5 Ways To Improve Your Sleep Today
Good sleep is one of the basic foundations for good health, but unfortunately, it isn’t experienced by many.
In today’s article, I’m going to share 5 basic tips you can implement straight away to improve your sleep quality, but first, let’s delve into some of the health challenges that can arise from poor sleep.
More commonly associated symptoms include poor concentration, reduced alertness but also poor sleep can cause our immune systems to be lowered, our libido to reduce and it can increase the risk of many chronic diseases, depression, and cause premature ageing. From a shape/weight perspective, it can also increase your risk of fat gain, and it can put the breaks on fat loss.
It is for this reason that any client that we support with their shape (and overall health), we always look at their sleep because if they aren’t sleeping optimally, it will inevitably affect their ability to lose weight (and keep it off)!
During sleep, various hormones are produced which support multiple functions in our body, from appetite regulation and energy metabolism, through to glucose metabolism and our ability to cope rationally with day-to-day stress.
Hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone are manufactured during our sleeping hours, so by reducing our sleep, we make it harder for our bodies not only to gain muscle but also to lose body fat. The stress hormone cortisol also increases with reduced sleep, so before we’ve even done anything, we are biochemically wired to be in a heightened state of fight/flight if we’ve had less sleep. How interesting.
Ghrelin and leptin are two hormones tightly associated with appetite control; ghrelin instructs our body that we’re hungry, and leptin reminds our body that we are full. Poor sleep has been shown to lower leptin levels, whilst raising ghrelin levels, the result? Our body will feel full less, and hungry more – not ideal if you’re trying to make wise food choices or portion control!
If you have any diabetes in your family or have been diagnosed as pre-diabetic, did you know that poor sleep can increase our body’s insulin production post-meal, which short-term could increase the risk of fat storage but long-term it can lead to increased risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes?
Addressing sleep is key.
Our lifestyles can have a significant effect on the health of our sleep, particularly as the day draws to a close.
Below are 5 basic tips to help improve sleep quality from today.
1). Avoid stimulants (caffeine, sugar, nicotine) after midday
Avoid the consumption of stimulants (caffeine, sugar and nicotine) after 2 PM. Try to avoid desserts with your evening meal as the sugar from that can increase cortisol levels and again prevent natural sleep hormones from winding the body down and preparing us for sleep.
Caffeine can stay in your system for between eight to 14 hours, so try reducing sources of caffeine (coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks and chocolate) particularly after midday consistently and see if your sleep improves.
There are many delicious replacements you can use instead, including hundreds of different herbal teas. If herbal teas don’t sound appealing, then firstly experiment with a few different ones before discarding the idea entirely.
2). Take up a meditation practice
Meditation and focused breathing exercises can be particularly effective for people with sleep disorders such as insomnia. Mindful meditation has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety by having a positive effect on neurotransmitters and our sleep hormones, whilst controlling stress hormones like cortisol which play havoc with our sleep pattern.
If you’re new to meditation or find it difficult, try guided meditation – the ‘Calm’ app is my favourite for these.
3). Relax in a bath
Soaking in a nice warm tub can be a great way to signal to your body, the transition to rest time has come. Use some lavender oil or light a scented candle and invite the calm into your evening. Beyond the stress-reducing effect, a warm bath also changes your body temperature, which can promote better sleep.
Adding a cup of Epsom salts (also known as magnesium sulphate) to your bath can be beneficial too, for an easy way to boost our body’s levels of magnesium. When magnesium levels are low, the sleep hormone melatonin can become disrupted, and the calming hormone serotonin (which is dependent on magnesium) doesn’t function as well either. Magnesium can also play a key role in regulating blood sugar, which in turn can help create a longer, more undisturbed sleep pattern.
If bathing is not an option, then the use of a high-quality oral magnesium supplement can help, or there are many magnesium creams and oils that allow for magnesium to be raised transdermally.
4). Keep your space tidy and wash your sheets often
It’s difficult to relax in a cluttered room. Keep your bedroom free of clutter, wash your sheets regularly and dry them on the line whenever possible as the UV, helps to kill bacteria. Also, consider the age of your bed since dust mites can take up residence in mattresses and promote allergies, and the mattress may not be as supportive physically for your body.
5). Avoid back-lit electronic devices 2 hours pre-bed
Researchers are finding that artificial light from our electronic devices (TVs, computers, smartphones and tablet) may impact brain chemicals that promote sleep, so the habit of checking our social media or email before bed, or sitting and unwinding to our favourite series on Netflix isn’t such a wise use of our time before bed. Exposure to bright screens before bed has been shown to lower melatonin (sleep hormone) levels by about 22%, so if sleep quality is a problem for you, try creating a new habit of not using backlit devices for 2 hours prior to sleep.
If you must sleep with your phone near you, switch it to airplane mode to prevent any notifications in the middle of the night.