As adults we need around 7-9 hours sleep yet over the past 100 years the amount of sleep we get has reduced by as much as 1.5 hours per night meaning many of us just aren't getting enough, but the quality of our sleep has declined too, meaning more of us are waking up not feeling well rested even after our time in bed!
There are so many factors that have resulted in the sleep issues we face, from our sleep environment, our lifestyles, the types of foods and drinks we are now having, to the technology that surrounds us.
But help is here! If you are struggling with getting to sleep, or wake in the middle of the night, follow these top tips to help reset your body clock and make sure you are getting a good night's sleep!
Set a regular bed time, and wake up time. Sleep is crucial to keep you physically and mentally well, as well as supporting your immune system. Aim to get enough sleep every night by setting a regular bed time and wake up time. Set a reminder on your phone to make this happen! Don’t rely on the weekend to catch up on sleep as this changes the routine and makes is hard to create your new habit. With daylight saving, set your new bed time and wake up time, and do your best to stick to it!
Expose your eyes to natural daylight. Get outside every day. Your body and many of its hormonal systems are regulated by natural daylight. Try to expose your eyes to light (without sunglasses on) for at least 20 minutes a day and ideally more. Exposing your eyes to natural light suppresses melatonin which is the hormone that makes you feel tired. It can also boost your mood by having an impact on serotonin, your ‘feel-good’ hormone. Getting enough exposure to light during the day, can also help you get to sleep at night.
Switch off an hour before bed time. Use the last hour of your day to create a relaxing bedtime routine that does not involve blue light screens (phone, TV, computer, tablets etc). Have a shower, do some stretching/meditation, read a book, get yourself packed for the following day instead of sitting watching a screen. This is easier said than done, but will make all the difference. If you can't make it an hour, half an hour is better than nothing!
Be mindful of your caffeine intake. Too much caffeine circulating your system at night can compromise the QUALITY of your sleep (even if it doesn’t stop you going to sleep). Be mindful where you may be getting caffeine from - decaf coffee still contains small amounts of caffeine, so if you are having a decaf before bed, consider switching that for a cup of chamomile tea, herbal tea, or glass of warm milk. Aim to keep your caffeine intake to less than 400mg/day, ideally in the earlier part of the day too. Here is the caffeine content of some common drinks here.
Avoid eating late at night. Food intake plays an important role in keeping our body clocks ticking on time. Aim to have at least a couple of hours before bed without food. Going a good 10-12 hours without food overnight is a good start!
Have a dark and cool room. You naturally ‘wake up’ around every 90 mins when you hit a lighter phase of sleep, but ideally, you will roll over and forget that it even happened. If your room is too light, there is a stream of light through the curtains or a red alarm clock in your face, you might be more likely to wake up and then…find it hard to go back to sleep! The ideal temperature for your room is also around 16-18 degrees.
Try not to use alcohol to wind down at the end of the day. The by-product of alcohol breakdown in the body will cause more broken and restless sleep, therefore increasing the likelihood of a 3 pm energy crash the next day.
Write it down. If you are struggling to get to sleep, or wake up in the night because there is lots on your mind, then write it down. Keep a notebook and pen beside your bed and jot down the thoughts you are having to help clear the mind.
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