Tips for achieving a good night’s sleep

By Nutritional Consultant Jessica Robinson

For many individuals sleep is something that is easily achieved – as soon as their head hits the pillow they’re out like a light. For others, sleep is a hurdle, many can experience trouble getting to sleep or trouble staying asleep, sleep simply eludes them. Sleep is an important restorative process for your mind, body and perhaps your spirit. Adequate sleep is also essential for optimising our physical and mental performance during the day, maintaining good immunity, boosting our metabolism, slowing down the ageing process and providing an escape from our daily problems and conscious mind. It is recommended to get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night, however this can vary depending on the individual.

Following these tips will increase your chances of getting a good night’s sleep

1. Get physical

By fitting some exercise into your schedule or being on your feet a lot, you are likely to notice the ease in which you get to sleep. Individuals who live very sedentary lifestyles often have trouble falling asleep as they haven’t expended much energy throughout the day so can still feel wired late at night. It is also important to make sure you exercise at the right time. Morning exercise is ideal as it promotes the release of endorphins to start your day feeling positive and can help sustain your energy levels for the rest of the day. It is best not to exercise too close to bed as exercise boosts cortisol levels which can make it difficult to get to sleep.

2. Withdraw from technology before bed

Many people are guilty of spending a lot of time on their mobile phone, and this habit is especially detrimental to our sleep cycle. This is due to the fact that electronic devices such as TVs, iPads, laptops and mobile phones emit blue light which can affect our circadian rhythm by disrupting the release of melatonin (the sleep hormone) from our pineal gland. Try to withdraw from technology an hour and a half to two hours before bed to promote good sleep.

3. Sip some chamomile tea

For hundreds of years, chamomile has been used to relieve insomnia, induce a healthy sleep cycle and improve overall wellbeing. If you struggle to fall asleep at night, a chamomile tea taken half an hour before bed may provide some relief for you.

4. Don’t go to sleep on a full stomach

Having a large meal before bed causes a rise in body temperature and abdominal discomfort which promotes wakefulness. Our metabolism is also slower at night, which means our body needs more time to digest food. For this reason, it is recommended to avoid carbohydrates four hours before you turn in and to wait at least two hours between eating dinner and going to sleep. Ideally, your dinner should consist of good protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates such as vegetables. At all times, refined grains, sugar and processed foods should be reduced as they promote weight gain, cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate and impair brain function which can cause sleep disruption.

5. Set a regular sleep schedule

Try to set a regular sleep routine so your body gets used to going to bed and waking up at a suitable time. It is commonly agreed that the ideal time zone for an adult to restore their levels of physical and mental health is between 10pm and 6am. This time zone coincides with biological re-balancing changes such as core body temperature and hormone levels. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is a great way to keep your circadian rhythm in check.

6. Start your morning right

This may sound bizarre, but by establishing a positive morning routine this can contribute towards your quality of sleep. Aim to get up at the same time every morning, stretch, do some exercise, and get some sunlight. Early morning sunlight helps to maintain your circadian rhythm, provides essential vitamin D and gives your body and brain the signal to set your night-time sleep clock for later in the evening.

7. Limit caffeine after midday

As caffeine is a stimulant it is usually consumed upon waking and throughout the day to temporarily promote alertness by blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increasing the production of adrenaline. The effects of caffeine can last for several hours, therefore by abstaining or limiting caffeine after 12pm, it is less likely to impact your sleep cycle.

8. Unwind before bed

Rather than watch TV or go on your phone like previously mentioned, read a book, listen to some relaxing music, meditate or practice breathing techniques to calm your mind.  If you often struggle to get to sleep it can be very beneficial to listen to some white noise. There are a number of apps available that allow you to listen to natural noises such as rain, rainforest noises or waves crashing. These natural noises can be very powerful at inducing sleep.

9. Have some magnesium

Magnesium is an excellent mineral that is recommended for many physical and emotional disorders, as when we are stressed our magnesium stores become depleted. Magnesium is very effective for reducing leg pain, cramps and restless legs syndrome which often cause sleep problems. Poor sleep also reduces magnesium levels and supplementing with magnesium can help to balance your whole nervous system, help with stress induced insomnia and many other nervous and cardiovascular complaints.

For more tips on how to improve sleep quality, we recommend you read Dr Cabot’s book ‘Tired of not Sleeping’.