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Sleep is absolutely essential for our wellbeing, health and beauty. Even if your diet and exercise routines are perfect, but you lose out on precious hours in bed, you might be undoing all the good work. The quality matters too - you might be spending solid 8 hours sleeping at night, but not getting the refreshing and rejuvenating benefits due to poor quality.
It is widely agreed that between 7 and 9 hours is the optimum amount of sleep that we need. Learn how to optimise this, especially if you’re struggling to fall asleep due to racing thoughts or often wake in the night.
The Light Factor
Our bodies and hormones work in accordance to the rhythm of day and night. That is called a circadian rhythm and it can easily get disrupted by staying up too late and not getting adequate light exposure in the day. Here’s how to rebalance your circadian rhythm:
- Reduce exposure to electronics and artificial light 2 hours before bed time
- Get black out blinds and/or an eye mask to make sure your room is pitch black at night
- Try to get outside for 15 min as soon as you wake up and look at the sun
Block the Blue
The artificial light from using our phones/tablets/laptops and watching TV late at night is completely unnatural and can wreak havoc with our hormones. The blue light emitted from those devices stimulates the brain and can disturb sleep. Try reading a good book in the evening or having a nice bath instead of scrolling on your phone. If you must use electronics, you can install apps such as f.lux that block the blue light and protect you from the exposure, or you can purchase blue light blocking glasses and wear them a couple of hours before bed.
Depending on how fast you metabolise caffeine, it can stay in your system for approximately 6 hours. That’s why having a cup of coffee in the afternoon can disturb your sleep. Limit caffeine intake for the first part of the day to ensure a restful night. If you’re used to an afternoon pick-me-up cup, try a decaffeinated coffee (go for the Swiss water filtered decaf varieties as this method does not use chemicals to remove caffeine). Your taste buds will love it and you’ll still get the sense of comfort without the sleep disturbing caffeine.
Carbs Before Bed
Whether to eat before bed or not can be very individual. Ideally you would eat at least 3 hours before dozing off and would feel neither full nor hungry when your head hits the pillow. However, some people do better with a small carb snack before bed as carbohydrates can help you stay asleep at night. Eating carbohydrates in the evening can help prevent blood sugar dropping too low overnight, which could lead to release of stress hormones and even wake you up at night. Try a banana with some nut butter or a handful of grapes with a small piece of cheese.
Being too stressed and running around all day is usually the main culprit for racing thoughts and struggling to fall asleep. Reducing the stress hormones and including regular relaxation practices can work wonders. A daily morning meditation, even if only for 10 min, can set you up for the day and help you handle the challenges better. Meditating before bed can also be very relaxing. Besides meditation, try a relaxing bath with calming essential oils, spend more time outdoors in the nature, or try yoga.
There’s plenty of calming herbs you can try either in the form of teas or tinctures. The most popular ones are chamomile, valerian, passion flower and lemon balm. These herbs can be found in teabags in health food shops or you can try them in capsules or tinctures. Adding a drop of lavender essential oil on your pillow can also help to soothe the mind.