A good night's sleep is so underrated and just getting more sleep, more regularly would make a huge difference to our health for most of us. But we all know what it's like to wake up after some dodgy sleep, despite getting to bed on time, with no energy and a foggy brain (not alcohol induced, mind you). Sleep is also about quality, not just quantity. Good quality sleep should be undisturbed and for an absolute minimum of 7 hours. I'm going to share some super-helpful tips that'll help you get that good quality sleep, but first let me explain why it matters so much.
Sleep is essential for maintaining good physical, mental and emotional health. It helps with mood regulation, stress management and adrenal fatigue, productivity, energy levels, cell growth and repair, blood pressure, heart disease, weight loss and hormone regulation, amongst other things. The list goes on and on! So ya', it's kinda important.
Sleep and Hormonal Health
It might not be flashy, but good quality sleep is a non-negotiable if you want vibrant health, and for that you need happy hormones. Sleep and hormone balance are closely related, each affecting the other. Good quality sleep is essential for hormonal health and imbalanced hormones are often the cause (or a significant contributor) of many mood-related and physical issues, including:
- fertility issues or PCOS,
- stubborn or hard-to-lose weight,
- insulin resistance
- adrenal fatigue, or chronic fatigue.
If you experience any of these symptoms then it’s possible that your hormones are up the creek, and improving your quality of sleep will be a big help. (Likewise, if you struggle with sleep, then it's worth strongly considering your hormonal health).
When should you go to sleep?
Everyone has their own preferences and habits when it comes to bedtime, but melatonin (the hormone that regulates our cycles of sleep and wakefulness) secretion usually increases at around 9pm in a healthy person, triggering sensations of tiredness and making this a good time to begin to prep for bed. If you're healing your hormones it’s best to be asleep before 10pm as 10pm-12am is prime time for rebalancing your hormones. Additionally, in Ayurvedic medicine (an ancient system of Hindu medicinal knowledge) 6pm-10pm is Kapha time, which is a good for slowing down and preparing for rest, after which there is often a 'second wind’ of Pitta energy that can keep you up late and make falling asleep more difficult.
In summary: if you want your full 8 hours of beauty sleep, I suggest using 9pm as a marker to begin getting ready for bed so that you actually fall asleep between 9:30pm-10pm.
Tips for best shut-eye you’ve ever had
Whether you have trouble sleeping, hormonal imbalances or just want to ensure that you get the best kip possible then you'll find these tips handy:
- Turn off bright screens, like laptops and phones an hour before bed. If you must check your laptop at night then you can use the Flux app for Mac which dims the screen to reduce blue light glare.
- Reduce stimulation. Avoid caffeine after lunch and exercise no less than 6 hours before bed for a good night's rest.
- Aim to eat at least 2 hours before bed. A full stomach can uncomfortable when you’re trying to get to sleep and divert energy away from the restorative and repair functions that take place whilst we are asleep due to the suppression of ghrelin and growth hormone.
- Go to bed at the same time each night. Get your body into a rhythm so that it’s ready to fall asleep when you want it to. As mentioned above, 9:30pm-10pm is a good time window to hit the sack.
- Create a routine. Having a 10-30 minute pre-sleep wind-down ritual has also been shown to help people relax before bed. I like to make cup of tea and settle in with a book (no thrillers though!) 30 minutes before I want to be asleep in order to slow down and lower my stress hormones, allowing for more restful sleep.
- Sleep with your phone in another room, or as far from your head as your bedroom allows. If it is in your room, make sure that it is on flight mode overnight so that notifications don’t disturb you.
- Make sure that your room is completely dark. Blackout blinds are a good idea, make sure that computer screens are closed and any alarm clocks or flashing flights face away from your bed. If you’re willing to invest, a natural light alarm is a brilliant idea (I’ve heard good things about the Phillips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock).
- Try some natural sleep remedies, such as lavender oil on your pillow, a night-time herbal tea with valerian and/or passion flower, have a bath with some magnesium salts or supplement with a magnesium powder (get your doctor’s approval first - it can interact with some medications), or try drinking warm almond milk which is a rich source of calcium needed for making melatonin (causing drowsiness and lowering body temperature for sleep).
Do you struggle to get to sleep? I'd love to hear any tips you have or what you've picked up from this post. Be sure to share it in the comments :)
P.S. Want more Health, Hustle + Heart in your life?