Four ways to improve your sleep!

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Photo credit: Claudio_Scott, Pixabay

Why is sleep important? (By Sabina Abraham)

We all know that sleep is important and it can affect our enjoyment of life on a daily basis. However, sleep deprivation is a big issue in our society which is not spoken about enough. Evidence shows that people in western countries are sleeping on average 1½ to 2 hours per night less than we did a century ago, so this is a pretty new issue. A bad night’s sleep can make us moody, irritable and crave junk foods, however, there are also many severe long term consequences of sleep deprivation including cancer, obesity, diabetes and immune system failure.
I know more than a handful of people who struggle to sleep properly on a daily basis, who have had to result to sleeping pills. Isn’t it crazy that so many people are struggling to do something that is completely natural to us, that we have literally evolved over millions of years to do? In this article I will be going through my 4 top tips to improve your sleep quality, so you can regain full control of your sleep.

1. Get more sunlight during the day

Whilst this may sound contradictory, getting more sunlight during the day will actually improve your sleep. We are a predominantly indoor society, therefore there is no wonder we are all sleep deprived. Humans have evolved to be awake during the day and asleep at night, this goes back to our ancestral times when rummaging around at night would be detrimental to our survival. Sunlight exposure triggers our body to receive optimal levels of daytime hormones & neurotransmitters that regulate our biological clock. You might be thinking that indoor light is enough for us, however, indoor lighting is 100 times less bright than outdoor light on a sunny day and even a cloudy day delivers 10 times more brightness than ordinary indoor light. It’s been found that the body clock is most responsive to sunlight in the early morning between 6am-8.30am. Obviously, this will vary depending on the time of year, but an early morning walk (whether it’s sunny or cloudy) is a very underrated tip to improve your sleep.

2. Turn off your screens 90 minutes before going to bed

We all know that screens are bad for us, yet it seems the norm to fall asleep whilst watching TV or scrolling on tiktok or Instagram. Credit: Claudio_Scott, PixabayThe reason screens are bad for us is because the artificial blue light emitted by electronic screens triggers our bodies to produce more daytime hormones such as cortisol. This completely disorients our body’s natural preparation for sleep. We need to keep in mind that humans have evolved over millions of years to fall asleep at night, whereas late night screen time has only been around for a few decades. Whilst we are no longer living in the wild, our genes are still very similar to those of our ancestors, therefore it doesn’t look like we are going to adapt to this anytime soon. It’s recommended to turn off all screens 90 minutes before you go to bed, this will allow your daytime & night-time hormones to normalise. Instead of binging on Netflix, think of other things you can do before you go to sleep such as reading, knitting, playing an instrument, journaling, chatting to your partner/family etc, the amount of non-screen activities are endless!

3. Be strategic with caffeine

I am not saying to cut out caffeine completely, I am just saying to be strategic about when you have it. It’s been found that caffeine has a half-life of around 5-8 hours. This means that after a specific amount of time e.g. 6 hours, half of the substance is still in your system. So if you have a cup of coffee at 2pm, 6 hours later, half of that coffee will still be in your system. This is actually the equivalent of having half a cup of coffee at 8pm, which would obviously be very disturbing to your sleep. Therefore having caffeine even 6 hours before your bedtime can still massively disturb your sleep. It’s also important to note that this doesn’t only apply to coffee, it applies to all caffeinated drinks such as English breakfast tea, green tea, chai tea, coca cola etc. I used to love having a green tea after dinner, however, I now switched this for a peppermint which has definitely improved my sleep.

4. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule

It’s normal in our society to have a slightly consistent sleeping schedule Monday – Thursday, but as soon as Friday night comes along, the consistency goes out of the window, leading to late nights and long lie in’s on the weekend. By disturbing your sleep schedule like this you may actually feel more tired on your days off, struggle to fall asleep on Sunday night and have difficulty waking up on Monday morning, which is not a great start to the week. It’s recommended to go to bed within 30 minutes of the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. Yes this may make you seem ‘boring’ on the weekends, but you don’t need to stay up late just because you are not working the next day. Instead try to stay in line with your circadian rhythm on the weekend by waking up at your normal time, seizing the day and getting some natural sunlight. This will improve your sleep quality over the long term. Obviously, there will be times in life when you don’t stick to your schedule, e.g. weddings, early morning flights, or a family-related emergency, but if you stick to a consistent sleep schedule the majority of the time, you will find that you will be more able to cope with the one-off times when you break this schedule, as you won’t be having a weekly sleep deficit.

 

Sabina Abraham is a health and wellness enthusiast with a special interest in promoting healthy eating.
To view Sabina’s healthy recipes log on to www.instagram.com/wellnesswithsabina/
and click on the pics.

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