Happy World Sleep Day! Sleep is a strange one. Love it, loathe it… or maybe both all at once. But who can deny that it’s an activity so central to our wellbeing. My goodness what a difference it makes to our health, mood and choices throughout the day (not to mention the skin glow!) So, why is sleep something that so many people are willing to sacrifice as the demands of modern life grow?
Many of you may have glazed over, thinking ‘I just don’t have enough time’ but a few tiny changes to your routine can make a huge difference to the quality of your sleep. Research has also shown that sacrificing an hour of sleep for an extra hour of productivity isn’t a good method to live by. Even small amounts of sleep deprivation have been shown to have a huge effect on productivity and attention.
Our bodies are all going to feel relaxed in different ways, but we hope that some of these tips help you on the voyage to a blissful night of deep zzz’s.
calm your senses
You know how it goes—as soon as your head hits the pillow your mind suddenly gets caught up in cyclical patterns of racing thoughts. We all know it’s not good for us (both mentally and physically) to sweat the small stuff. So, by gaining a sense of perspective on these thoughts and lowering your breathing rate through mindful meditation you can relieve your mind of this tendency—allowing yourself to let go of the day, fall asleep faster and even sleep more soundly.
“Healthy sleep has more to do with the quality of rest than the quantity of hours. Sleep meditations help create the inner conditions needed for a truly restful night. Because when we settle the mind, we rest the body and that restfulness is what makes it easier to wind down and drift off” say the Headspace gurus themselves. If you’ve not yet come across the Headspace meditation app, we couldn’t recommend it more. Be prepared to feel complete zen!
flow it out
A bedtime yoga routine will not only release tension from your body but also aid in calming your mind. Periods of reduced sleep usually correspond with heightened stress levels, so by responding to your overactive mind with a sense of awareness and acceptance, you’re relieving yourself from work and worry. Even if you don’t have much time, just ten minutes of this self-care ritual has been shown to work wonders for good quality sleep. Just make sure you do this with your screen on night-mode!
Try searching for Boho Beautiful, Tara Stiles or Yoga With Adriene on YouTube to find a range of wonderful videos dedicated to sleep and relaxation.
We know life can sometimes get in the way of an appropriate dinner time, but whenever possible try to eat 2 - 4 hours before you go to sleep to give your body enough time to digest the food. Opt for easily digestible, well-cooked foods, as eating anything raw in the evening is too overstimulating.
“We are more connected, and more stimulated—in a cognitive sense… our brain is not switching off, which is affecting its ability to gradually downshift its gears into sleep” says Dr Guy Meadows, co-founder and clinical director of the Sleep School (which runs insomnia clinics in London). Watching Netflix with one eye on Instagram just before bedtime isn’t a recipe for good sleep, but allowing your mind and body to unwind away from the blue light of screens is.
Chances are you’re already fully aware of this, but we can’t reiterate just how important it is! The wavelength of bright lights from our phones, tablets or TVs mess with our melatonin (the wonderful sleep hormone). So, try implementing a no-screen rule 1, or even better, 2 hours before your bedtime. After 7pm use the night shift setting on your phone which turns your screens blue light into an orange light to mimic sunset lighting. If you get into this routine as many nights as possible you won’t believe the difference it makes.
It’s not just the blue light of screens that affects sleep, but bright lights in your home during the evening, too. Dim your main light if possible, or switch to sidelamps.
Equally as important is blocking out as much light as possible in your bedroom. Our bodies need complete darkness for perfect zzz’s. Even the smallest bit of light, whether from the window or electronic devices can disrupt the production of sleep hormones.
Something you may not be aware of is that dehydration can affect the quality of your sleep. This is because our bodies are less able to produce the sleep-inducing chemical melatonin. So, keep hydrated throughout the day and try a calming herbal tea in the evening.
To create the ultimate restful and inviting sleep space we’ve found it’s best to keep things as simple as possible in the bedroom—clean and minimal—so your mind isn’t over stimulated by your surroundings. A good quality mattress, duvet and pillows with beautiful, breathable bed linen are all essentials that are worth investing in. Don’t forget to turn your mattress over and around every now and again to ensure equal wear!
Establishing a regular bedtime routine is important as consistency helps your body know when it’s time to feel sleepy or stay awake. Sleep researchers have found that if you alter your sleep routine by just a few hours your mood deteriorates.
The 4-7-8 method is a breathing technique rooted in yoga and Pilates. It’s based on the ancient Indian practice of pranayama (which means ‘regulation of breath’), and quickly tricks your brain and body into deep relaxation. You breathe in deeply through your nose for a count of four seconds, hold your breath for seven and, finally, gently exhale completely for a count of eight. Repeat these steps between two and four times until you feel the desired effects.
And there’s science behind this. Dr. Andrew Weil, the U.S sleep expert who pioneered and developed this pattern, says it works because this much-needed oxygen boost promotes a sense of calm. Countless studies have shown that rapid breathing makes the body think it’s stressed and produce stress hormones, but deep breathing stimulates the opposite reaction.
Sleep tight in the most comfortable, durable bedding along with the knowledge that it’s made a positive difference to those who helped make it and to our planet, too.