Six tips for a better night's sleep
A bedtime routine such as bath-time and a story before bed is something many of us haven’t consciously taken part in since childhood. However, with good quality and adequate sleep being sacrificed by the demands of modern life, it’s worth going back to basics.
Having a bedtime routine puts cues in place that help you to switch off and prepare for sleep. By carrying out rituals at the end of each day, you are reminding yourself to slow down and relax. Incorporating calming activities into your bedtime routine affects how you sleep, and there are some key nutrients that play a role too.
1. Keep regular hours
Waking up and going to bed at around the same time each day establishes your body’s circadian rhythm (its wake and sleep cycle). Aim for 8 hours sleep per night.
2. See the light
Be sure to get outside in natural daylight each day so your body recognises the difference between day and night. Melatonin (known as ‘the sleep hormone’) is stimulated by darkness, so go to bed in a dark room.
3. Food and drink
Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, spicy food, chocolate, high sugar or large meals for at least 3 hours before bed. Foods high in tryptophan (an amino acid which converts to serotonin and melatonin) are oats, almonds, bananas, turkey, eggs, lentils and cheese, so include these in your diet.
4. Close off the outside world
Make sure your bedroom is dark, comfortable and quiet. Light, including blue light from TVs, phones, laptops and tablets inhibits melatonin. Use ear plugs and eye patches or a blackout blind to block out any noise or light and turn off all electronic devices at least an hour before bed. Reducing visual stimulation in this way is also beneficial for sleep.
5. Have a soak
Magnesium has been dubbed the relaxation mineral because of its role in supporting the nervous system. As well as increasing magnesium rich foods such as nuts, seeds, dark leafy green vegetables and wholegrains in your diet, you can also absorb it through your skin by taking epsom salt baths. Add 1-2 cup measures of salts to a full bath and soak for 15-20 minutes 3 times per week before bed.
6. Herbs before bed
A cup of herbal tea before bed can also support better sleep. Try valerian, passion-flower, and camomile which all aid relaxation.