This week I thought I would try to solve some of the practical sleep tips for achieving better sleep, because some of the most recent research into the nations sleep habits shows that 45% of us are sleeping for less than six hours (which is not good). Ideally most people need between 7-9 hours sleep (although as we age though we begin to need less as our bodies produce less and less melatonin. I will cover all the issues of hormone Melatonin in a later blog).
One of the simplest things that we can do to improve the quality of our sleep is to eat and drink the right things at the right times of the day.
The last meal of the day should be ideally eaten at least two hours before bed, this make the digestion process easier for the body. So make it a rule to always try to eat dinner early, and avoid heavy rich foods, spicy and acidic foods that can cause stomach trouble and heartburn. A light salad, perhaps and some chicken or steamed fish is ideal. If you are vegetarian then eat a salad more nuts, super foods and pulses etc….
For those who drink alcohol, whenever possible, avoid drinking several hours before bed. It may help you to fall asleep BUT it is more likely to wake you up in the middle of the night feeling dehydrated.
Begin to reduce your intake of caffeine 6-8 hours before bed time. This can be anything from coffee, tea and caffeinated soft drinks. Caffeine is both a stimulant and a diuretic (which means that it encourages the body to flush out water from the body) causing both dehydration and extra unwanted trips to the toilet in the early hours of the morning. I also recommend reducing the amount of fluids water, juice, tea etc’s before bed time.
If you haven’t quit smoking already for all the usual worrying health reasons, I recommend that all insomniacs quit nicotine as soon as possible to improve the quality of their sleep. Get rid of those e-cigs! Nicotine is a stimulant (not a relaxant) causing the heart to beat faster, and if you are still smoking real tobacco – the carbon monoxide in the smoke makes the smoker’s sleep very heavy, and feel very un-refreshing in the morning. Get free of smoking tobacco ASAP. It’s hazardous to the quality of your sleep.
Taking regular exercise is proven to improve the quality of your sleep. Taking breaks at work, 5 – 10 minutes or even longer can greatly improve the quality of your sleep. And the more bright natural sunlight that you get on your face in the daytime the more balance your natural regulation of melatonin will be in the night time.
Although exercise in the evenings before bed can in fact have a negative effect. The increased heart rate and metabolic rate before bed can make it harder for the body to wind down before sleep. The only exercise should be taking the evenings is relaxing, perhaps with some yoga or stretching or deep some breathing or progressive muscle relaxation.
Before bed, if you’re still hungry, eating either chicken or turkey, or a bowl of whole grain cereal, or granola with low-fat milk or yoghurt, or eating a banana, or avocado helps to improve levels of the neurotransmitter Tryptophan which combined with any simple carbohydrates seems to allow for better sleep.
Above all- after creating the best environment to sleep, consuming the best foods for sleep, the most important thing about sleep is to never try to sleep. Sleep should be natural effortless and easy. Learning how to get away from the washing machine of the mind is simply annex size inputting your attention elsewhere. I recommend learning how to relax and let go… I teach the ABC of Better Sleep technique. I teach how to get out of the way so that sleep just… slowly creeps up on you without your even noticing its arrival.
As always, I wish you a great night’s sleep.