If you’ve read our last blog, you’ll be well aware that sleep is important. Like, really important.
We probably don’t have to tell you that when we’re not well slept, our mind and body don't quite function as they should. Everything feels harder, and often worse, than it really is.
Less-than-ideal sleep happens for a range of reasons. Some of these are well within our control, (e.g. going to bed at a reasonable hour), however others can feel as though they are most certainly not.
Self inflicted sleep deprivation is one thing, but making sleep an utmost priority and spending half the night tossing and turning is another.
Here are a few things to think about if you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep and waking up feeling well rested.
1. Your night time routine
We don’t expect a young child to go to sleep just because we say ‘it’s bedtime;’ we know that a solid night time routine is key. We might do the bath, a quiet time bedtime story, and try to stick to a regular bedtime each night (all while hoping for the best).
The truth is, us grown adults aren’t all that different in our need for routine and having practises that our brains begin to associate with sleepy time.
Here are a few tips:
- Stick to a sleep routine - try to go to sleep and wake up at roughly the same time each day as much as possible.
- Start winding down an hour or so before you go to sleep. This is a time to quieten the mind with things like a warm shower, a cup of tea, some light reading or meditation. Avoid things like bright lights, loud noises, work, social media, exercise, serious conversations or anything else that stimulates you physically, mentally or emotionally.
- Use your bed for sleep and sex only, to help your brain associate being in bed with ‘time to sleep.’ If you’re working from home or in the midst of a netflix marathon, find somewhere else to do it.
- Keep your bedroom tidy, quiet, dark and a comfortable temperature as much as possible. Tip: our bodies have to cool down in order to fall, and stay, asleep. So crack a window to make sure it’s not too hot.
2. Be smart with light
To support our natural circadian rhythms, we want lots of light during the day (especially first thing in the morning), and none at night. Artificial light, particularly blue light, prevents us from producing melatonin, which is our main sleep hormone.
After the sun goes down, try:
- Avoiding screens altogether, or at least switching your phone to ‘night mode’ and using an app like f.luxx on your laptop to lessen the blue light;
- Wearing blue light blocking glasses, totally hip and in right now might we add;
- Dimming the lighting in your house where you can;
- Using a candle for light in your bedroom while winding down before sleep;
3. Nutrition matters
What we eat, and when we eat it, can have a huge impact on how we sleep. As a rule of thumb, our evening meal should:
- Be eaten a few hours before sleep; to give our body a chance to digest before we ask it to drift off.
- Be in line with your macronutrient type (e.g. a ‘protein type’ will thrive on a lower carb, higher fat and protein way of eating, whereas a ‘mixed type’ needs to include more carbohydrates in their diet for optimal health and energy) to support stable blood sugars throughout the night. Healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados, salmon, nuts etc. are also very beneficial in this respect (and so many others).
- Contain a good source of protein. Protein is made up of amino acids. One of these is tryptophan, which is used to make our sleep hormone, melatonin.
What we consume during the day can hugely affect sleep as well. If you have trouble falling asleep, or wake up feeling groggy, it’s a good idea to ditch caffeine and alcohol for a period of time and feel the difference it makes.
4. Address your sleep anxiety
“How long am I going to lie awake for tonight?”
“I’m going to be even more tired tomorrow if I can’t sleep tonight.”
“WHY CAN’T I JUST GO TO SLEEP!?”
Spending hour after hour lying in bed, frustrated with being awake can often create feelings of anxiety around sleep, and make your own bed feel like a really stressful place.
Often these feelings are part of a cycle, worsened by sleep deprivation while only making sleep deprivation worse. Often all you need is a few good nights sleep under your belt (easier said than done, we know!)
While there’s no quick-fix for this one, try:
- Sleeping in another place for a short time (if this is an option for you - even lying on the floor for a bit can freshen things up);
- Winding down and making sure you are ready to sleep before actually getting into bed.
- Making use of calming herbs such as valerian root and passionflower, and essential oils such as lavender and chamomile.
- Try a guided sleep meditation to quieten the mind, apps like Insight Timer and Calm have some great ones.
- Keep a notebook beside your bed. Sometimes getting your thoughts, feelings and worries on paper helps to get them out of our head.
5. Up your essential nutrients
Yes, your nutrient stores can have a huge impact on your sleep as well! Key minerals such as magnesium and zinc are involved in hundreds of reactions that take place in the body, a number of these relating to oestrogen, progesterone, cortisol and melatonin - our main hormones that affect sleep.
Of particular importance are:
Magnesium is an essential mineral that helps our muscles and nervous system relax. In times of stress, our bodies actually dump magnesium to rev up our nervous system and help us cope with the stress.
Research has shown that magnesium increases sleep time, sleep efficiency, melatonin, and decreases cortisol. Taking a quality magnesium supplement before bedtime can help your body relax into its ‘rest and digest’ nervous system and support a deep, restorative sleep.
Our bodies ability to make melatonin, our sleep hormone, is zinc dependent. Melatonin doesn’t just help us fall asleep, we also need it to stay asleep. Because of this, having optimal zinc stores is incredibly important for quality sleep.
6. Test your hormones
One of the most common (but often overlooked) causes of poor sleep is hormone imbalance.
Sex hormones and stress hormones both influence how well we fall asleep, stay asleep and the quality of our sleep. For the ins and outs, check out our blog on sleep and your hormones.
If you’re making sleep a priority and have tried all of our favourite sleep tips with little success, it might be time to take a deeper look. An Eve test can identify hormone imbalances and that might be affecting your ability to switch off at night and help you find balance (and a good night’s sleep).
Looking for more information? Head over to our FAQs page where you can find out about Eve, what the Eve Hormone Balance Test measures, when the best time to test your hormones is, and more.
Don’t forget to check out our blog 5 Common Signs of Hormone Imbalances to see if those physical sensations you’re experiencing could be hormone related.