How did you sleep last night? Did you bounce out of bed feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day, or did you zombie-roll out of bed and head straight for the coffee machine!? Gosh, there’s nothing quite like crummy sleep… it totally knocks you off your axis and impacts your entire day. It doesn’t matter how dialled in your nutrition and exercise are, if you don’t get enough sleep, all aspects of your health will suffer.
Inadequate sleep (in either duration or quality) is a major stressor on our bodies and is implicated in all manners of health issues, from weight gain, blood sugar problems and heart disease, to impaired cognitive function, anxiety and increased cancer risk… the list goes on!
Are you sleep deprived?
Symptoms of sleep deprivation:
- reduced concentration
- poor memory
- slowed thinking
- risky decision making
- increased appetite
- reliance on caffeine
- low immunity/sick often
The amount of sleep that’s required varies from person to person, but most sleep experts agree that between 7-9 hours of shut-eye per night is needed for optimal health. Yet, between 30-45% of Australians do not meet this requirement on a regular basis. The trouble is, getting to bed on time doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’ll get a restful 8-hours sleep. Many of us find it difficult to fall asleep, wake often, or consistently wake up too early.
Luckily, there are several strategies you can implement right away to improve the quality and duration of your sleep. Here’s 10 of our favourite sleep hacks:
- Make Sleep a Priority
Making a commitment to getting quality sleep can be tough to juggle along with family life, work commitments and an infinite number of Netflix episodes! However, making sleep a priority is paramount if you are serious about levelling-up your health. There’s simply no way around it… in order to feel and function your best, it’s vital to allow yourself enough time to get proper sleep.
- Create a Routine
Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day (even on weekends, days off and whilst travelling) is key to establishing a healthy sleep/wake cycle. Creating a consistent bedtime routine will help entrain your body’s circadian rhythm (internal body clock) so that you feel sleepy and drift off to sleep at the appropriate time and stay asleep.
- Restrict Artificial Light
The blue light emitted from computer screens, smartphones and television sets disrupts the production of melatonin, the primary hormone involved in sleep regulation. Therefore, limiting your exposure to artificial light at night is a powerful way to regulate your sleep. Reduce your exposure to light at night by:
- Avoiding or minimising screen time one-to-two hours before bedtime.
- Using dim incandescent lighting or candle light in the evenings after sunset.
- Wearing orange-tinted (blue blocking) glasses in the evening.
- Dimming, covering or removing anything that emits light in your bedroom, like alarm clocks.
- Using blackout shades and/or eye masks to ensure your bedroom is as dark as possible.
- Get Daytime Sunlight Exposure
Once you’ve reduced your exposure to light at night, you’ll also want to focus on getting exposure to sunlight during the day, which is an important environmental factor regulating your circadian rhythm. Light stimulates the release of a hormone called cortisol, which helps to activate and awaken your body for the day. Try this:
- Take a short walk outdoors when you wake up in the morning.
- Eat breakfast outside in the sun.
- Avoid wearing sunglasses in the first half of the day.
- Use a light box/sun lamp that emits 10,000 lux for 20-30 minutes in the morning.
- Cut Caffeine
No doubt you love your morning coffee to get the day started, however caffeine has a profound effect on sleep, so it’s best avoided (or at least minimised) if you’re having sleep problems. Caffeine has a half-life of around 6-hours, which means 6-hours after consuming it there’s still half the amount of this stimulant circulating throughout your body. For this reason you should avoid caffeine consumption after midday. If you’re currently drinking a lot of coffee, it’s best to wean yourself off gradually, rather than going cold turkey – #headaches.
- Create a Relaxing Sleep Environment
Creating a bedroom that makes you feel relaxed, comfortable and ready for bedtime is very helpful when it comes to getting quality
sleep. You can do this by:
- Only using your bedroom for sleep and nookie – avoid television and using electronics in the bedroom
- Controlling the temperature of the room – most people sleep best in a slightly cool room (around 18 °C)
- Getting a comfortable bed – your sleep isn’t going to be great if you find your bed uncomfortable!
- Reducing the noise level – if there’s a lot of noise outside your bedroom, use earplugs or a noise machine to block it out.
- Manage your stress
It’s incredibly important to manage your stress effectively when trying to optimise your sleep. Many of us tend to run around all day like headless chickens and then wonder why we have trouble sleeping. Make sure to calm your nervous system by implementing stress management techniques like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or gratitude journalling. Learn more about how to manage your stress in this article.
- Optimise Your Sleep Nutrition
Some people find they sleep far better when eating a smaller/lighter meal earlier in the evening (especially those prone to digestive issues like gas and bloating). Others find they sleep better with a snack close to bedtime, such as those who tend toward low blood sugar. In general, however, it’s better to go to bed neither overly full, nor hungry. You should also avoid diets that are too low in carbohydrates and low in fats, as these types of diets can lead to sleeping difficulties.
- Natural Sleep Remedies
There are several natural remedies that can be helpful sleep aids due to their effects on calming the nervous system and influencing neurotransmitters in the brain. Some examples include:
- Sleep-promoting teas, such as Valerian Root, Lemon Balm, Magnolia Bark, Passionflower and Chamomile.
- Essential oils, such as Lavender, Bergamot and Ylang Ylang.
- Adaptogenic herbs, such as Ashwaganda, Rhodioloa, Rhemainia, Holy Basil and Schisandra
- Magnesium (glycinate, threonate and citrate are good forms)
- B-vitamins, especially B6 and B12
- Amino acids, such as Glycine, Taurine, L-Theanine and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)
- Melatonin – this sleep-inducing hormone is released from the pineal gland in the brain and is available via prescription in Australia.
- Full-Spectrum Hemp Extract Oil
This one is really an addition to strategy #9, yet it’s particularly special and deserves it’s own section! Hemp extract oil contains a full spectrum of naturally occurring phyto-cannabinoids that interactive with the body’s endocannabinoid system. Numerous studies have shown that these active constituents help aid in a good nights sleep. Helpsies G’Nite contains 3000mg of full-spectrum hemp extract per bottle. Using up to 1ml an hour before bed is a powerful way to induce a sense of calm and facilitate a deep, restorative sleep where you’ll wake refreshed feeling ready to take on the day!
So, if you’re lying in bed tonight finding it difficult switching off, or you wake at 3am worrying about ‘world affairs’, why not give some of our strategies a go.