Struggling to get your eight hours? You’re not alone. According to recent statistics, up to a third of Britons get by on just five or six hours a night. With the clocks going back this weekend, meaning we’ll gain a precious hour’s slumber, now’s the time to scrub up your sleep habits. These are the golden rules for deep sleep...
Set The Right Temperature
Keeping your room cool is key to a good night’s sleep – too hot or too cold a temperature can disturb your body clock. When you go to sleep, your body temperature naturally goes down, so a cooler room will make it easier for you to fall, and stay, asleep. If you’ve got a thermostat, aim for 18.5C for a deep sleep.
As hormone specialist Nicki Williams explains, “Managing stress is key to good sleep, but it has to be a daily commitment. Even if only for ten minutes, try bathing in Epsom salts, practice deep breathing or try meditation and yoga. It can make a huge difference when it comes to reducing cortisol levels, which will in turn help to balance other hormones.” If you struggle with meditation, a bath in Epsom salts works wonders – these magnesium-rich salts are a known muscle relaxant and your skin will absorb the amount of magnesium it needs to guarantee restful sleep.
Pop A Pill
If you struggle to fall asleep, avoid getting into a vicious cycle of using sleeping pills. Instead, try all-natural sleep supplements – calcium, L-theanine (an amino acid), GABA (a neurotransmitter), 5-HTP, melatonin, valerian, passionflower and magnolia have all been shown to induce deep slumber.
Cut The Lights
Countless studies have proven that even the slightest amount of light can affect sleeping patterns as it disrupts melatonin levels (that’s the sleep hormone). If you don’t have black-out blinds, invest in an eye mask, and it goes without saying you should switch your phone onto night mode from at least 9pm. Bulletproof coffee founder Dave Asprey even claims to have installed special amber bulbs in his bedroom as the blue light in LEDs can prevent the release of melatonin, a process that should naturally occur before we hit the pillow.
Kill The Coffee
Many nutritionists say we shouldn’t be consuming any form of caffeine after midday if we want to sleep well. The majority of us take around four to six hours to metabolise caffeine, but for some it can be much longer; often up to eight or ten hours. Caffeine blocks the sleep-promoting chemical called adenosine from working, so think twice about that post-lunch coffee if you struggle with your sleep.
Eat To Sleep
Snacks that are high in tryptophan such as dairy products, nuts, seeds and grains, when combined with complex carbs such as brown toast, can encourage the onset of sleep. The release of insulin from carbohydrates promotes the movement of tryptophan in the brain – this is then converted to serotonin and melatonin, which are sleep-promoting neurotransmitters.
Ditch The Tech
You’ve heard it before, but try as hard as possible to keep your room TV-free, and charge your phone in a different room if you can. As well as disrupting melatonin levels, having your phone in your room can cause anxious glancing following by calculating and then ruminating over how many hours sleep you have left. Sleep pro Ariana Huffington recommends keeping the bedroom for sex and sleep only.
Study after study has shown that those who exercise regularly fall asleep more easily and sleep more soundly than their sedentary counterparts. A recent study even dispelled the myth about exercising too close to bedtime, saying even those who exercised late in the evening slept better than those who didn’t.
Sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan stresses the importance of eating breakfast for regulating sleep patterns, insisting eating within half an hour of rising is key. “Having something to eat not only sets you up for the day ahead, but it also regulates your melatonin production, to ensure a better night’s sleep for the coming evening,” she says.
Try An App
If you’re really struggling with insomnia, it could be worth checking out new app Sleepio. A doctor-designed website and app based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), it promises to make significant inroads into insomnia in just six weeks.