12 Tips for healthy sleep
Has the holiday period messed up your sleep routine? Now that you are back at work and having to get up early, are you struggling to feel refreshed when you wake up? Do you need to change your sleep habits? If you are anything like me, the holiday period has meant going to bed later than normal, having long lie ins, afternoon naps and eating and drinking later in the evenings.
Why we need sleep.
Recently I listened to an interview on the radio with the neuroscientist Matthew Walker talking about the importance of sleep. It reminded me of his book Why We Sleep. I read it about a year ago and it made me take my sleep more seriously. Walker believes that if we routinely sleep less than six or seven hours a night, then we are not getting enough. His research findings link this lack of enough sleep to poor immune function, risk of cancer and heart disease, poor blood sugar balance (which can lead to pre-diabetes), weight gain, depression and anxiety. Walker’s explanation of how coffee, sleeping pills, jet lag and the modern world can contribute to poor sleep was fascinating.
Below are the twelve tips Walker suggests for healthy sleep.
12 Tips for healthy sleep
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even at the weekends.
- Exercise no later than two to three hours before your bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine. They are stimulants and stop you sleeping. Avoid coffee, certain teas, chocolate in the late afternoon. Caffeine can take as long as eight hours to wear off fully.
- Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed. These can interfere with deep sleep and also breathing,
- Avoid large meals and drinks late at night. A light snack is fine but a large meal can cause indigestion and stop you sleeping. Drinking at night can cause too many trips to the loo.
- Avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep (if possible). Some medication can contribute to insomnia. If this is the case for you, talk to your doctor or pharmacist and ask if you can take them at other times instead of just before bed.
- Don’t take naps after 3pm. Naps before 3pm are fine but after that they can make it harder to fall asleep at night,
- Relax before bed. Reading or listening to music are great ways to unwind before bed.
- Have a hot bath before bed. The warmth can help to relax you and slow you down. Also when you get out of the bath your body temperature drops and this can help to make you feel sleepy.
- Dark, cool, gadget free bedroom. Noises, bright lights, too warm, uncomfortable beds, TV, phones can distract you from sleep.
- Get into natural sunlight for at least 30 mins each day. Daylight helps to regulate daily sleep patterns.
- Don’t lie in bed awake. If you are feeling anxious or worried or you are still awake after more than 20 mins. Get up and do some relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. I find reading helps when this happens to me.
Remember don’t try and incorporate all 12 habits at once. Start with just one or two, then add in another one when you feel ready.
Resource: Why We Sleep – Matthew Walker (2017)
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Loliya Harrison is a registered nutritional therapist, personal trainer and pilates teacher from London. She helps menopausal/perimenopausal women reclaim their confidence, feel amazing in their clothes and enjoy their life more.
Source of statistics: thebms.org.uk