“I’ll sleep when I’m dead” used to be my motto, but these days I’m totally dead if I don’t sleep!
It used to be a badge of honour for people to announce how little sleep they were getting – like, “look how busy and productive I am and I only sleep for 4 hours a night.” Ten years ago, I would either not think about how much sleep I was getting; or I’d be getting very poor quality sleep, or I’d be avoiding sleep all together! Anyone else gone straight from a party to work the next day? Oh, me neither…
I don’t know how I used to cope, (I guess being in your 20s helps) because these days, anything less than 6/6,5 hours and I am wiped. I can literally feel my brain and body shutting down, not to mention the dull grey hue my skin takes on.
The optimal number of hours of sleep varies from person to person, but most adults thrive on between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. I’m good on about 7 or 8 – sometimes 9 if I’ve been exerting myself. Studies have shown that when one has been awake for longer than 17 hours or has had less than 6 hours of sleep, one’s brain function is the equivalent of being legally intoxicated. So many people are going about their days – working, driving, dealing with children – basically drunk!
Read this article… scary!
When it comes to sleep, it’s not only about the number of hours that you’re physically in bed or think that you’re sleeping that matter – the QUALITY of your sleep is extremely important to your wellbeing and ability to perform optimally mentally, physically and emotionally.
Sleep is a magical time when the brain and body get to do “housekeeping”. Resting and repairing you, so that you look and FEEL your very best the next day. Getting optimal sleep also lowers cortisol levels, which in turn lowers a lot of inflammation in the body. If you’ve been eating well and exercising, but you’re still not reaching your weight/fat loss goals, sleep could be the missing link!
Over the last few years I have adopted quite a few sleep hacks and developed my own little sleep routine, so that most days I wake up feeling refreshed and energised… Let’s dive in!
1: Preparation is key!
You can’t be go go go all day and then just expect your brain and body to switch off in a few moments. At least an hour before bed I try to dim my lights and avoid bright screens. Apple have a handy settling which automatically dims my phone screen as soon as the sun goes down. Harsh light, especially blue light, trick the body into thinking it’s still daytime and therefor inhibit melatonin (our sleep hormone) production. I also switch my phone onto airplane mode ideally an hour before I want to sleep. No late night messaging or work emails in bed! If you wake up in the middle of the night, avoid the urge to check your phone or switch on bright lights!
2: Create a sleep haven.
A comfortable bed, good quality bedding, a really good pillow are absolute musts for getting a good night’s sleep. This is one area where it’s really worthwhile to spend a bit more if you can! The right room temperature is super important too. Try to keep your bedroom well ventilated and slightly cool. I’m not a big fan (haha!) of sleeping with air-con, but each to their own…
3: Absolute darkness & quiet.
I don’t have black out curtains in my bedroom, so I’ve gotten used to sleeping with an eye mask. They say that even a tiny LED light somewhere in your bedroom can disrupt deep sleep. I find that putting an eye mask on also stops my eyelids from fluttering open when I get into bed, so I fall asleep faster. Try to avoid synthetic fibres… fit and feel really matter here.
If you live in the city or you’re a light sleeper, earplugs are another must have! My sleep quality changed 1000% when I discovered these earplugs: I have to order them online and they’re quite pricey, but SO worth it! If I can’t get my hands on those, I will use any moldable silicon, wax and cotton blend ones I can find at the pharmacy. I feel like the wax/silicon/cotton ones block out more sound and stay in the ear better than those silly foam ones! I’ve also found that once my earplugs are in and my eye mask is in place, I fall asleep so much faster and get much deeper sleep!
If you’re not into ear plugs, maybe some white noise or sleep music will be helpful. There’s a Sleep section on my favourite Insight Timer meditation app, which includes some lovely sleep music.
4: Wind down…
This means trying to eat your dinner at least 2-3 hours before bed time. This gives your body time to digest your food before you hit the hay – trying to fall asleep with a full stomach can be uncomfortable and also stops your body from doing its other “rest and repair” clean up duties properly.
Winding down also means not watching overly stimulating movies or TV shows right before bed (revert back to tip number 1!) Rather light some candles, run a bath, listen to relaxing music, read a book, journal or meditate…”A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow” – Charlotte Brontë Clearing your head really helps one to fall asleep faster.
5: Get comfortable.
For some this may mean a beautiful nighty or sleep shirt; for others their birthday suit! Try to avoid synthetic fibres, as these don’t allow your skin to breathe. Try not to sleep in anything too tight or restricting – not good for your circulation and it can also be super annoying and hard to relax if your sleepwear is digging into you, too hot, too scratchy, etc. I love a silky pajama set – the very act of changing into my Pjs makes me feel relxed.
A massage (this can be self-massage) relieves tension and releases feel good hormones, which switches your parasympathetic (rest and digest mode) nervous system on. Having an orgasm is another great way to sleep better. Once again, this can be self-administered! 🙂 Don’t be shy!
7: Helpful herbs.
I’m not opposed to using herbs, teas, superfoods and other adaptogens to help me wind down, destress and sleep deeply. Some of my favourites include: reishi mushroom, camomile, ashwaganda, valerian, passionflower, magnesium and lavender. Sometimes I’ll enjoy a “sleepy tea”, sometimes I like to whip up a creamy bedtime tonic… and sometimes I’ll just pop a magnesium pill or in more “desperate times” I’ll resort to a melatonin pill. If you’d like some recipe inspiration for bedtime tonics – you’ll find a bunch on my Instagram highlights reel “Elixirs/Tonics”. Try to empty your bladder just before bed, so that you don’t have to wake up to pee unnecessarily!
And there you have it… I hope you’ve found these tips helpful. Let me know if you have any other helpful sleep tricks! I’m ready for bed. Sweet dreams xoxo