Do you struggle with getting to sleep at night? According to research, you’re not alone. A report released by The Sleep Council revealed that 70% of Britons sleep less than seven hours a night with more than a quarter of those experiencing poor sleep quality on a regular basis.
Sleeping well and maintaining a consistent sleep routine is as crucial to our physical and mental wellbeing as maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Lack of sleep can affect everything from our mood, concentration and alertness, to serious health problems if insomnia is not treated. So how can we make sure we are getting enough quality sleep?
Below are 7 tips for a great sleep routine.
Your body has an internal 24hr clock that adapts to your personal wake-up and sleep pattern, known as your circadian rhythm. Maintaining the same bedtime and wake up time every day (including weekends and holidays) helps to keep this consistent.
Because our body clocks take their cue from environmental factors such as light/dark and temperature fluctuations, it can be off-balance during winter when we spend more of our time going from darkness to artificial light. We feel more alert when the sun is shining and more likely to hibernate when it’s dark.
Our body clocks can go off track thanks to events such as changing the clocks from wintertime to summertime, jet lag, shift work etc. This disrupts sleeping and eating patterns but also mood and mental alertness.
Pick a time to go to bed and wake up, and by sticking with this pattern your body will recognise when to expect sleep and when to wake up, keeping everything in balance.
As well as having a structured bedtime, it’s important to dedicate some of your evenings to prepare your body to wind down and get ready for sleep. This can involve anything that makes you feel relaxed and ready for sleep, such as a hot bath or shower, yoga and meditation, reading a book or listening to music or a podcast.
In fact, studies have proven that a warm bath or shower taken 1-2 hours before bed can significantly improve overall sleep efficiency. How? Our body temperature is not constant for 24 hours. It is generally higher in the morning and evening, and it drops to its lowest during nighttime sleep, and it needs to drop to initiate good sleep. When we take a warm bath or shower, the body brings a large amount of blood flow to the surface, especially hands and feet. This blood flow brings the heat from the core to the surface and rejects the heat to the environment and causes a drop in body temperature. Therefore, if you take a warm bath/shower at the right biological time – one to two hours before bedtime – it will aid your natural circadian process and improve your sleep.
Try out some different methods and find what works for you.
Eliminating any distractions from your bedroom will help keep it a relaxing, quiet place can help you to wind down and prepare for a good nights sleep. Try to close out any outside noise, set the temperature to be optimal, and remove any distractions such as a TV or other electronics, and invest in low hue lighting such as a bedtime lamp.
Test different temperatures for you by turning up or down your thermostat, investing in a hot water bottle or different bedding, such as higher thread count sheets, and silk pillowcases which can help to keep you cooler. Your mattress quality will also impact your sleep by reducing any back or joint pain – this is obviously subjective to your personal preference. Try to change your mattress every 5 to 8 years for optimal cosiness. Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, relaxing, clean and enjoyable place for getting good quality sleep.
Ever woken up in the middle of the night, and with nothing else to do, decided to scroll through Instagram or check your work emails? Mobile phones can hamper your sleeping efforts, not only by causing a distraction when you are trying to get back to sleep, but exposure to the blue light most electronic devices emit can disrupt your circadian rhythm by tricking your brain into thinking its daytime, meaning you will struggle to get back to sleep.
You can eliminate this by installing an app or using your devices night time screen settings to cancel this out, or better still, keep your phone out of your bedroom to stop the temptation altogether. The same can be said for TVs, the can cause more of a distraction and delay you being able to get to sleep easier as they also emit blue light. Remove TVs and screens to ensure a more restful atmosphere.
Exercise has been shown to contribute to a more sound and restful sleep. Physical activity increases the time your body spends in a restorative phase known as Slow Wave Sleep. This means your body will be in the deepest phase of sleep for longer, which contributes to boosting your immune function, supports heart health and can help to alleviate stress and anxiety. This is why you are likely to feel more refreshed and recharged after a restful nights sleep. Exercise can also provide an outlet for those who do suffer from stress and anxiety. Practising yoga before bed can help to lower cortisol levels and reduce blood pressure, which can aid getting to sleep quicker, for longer.
When it comes to the timing of exercise, be aware that exercising too close to bedtime may interfere with sleep. Working out too late in the evening can leave you feeling energized and stimulated right before bed, and delay your transition to sleep. If you do work out in the evenings, make sure you give yourself an adequate period to transition from being highly alert working out to winding down for sleep. It’s a good idea to avoid everything but the gentlest forms of exercise— yoga, an after-dinner stroll—within 3-4 hours of bedtime.
Get out for a jog, cycle around your neighbourhood, hit the gym for some weight training or a cardio session on the treadmill. Every bit of exercise you commit can help you feel better during the day and sleep better at night.
If you struggle to get to sleep and find yourself lying awake staring into the darkness, you’re not alone. There are a number of sleep aids available that can help you drift off to sleep easier. Some popular sleep aids include:
Always consult your doctor before taking any supplement for sleep to rule out any sleep conditions.
It’s incredibly frustrating when you wake up in the middle of the night and then spend the next two hours tossing and turning endlessly trying to get back to sleep. Getting out of bed can help to reduce this frustration, as laying in bed worrying about how little sleep you are getting can only make things worse. Try to give yourself 5-10 minutes of breathing exercises to help you get back to sleep. Try breathing in through your nose for four seconds, holding your breath for seven seconds, and slowly breathing out through your mouth for eight seconds. If that time passes and you cant get back to sleep, it’s best to leave your bedroom, as you want to associate this room as a place for sleeping in. Things to try include:
Try to avoid clocks, TVs and mobile phones, as the blue light emitted can trick your brain into thinking its actually time to wake up. Facebook can wait, and no one needs to know you had a bad nights sleep. Avoid trying to do anything productive as this reinforces waking up at 2 am to check your finances and email back your parents.
Hopefully, these tips will help you get a great nights sleep every night. If sleep problems persist, consult a sleep specialist who can run further tests to diagnose any sleep conditions.
Sweet Dreams x