Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t just about feeling well-rested, it’s directly linked to our overall health. From our appetite and immune system to our mental health, almost every aspect of our body is impacted by the amount - and quality - of shuteye we get.
So, what is the key to restful slumber? Well, it’s a little more complex than shutting our eyes and counting sheep. Thankfully, there are some straightforward lifestyle adjustments we can make to help us sleep well and reap the benefits. From evening rituals to reducing your alcohol intake, here are four simple steps that will help you achieve the perfect night’s sleep.
Eating late at night should be avoided as your metabolism naturally slows down and your insulin resistance increases. Messing with your natural circadian rhythms can result in poor sleep, plus your body will store more calories as fat rather than burning them.
As a rule of thumb, you should try to avoid eating in the three hours before bedtime – this allows enough time for your body to digest the meal and recover from the insulin spike of eating. If you do want a snack before bed, opt for low-sugar, low-fat foods such as raw vegetables that won’t force your digestive system to work too hard.
Also avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed. While some people may find a glass of wine helps them nod off, ultimately the effects of alcohol lead to poorer sleep quality as it can disrupt the natural sleep cycle. Lots of liquids may also mean you have to wake up to visit the bathroom through the night.
Working out can do wonders for your sleeping habits. Not only does expending energy help you feel more relaxed come bedtime, but exercise can also relieve stress and anxiety - both of which can have a negative impact on that perfect night’s sleep.
Studies suggest 30 minutes of physical activity each day is optimal to achieving better sleep, particularly aerobic exercises such as running, walking, weightlifting or active yoga.
It’s important not to exercise directly before bed, however, as you’re likely to feel more energised and stimulated after a workout. Exercising can also raise your core body temperature for up to four hours, which fights against the body’s natural process of dropping your temperature to sleep – so it’s best to opt for an early evening workout and leave plenty of time to cool down before bed.
Creating a restful bedroom setting will help to encourage a healthy sleep cycle. Start with your bed: does your mattress provide the optimum support? Are your sheets made from natural, breathable materials? For extra comfort, consider upgrading your pillows or investing in a mattress topper.
Next, assess the wider environment. Cool, dark rooms create the best sleeping environments, so try to extinguish any potential light sources or consider wearing an eye mask. Similarly, earplugs can help to achieve peace and quiet, while others may find the addition of white noise can help you nod off. Sleeping aids such as melatonin can also help to boost your natural sleep hormones and promote feelings of relaxation. Wellness consultant and founder of Hush Home, Stephanie Huen, also recommends incorporating weighted blankets, relaxing poses and breathing exercises to help calm the body and prepare for sleep.
Once you’ve created your perfect sleeping environment – respect it. Avoid working or watching television in the bedroom to help strengthen the association between rest and relaxation.
A consistent sleep routine is key to unlocking the power of better sleep. Having a regular bedtime and waking up at the same time every day (i.e. avoiding late nights and long lie-ins at the weekend) will help to train your brain into a healthy sleep pattern and keep your circadian rhythms in check.
Try to avoid screen time for at least 30 minutes before bed, both to help mentally wind down and to avoid blue light, which has been linked to sleep disruption. Likewise, avoid engaging in tasks that require intense physical or mental attention. Instead, adopt new healthy evening rituals, such as a warm shower, a cup or herbal tea, or meditation. Apps such as Headspace offer guided meditations dedicated to promoting better sleep.
You can also use apps to track your sleep cycle, which can help you to monitor the quality of your sleep and potentially identify obstacles preventing the ultimate snooze. The Cathay app’s wellness journey not only allows you to track your sleep and work towards wellness goals, but even rewards your efforts with miles.
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