The key to a good night’s sleep

When I sleep I have big, vivid dreams. Sometimes happy and exciting, other times dark and scary, but always full of different ideas, places and faces. Sometimes they can feel so real it takes me a moment when I wake up to remember I was dreaming.

I really value a good night’s sleep. I’m not someone who can exist on a few hours here and there, I need to go all in for a deep sleep, to give my body and mind time to rest and recuperate. When I struggle to get to sleep, or wake up in the morning after a night of tossing and turning, it really affects me, and I can usually pin point what’s caused it. 

More often than not, it’s something I am in control of. With this in mind, here are my top tips for getting a good night’s sleep. *crazy dreams not guaranteed*

Exercise

trainersWe all know exercise is key to healthy lifestyle, but did you know it can aid a good night’s sleep? If you work in an office or sit, as I do, at a computer screen all day long, exercising is so important. At the end of a long day, you might be mentally exhausted, but what about physically?

Regular exercise boosts the effect of natural sleep hormones such as melatonin, and will set you on your way to good night’s sleep. But be careful when you work out – too close to bedtime can actually make it harder to fall asleep. Late afternoon or early evening work outs seem to be most effective, giving the body time to cool down, allowing the heart rate to return to normal in time for bed.

Last year I started classes at Tribe Yoga in Edinburgh, my favourite is Flow Yoga. On the days I attend, I can get to sleep a whole hour earlier than normal. Not only will exercise help you fall asleep faster, you’ll also feel more awake and alert during the day.

I’m also learning about the importance mindfulness. Stress is a often a big factor when it comes to bad sleeping patterns, and if you are as big a thinker/daydreamer/worrier as I am, being in a calm state of mind is not easy. Turning off your thoughts, being in the present and listening to your body can really help you relax – all things I am learning through practicing yoga.

Your Sleeping Environment 

Unsurprisingly, your bedroom plays an important role in how well you sleep at night! Keeping your room dark and cool is important, and making sure it is a calm and quiet place to be is also key.

You should ‘power down’ an hour before going to bed – my biggest challenge! The bright lights from our phones screens and tablets send signals to our brain telling it that we are awake and alert, making it harder to shut down and get to sleep. No tv, laptops, smartphones, iPads in the bedroom, and ideally, no interaction with them within an hour of going to bed. This means no more late night episodes on netflix (‘House’ is the current culprit in our home), and ditch your phone as your alarm. Get yourself a proper one and charge your phone out with the bedroom. I love these old school, twin bell alarm clock from John Lewis.

Image credit: johnlewis.com

Sleep Routine

Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day will help to set your body’s ‘internal clock‘. When life is busy, it’s not always an option, but doing it as regularly as possible will help. Make sure you ‘power down’ at the same time each night, and crucially, if you do have a bad night’s sleep, get up at the regular time – your body should recognise the need for a better, deeper sleep the next night.

A Healthy Diet

Again, it comes as no surprise that a healthy diet is linked to better sleep patterns. Eating certain healthy foods has been shown to calm your nervous system, and can trigger a sleep inducing hormone response. The vitamin B6 will trigger your body to produce serotonin, the hormone released when you feel relaxed. You can find this vitamin in lots of foods, including tuna, sunflower seeds avocado and spinach.

My sticky tuna dish with rice noodles and avocado
My sticky tuna dish with rice noodles and avocado – recipe here.

Foods to avoid right before bed include pork, cheese and aubergine to name a few (read the rest here) as they contain high quanties of an amino acid called tyramine. When digested, tyramine is converted into noradrenaline, which acts as a brain stimulant.

Ever heard the phrase, ‘breakfast like a King, lunch like a Prince and dine like a pauper‘? Take note – it will help you on your way to a good night’s sleep. Large meals eaten late at night do nothing to help you sleep. When you eat, blood rushes to your digestive system and your body is awake, working hard to process all the food. Eating lighter meals earlier in the evening will give your body time to digest the food before returning to normal before bedtime. Of course don’t go to the other extreme – you won’t be able to sleep on a empty tummy either! Ideally our bodies would welcome small, regular meals throughout the day, but this isn’t often convenient with our busy lifestyles.

Teas & Sprays

Cutting down on caffeine before bedtime is an obvious one, so switch your black tea or coffee to a herbals tea. They have a sedative effect, and can also work as stress relievers.

My latest tea haul from the lovely people at Birchwood Teas.
My latest tea haul from the lovely people at Birchwood Teas.

Dairy products are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which helps in the production of the sleep inducing brain chemicals, serotonin and melatonin, so a glass of warm milk isn’t such a bad idea either.

There are a number of calming pillow sprays you could try, most of them contain lavender oil which will help you relax. I love this White Company Lavender Pillow Mist.

Image credit: thewhitecompany.com

The Caledonia Sleeper have even introduced a pillow spray for passengers, following advice from the British Sleep Society. They worked with luxury brand Arran Aromatics on new sleep kits – if you’ve been on the sleeper and tried one out, let me know what you thought.

Got any tips of your own? Let me know!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s