We all know that sleep is incredibly important to both our physical and mental health, with the quality of our sleep as important as the quantity of sleep that we get[I]. Being sleep deprived can not only reduce our brain functions[ii], increase our sensitivity to pain[iii] and hunger but the latest research shows that it also has a huge impact on our immune health and can increase our susceptibility to infection. Your diet and what you can eat can support good quality sleep which will help you to optimal health. I can support you to have better sleep by looking at your diet, lifestyle and genes - find out more here. In the meantime, here are some sleep hygiene tips to support you to better sleep.
Daylight - being exposed to daylight or natural light in the morning can help you to better sleep. Daylight helps to let our bodies to know when to be alert and when to rest and recover. Our eyes have powerful sensors that can help regulate our internal body clock and our circadian rhythms.
Light also affects the production of melatonin, an essential sleep-promoting hormone and cortisol, which helps us to be alert and awake. Melatonin is the natural hormone which regulates your biological clock (circadian rhythms) and simultaneously improves sleep quality. Our bodies release more melatonin (10x more) at night time to help us to sleep. When day breaks and it becomes lighter, cortisol increases to wake us up and melatonin decreases.
Getting outside for a walk first thing in the morning can help to regulate your circadian rhythms and sleep hormones, particularly when you are working from home and not leaving the home to commute.
Blue light - try to switch off all electronic devices (phone, TV, laptop, tablet) at least 60 min (ideally 90 Min) before sleeping. Blue light inhibits melatonin production which can disrupt our sleep. If you do need to use screens in the evening, consider using blue light blocking glasses.
Television/ laptop - if possible, do not watch television or work on your laptop in bed so that you associate bed with relaxation, sex and sleep. If you cannot sleep, get out and try doing something else instead.
Temperature - ensure that your bedroom is about 18/ 19c at night as this helps regulate our circadian rhythms and helps us to sleep. Your body's temperature fluctuates within the 24 hour period in line with our circadian rhythms and our sleep hormones. Your temperature begins to drop around the time you go to bed and continues to cool down until reaching its low point near daybreak, at around 5 a.m. Sleeping in a cool bedroom can help you to stay asleep and have better quality sleep.
Bath or shower - some people find taking a warm bath or shower before bed to be relaxing. It can also help to reduce your core temperature as you often cool down after a hot bath or shower, and this can help you to feel sleepy.
Bedtime routine – most people benefit from a regular bedtime routine as this helps the body and brain recognise that it is time to sleep. Dimming the lights in the evening, eating last meal at least 3 hours before bedtime, and doing the same thing in the same order helps to bring the mind to rest.
Gratitude journal - consider writing down 5 things that you are specifically grateful for that day. This can help you to focus on the positive things in life rather those worrying you. Alternatively, keep another journal to write down anything you are worrying about or things you need to manage the next day.
Meditation - I find the Headspace, Calm and Insight timer apps very useful - they all have free trials and then you can buy packages. They often have specialist sleep programs. I find that you may have to try a few methods to find the type that works for you. There is a lot of evidence to demonstrate how meditation reduces stress and the physiological impact on the body.
Breathwork – this helps to relax us and works on the parasympathetic nervous system. I really like the 4-7-8 breathings exercise:
Magnesium supplement - your magnesium levels may be on the lower end which will affect quality of sleep. Foods containing magnesium are whole wheat, dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes. Supplement with a transdermal spray or lotion such as one from Better You. Regular Epsom salt baths help with magnesium levels as we require more magnesium in times of stress, insomnia and lots of exercise.
Sleep nootropics - there are many different types of supplements for your brain containing a range of compounds which can support and enhance sleep by helping you to rest and relax. Whilst looking for a nootropic supplement, look for the following ingredients which have been shown to support better quality sleep. Bacopa Monnieri and Rhodiola Rosea are both adaptogens which can help our bodies to adapt to stress, supporting stress reduction and regulate hormones. (Cropley at al 2015). With all herbal supplements, the dosage is important.
Montmorency Cherry is known for its ability to increase melatonin in the brain, which is the key to a good nights sleep. You can supplement with cherry juice - I like the Cherry Active brand.
Ashwagandha can help to reduce stress and can also improve the quality of sleep and may help with the treatment of insomnia at a dose of 300 mg extract twice daily (Langade at al 2019).
L-theanine helps to promote relation and this could support a good night's sleep. Researchers in one study found that doses of 250 mg and 400 mg of L-theanine greatly improved sleep in animals and humans (Williams et al 2016, Lyon at al 2011).
Sustainability and organic products are important for me along with reducing plastic waste so I am always looking for supplements that fulfil these ideals as well as having high quality ingredients that have been proven to support the health benefit required. Whilst Motion Nutrition Unplug may not have optimum amounts of each individual ingredient to support sleep, it works as a complex which has supported me and my family. If you would like £10 off your first order, please use the following link: http://motionnutrition.refr.cc/torals
[i] Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem (eds. Colten, H.R. & Altevogt, B.M.) Ch.3 (National Academies Press, 2006).
[ii] Pilcher, J. L. & Huffcutt, A. I. Effects of sleep deprivation on performance: A meta-analysis. Sleep 19, 318±326 (1996).
[iii] Adam J. Krause, Aric A. Prather, Tor D. Wager, Martin A. Lindquist and Matthew P. Walker