Over time, sleep loss can weaken the immune system and possibly increase the risk for some chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease.
However, even occasional lack of sleep can have a knock on effect for days afterwards. Whilst not all of us may need an undisturbed 8 hours sleep a night, we all do need consistent quality sleep.
Of course, we all have different lifestyles and work schedules, and it’s important to make changes that suit you.
Often, the biggest mistake we make is by setting unrealistic goals, to which we inevitabley will fail to achieve! Rather than worrying that you’re not getting enough sleep, just use the time in bed as ‘rest time’. The act of doing this alone will relax your body, and you may even find yourself drifting off.
Top 5 tips for your best sleep yet:
- Rest and digest. It’s important to allow time between your last meal before you go to sleep. We use energy to digest our food, so if we get horizontal to quickly after our meal, it will be harder to fall asleep. It can also cause discomfort and indigestion.
- Airplane mode. Ideally, we shouldn’t have any electronics near us when we are sleeping, however that is not always an option! Set a cut off point an hour before you go to bed, where you turn off your phone or set it on airplane mode. This will alow your brain to switch off from the working day (as well as social media!) and give your head a chance to catch up with your body.
- Establish a sleep schedule. Keeping a regular sleep schedule – even on the weekends – maintains the timing of the body’s internal clock and can help you fall asleep and wake up more easily.
- Magnesium can help to decrease cortisol; the stress hormone that can keep you up at night. It also aids muscle relaxation, which can be calming after a stressful day. Try adding some magnesium salts to a warm bath for an indulgent mineral hit.
- Move your body. Exercising and regular movement can help with insomnia by reducing arousal, anxiety and uses excess energy. However, I don’t recommend intense exercise before you go to bed, as it increases your body temperature and blood flow making it harder to catch those z’s.
And the top 5 worst things…
- Keep caffeine and sugar to a minimum. If possible, have your last cup of joe or green tea 4 hours before you sleep. Both caffeine and sugar disrupt your circadian rhythms and prevent a quality nights sleep.
- Late night Netflix. You may think that watching your favourite box set in bed is a good way to unwind, but staring at a the light from a bright tv or computer screen late into the night alters sleepiness and alertness, and suppresses melatonin levels
- Pillow talk. Goldilocks was onto something when she tested out the three bears beds. Research has found that people with uncomfortable beds – which can cause muscular aches and back pain – sleep an average one hour less each night, and even your pillow can affect your sleeping patterns.
- Going to sleep on an empty stomach. Hunger pains have been shown to keep the brain mentally alert, so it can be more difficult to get a full night’s rest if hunger strikes during the night. Plus, not getting enough sleep can significantly lower metabolism and increase levels of the hormone ghrelin, which boosts appetite and might actually encourage weight gain!
- Stress. If you aren’t careful, stress can be a catalyst for a vicious cycle of sleepless nights: You are stressed, so you can’t sleep, then your lack of sleep makes you more stressed, and so on.
So, draw up a magnesium salt bath and switch off that iPhone and enjoy your best sleep yet!