Hints and tips for getting a good nights sleep.
This year World Sleep Day falls on Friday 19th March. This is an annual event (the Friday before Spring Vernal Equinox of each year) and is intended to be a celebration of sleep and a call to action on important issues related to sleep, and this year the theme is: Better Sleep, Better Life, Better Planet.
We know that sleep is essential - Sleeping helps us to recover from the physical and mental exertions we face each day. A healthy sleep pattern has been proven to reduce serious health problems, such as obesity, hypertension, depression, and even Alzheimer’s. But many of us are struggling to get the recommended 8 – 9 hours of sleep each night, with the NHS suggesting that 1 in 3 of us suffers from poor sleep, with stress, computers and taking work home often blamed.
Our cognitive functions can also be affected by sleep deprivation, so you could say that this is quite an important topic. A few small lifestyle adjustments can make a difference. We are by no means experts but we thought we would share some of the everyday strategies we find help us to nod off and stay in the land of nod:
- Do your best to go to bed and get up at roughly the same time each day in an effort to programme your body into a sleep routine.
- Try getting daily sunlight exposure, preferably combined with some exercise. Research shows that regular walkers had longer and better quality sleep, and it can even reduce the number of sleepless nights for those suffering from insomnia.
- Go easy on stimulants such as caffeine. Caffeine is great for kick-starting our day, but it can wreak havoc with our body clocks and even have an effect on the length of time we sleep up to six hours after we've consumed it.
- Embrace the benefits of lavender oil. It will come as no surprise that essential oils are a key element to my sleep routine. British researchers in 2012 reviewed the scientific evidence associated with lavender oil and found when lavender was inhaled it could help to improve sleep. There are a number of ways to get your nightly hit of lavender, from simply dropping a few drops of oil on your bedding or using a pillow mist to enjoying your favourite blend in an aroma diffuser.
- Cut the light. Try to make your bedroom as dark as possible; blackout blinds are great - especially as the sun starts to rise earlier. Also, do your best to avoid smartphones and computers before you go to bed, because as well as pinging social media alerts forcing your brain to remain active, the blue light emitting from your screens actually suppresses levels of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles and it should increase when you are preparing for bedtime and decrease as the sun rises in the morning, signalling your brain to wake up. The blue light can be filtered out using specific apps or by changing the settings on your device, but there are still plenty of funny pictures and skateboarding cat videos waiting to keep your mind awake into the early hours...
- Listen to a lullaby or sleep story. Yes, you read that right. I have been listening to sleep stories and lullabies for a few years now and if you haven’t heard (not an ad but personal favourite!) Stephen Fry’s soothing voice reading 'Blue Gold' or Matthew McConaughey’s lyrical tones when reading 'Wonder' you are missing a treat. But if sleep stories are not your thing sleep.org suggest that ‘putting on some tunes can help you fall asleep faster, wake up less during the night, and feel more rested in the morning. Music can help sleepers of all ages, from toddlers through to the elderly, at naptime and night time alike.’ Again a couple of personal recommendation to try include:
co/#/Developed by The Sync Project, who suggest that, just as lullabies help children calm down and slow their heart rate, adults also have the necessity to access music that creates these physiological changes to ease sleep.
- Spotify. Working with classical composer Max Richter and neuroscientist David Eagleman Spotify developed an 8 hour play list for world sleep day back in 2018.
- Or you could create your own playlist; there are lots of songs out there that meet the lullaby criteria of 60-80 beats per minute including lullaby renditions of Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé! Just remember, whether a sleep story or music to help you sleep, download them so you can still have those pesky devises on sleep mode.
We would love it if you would share any of your sleep-enhancing tips.