Improve Sleep Quality with These Tips
Sleep is arguably one of the most important factors to consider to promote optimal health. During sleep, our bodies undergo a number of healing mechanisms to essentially ‘clean up shop’, including repairing damage, reducing inflammation, detoxifying, balancing hormones, processing memories and supporting cognitive function. Without adequate, good quality sleep we are unable to sufficiently heal and repair our bodies and generally end up overeating or reaching for sugar to help boost energy the following day.
In terms of immunity, research shows enhancement of sleep promotes host defenses and is associated with reduced infection risk and can improve infection outcomes. In the absence of infection, sleep promotes inflammatory homeostasis (balance), supporting overall health.
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So what can you do now to improve your sleep? Start by making a concerted effort to get 8 hours sleep a night and forming a healthy sleep routine. This can include sleep hygiene measures such as:
- Go to bed and wake at the same time every day. Setting a regular sleep schedule will help establish a consistent pattern and reset your body clock rhythm. Aim for a bedtime of 9-10pm to promote more restorative sleep.
- Create a healthy sleep environment. Keep your room clean and free of clutter, invest in a good quality mattress and bedding and ensure good ventilation and temperature (cooler is better). Also, keep the bed sacred for sleep and intimacy... no devices in bed - work and social media can have a different spot.
- Turn down the light exposure. Dim your lights and minimize screen time 1-2 hours before bed to help induce secretion of sleep hormone melatonin. This includes phones, TV, laptops etc. which emit blue light that disrupt our circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) and impacts sleep.
- Relax. Enjoy relaxation techniques in your evening routine 1-2 hours before bed to unwind such as meditation, a warm bath/shower, gentle yoga, reading and/or putting your legs up the wall to calm the nervous system and support restorative sleep.
- Listen to Binaural beats. These are specific frequencies that can aid different areas of our life, such as improving sleep, promoting healing, improving mood or increasing cognitive function and learning. There are Apps like ‘Binaural Beats’ or ‘Good vibes’ or you can search free tracks on Youtube depending on what area you want to focus on (i.e. ‘binaural beats sleep’).
- Avoid stimulants. Caffeine, sugar, chocolate, soft drinks and nicotine in the evenings excite the nervous system and disrupt sleep. Even consuming these stimulants in the afternoon can have an impact on your sleep, particularly coffee – aim to have your last ‘cup of joe’ for the day no later than midday.
- Get into the early morning sunshine. This helps support a healthy circadian rhythm to balance your sleep-wake cycles and improves melatonin production (the sleep hormone) to promote sleep onset and quality. Exposure to the natural morning light has proven to be effective in improving insomnia, daytime energy levels and mood and PMS. Sunglasses block this sunshine exposure to try to give the shades a break while you’re doing this.
- Drink chamomile tea. Enjoying a cup of chamomile tea 2-3 hours before bed will help sooth your nervous system and support sleep onset and restorative sleep. *Side note – chamomile tea is also great if you experience tummy cramps and can be a great addition to your evening post-dinner routine.
- Use essential oils. Diffuse calming essential oils such as lavender or chamomile in your room to sooth your nervous system and create an environment to promote restorative sleep. You can add 3-5 drops to your pillow if you don’t have a diffuser.