Sleep is such a popular topic. For good reason - our sleep is vital and yet so many of us struggle with poor sleep. Chronic insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, and sleep disorders are becoming more common than ever. Sleep disorders are on the rise.
We look at several ways to help you improve your sleep, because our sleep quality is crucial to our wellbeing. Good sleep has endless health benefits. Always speak to your healthcare provider first if you are struggling.
I used to be someone who battled hugely with insomnia and poor sleep. Despite being given sleep medications, I had nights where I barely slept and it left me with excessive daytime sleepiness.
I am now someone who has great sleep hygiene (more about that later) and actually has a restorative sleep. It has taken some changes and self discipline though! Reminding myself that I will be grateful in the morning when I get a sunrise run in with the dog helps!
Sleep is important for multiple reasons. In the first place, we undergo many biological processes while we are sleeping. By taking time to rest and recharge, our bodies and brains can process the day's events. During sleep, your sympathetic nervous system and body relax. Your waste system clears waste from your central nervous system, allowing your brain to function well the next day.
Second, I find it sets me up for a powerful day ahead- to make the best choices possible. Who else struggles to make those healthy choices when they are sleep deprived and tired!? When I am tired, the temptation to skip exercise or reach for that sugar kick to keep me going is so much more tempting.
So I am here to share my top tips for good sleep habits. Improving your sleep is vital to help you wake up feeling rested in the morning. Adding Magnesium to my routine has been a game changer. It starts way before I get into bed and involves thinking ahead. I find picturing the feeling of waking up energised and how grateful I am to get up and going is a real incentive.
Exercise is great to help you sleep. Regular exercise correlates with improved sleep and stress reduction. It helps to reduce the body's stress hormone, lowers blood pressure and reduces anxiety.
Along with other health benefits, such as reduced chance in cardiovascular disease and boosted mental health, it helps you to fall asleep more easily. Take it one step further if you exercise outdoors- it helps your body to establish sleep cycles, due to the exposure to natural light.
For me, I like to do more intense exercise in the morning, such as running, as I find I can get too pumped in the evening afterwards and struggle to wind down. I like to save a gentle yoga practice or stretch for the end of the day.
Exercise benefits my mental and physical stress levels, helping me to wind down for a good night's sleep.
I definitely struggle with eating later in summer when it is still light, but I aim to eat dinner around 7/7.30pm. I am a fan of some dark chocolate along with whatever series I am into, but I try to be conscious of not having huge amounts of sugar at any time of the day, but especially in the evening as it affects my sleep.
Having high levels of sugar just before sleep has been linked with insomnia symptoms and trouble with staying asleep. Instead, why not look to whole grains instead, a great natural sleep aid. Containing magnesium and potassium, to help your body relax and support your sleep. Start to take note of your dietary intake in the evenings. Many foods can have hidden sugar that you are not aware of.
The same is true with eating a large meal just before you go to sleep. Your body is then focused on digesting the meal, which does not allow your body to relax.
I don't drink alcohol (for a number of reasons), but I used to think it helped me to get to sleep. However, alcohol is known to disrupt sleep patterns and negatively influence melatonin production, impacting your body's circadian rhythm (your sleep regulation). So it may feel like a sleep medicine initially, but the sleep efficiency is negatively impacted. Why not try swapping that evening glass of wine for a calming herbal tea to support sleep sleep.
I take our Vitamin D, Zinc and Magnesium supplements every single day. Magnesium is used to support sleep and treat insomnia. One of the benefits of magnesium is that it activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your 'rest and digest', helping you to relax.
Magnesium plays an important role in the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps to control your sleep cycle. Studies show that there is a negative impact on sleep behaviors for those who don't have enough magnesium.
Magnesium is an essential mineral, necessary for the functioning of the human body. Taking a magnesium supplement can help you reach your recommended dietary allowance, if you are not able to get enough magnesium through your diet.
Magnesium supplements comes in multiple forms: magnesium citrate, magnesium oxide and magnesium chloride. Magnesium supplements are not just a sleep aid, the mineral has a wide range of other benefits. This includes, supporting the function of the immune system, maintaining muscle function and blood calcium levels.
If you are looking to start taking magnesium supplements to get that extra magnesium, then check out our Vitamin D, Zinc & Magnesium supplements here.
We recommend that you speak to a Doctor before adding a magnesium supplement to your routine. Dietary supplements are not a substitute for a balanced diet. Too much magnesium, in supplement form, can cause an upset tummy and nausea. If you have impaired kidney function, supplements can have serious effects on your kidney function.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency are often not very obvious. The best way to check magnesium levels is through a blood test.
Establishing a conscious routine in the evening has been crucial. This includes trying not to eat too late and saving more gentle exercise for the evening.
For me, I often incorporate meditation and breathing exercises to help with a mental wind down for the evening. My partner loves the Wim Hof breathing exercises at the end of the day to help with stress reduction to relax.
A warm bath, more often in winter, with a few drops of my favourite essential oils and magnesium salts (magnesium sulphate), really helps me to relax and get sleepy.
When I watch TV in the evenings, I always have my blue light blocking glasses on. Whether it is natural or artificial (from screens), blue light can boost your alertness and mental sharpness. However, too much of it can keep you awake at night when your body needs to rest. So these glasses block the blue light to enable my body to wind down to sleep.
Whether it is summer or winter, I really cherish a cup of herbal tea in the evening, as much as I love my first cup of coffee in the morning. I am conscious that I do not drink caffeine after midday and stick to herbal tea in the evening, looking out for sleep supporting herbs such as chamomile or lavender.
I try not to touch my phone from dinner time onwards- I am not perfect, but that is the intention. I do not sleep with my phone anywhere near my bed though and it switches into sleep mode from 9pm. I aim to go up to bed between 9/9.30, because I love to get in some reading time before switching the light off. I often choose an easy going fiction book to allow my mind to calm down. I struggle with non-fiction as the information intake starts my mind going again!
I love to have a ‘sleep' blend of essential oils next to my bed that I use on my wrists, temples and pillows. Then it's lights out ideally at 9.45pm in order to get in the 8 hours I need to feel good when my alarm goes off at 5.45am.
Sleep hygiene refers to the environment of your sleep and your habits that surround it. In short, it means how appropriate is your bedroom and how much are you supporting your sleep through daily actions and choices. A cool bedroom environment, of around 18.3C, is considered the ideal temperature for sleeping.
This is something I aim for, but in truth struggle with at the weekends, as I prefer a day or two where I wake without an alarm. My body mostly wakes at a similar time naturally, especially in summer with the light.
It is important to keep as consistent as you can to help with long term sleep quality and to maintain your circadian rhythms. This is your body's natural patterns within a 24-hour cycle and when disrupted, say due to irregular sleeping patterns, results in your body not operating as optimally as possible.
So there you have a few pointers of things that have really helped me. I am not perfect, and there are exceptions, of course, but this is how I roll!