Updated: Aug 31, 2022
Health and fitness go beyond your daytime activity and isn't just what you do in the gym or how you eat. Sleep quality could be the best place to start if your goals are to be fitter, healthier, lose weight and maximise your mental and physical performance. Having a good night's sleep will help you manage stressful situations throughout the day, so when you're faced with challenges be it physical, mental or environmental, your body and mind are ready to respond positively. Modern life throws many reasons to stay up late, whether it's to catch up on social media, finish a project for work, comfort a child whose having nightmares or perhaps carry on watching an episode of your favourite series on TV. Sometimes it's your body struggling to relax and your mind remains active.
Here are my top 10 ways to help you to go to sleep earlier and encourage an improvement in deep sleep.
1- Avoid Caffeine.
Caffeine is a stimulant and depending on your genes, you could be more sensitive to it than others. This can make it difficult to fall asleep especially if your last caffeinated beverage was near bedtime. Try to cut down on caffeine during the day and avoid it all together after 5 pm. Consider herbal teas as a pre-bedtime drink. Some herbal teas contain sleep remedies such as lemon balm, valerian, lavender and passion flower and lime and even a well-known sleep aid called Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha can be taken in supplement form too 30 - 40 mins before sleep.
2- Switch off Devices.
Start to prepare your body and wind down for going to bed. Set an alarm 1 hour before your dedicated time factoring reading etc and switch off all screens such as TVs computers and mobile phones. This will prevent the temptation to keep working or being active on social networks and will limit your blue light exposure which is stimulating the brain. Blue light or artificial light also suppresses the body's natural production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, so at least switch your phone to the blue light blocking filter in the display settings or you can purchase blue light blocking glasses. The next step is to set yourself a bedtime routine with the following:
3- Take a Hot Bath followed by a Cold Shower.
As part of a good recovery strategy for an active day, I will often have a hot bath with a good quality Magnesium bath salt, sometimes called Epsom salts. Check the ingredients and make sure its pure Magnesium Sulphate with only Pure essential oils added or add your own. About 80% of people are deficient in magnesium so it could be worth supplementing with Magnesium but check with your GP first. A cold shower afterwards will cleanse the skin, and raise the heart rate to allow the body to fall into a relaxed state for sleeping.
4. Practice Meditation.
There are some amazing relaxation and meditation apps out there to help with this. I use the binaural beats app. which I find really helpful to reset my mind for sleep- https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.app.binaural_wavess&hl=RU
It does counteract the removal of devices and exposure to EMFs but if there are surrounding noises preventing you from sleeping then popping on some headphones with sounds available to lull you to sleep or help you meditate can be very beneficial. Otherwise, if you are able to sit quietly for 5 minutes and meditate then this will really help you wind down and release the day's thoughts.
5- Yoga Breathing/ Box breathing.
This can be done whilst meditating to help you focus or lying on your back on your bed with both legs up a wall to help relieve tired legs and blood pressure. By focusing on a breathing technique which includes retention, and counting to slow the breath will help with mind control and anxiety, something which often keeps us from sleeping. I will cover these techniques in a separate article or come along to my Hatha Yoga Class to learn the technique. Details can be found on the Yoga Page of my RIDE personal training website.
6- Set the Scene for Sleep Hygiene.
Your bedroom is should be like a sanctuary to create the correct environment for sleep hygiene. Make sure your bedroom is well ventilated and free of clutter; set it to cool temperature of around 65 degrees F. as your body actually cools down to go into a deep sleep. The cold shower will also help your body cool down. Your Duvet and bed sheets should be made of 100% cotton or bamboo which allows for breathability and particularly if you are prone to allergies. See my recommendation link for quality bedding. If you have painful joints which keep you awake at night it may be time to change your mattress and or pillow. This brings me to my next tip which is inflammation in the body.
7. Reduce Inflammation.
Inflammation in the body can inhibit not only your ability to exercise and lose weight but also sleep, particularly as your pain threshold tends to be lower at night as your body becomes more sensitive as you tire. There are some foods which can help reduce inflammation in the body such as turmeric, fish oil and collagen found in bone broth. Try these natural alternatives before reaching for the Ant-Inflammatory drugs (NAIDS) which can upset the stomach.
8- Calming the Senses.
I have already mentioned calming the mind through sound and meditation and the body through the sense of temperature, but what about the sense of smell? There are a number of studies which show how aromas can induce rest and relaxation in the nervous system. This is the practice of Aromatherapy and although I am not a qualified aromatherapist, I do have a basic knowledge of which essential oils are great for aiding sleep. Lavender is the most popular one to use for sleep as well as chamomile and rose. However, Frankincense is a stronger more intense smell which is used for meditation and spiritual practice which may be your choice for reflection and comfort before you fall asleep. Always dilute the essential oils before putting them on your skin with a carrier oil and seek professional advice if you are unsure about how to use them. Otherwise simply diffusing them into the air with a flame-free oil diffuser is probably your safest option and what better way to lift your mood and breath your way to a good night's sleep.
Your ability to fall asleep at night and stay asleep can be helped by all of the above but if you have been sedentary all day, travelling or eating high sugar or processed foods in an air-conditioned, artificially lit environment then you are most likely to be suffering from upset biological processes which can have an impact on your sleep-wake cycle. From poor digestion to high levels of stress and lack of sun exposure the body is unable control the timing of certain bodily functions such as tissue repair when you sleep and converting energy from food to move and control body temperature. This is known as your body clock or Circadian rhythm. If this is out of sync. because of life's demands then it is important to reset the body clock by doing regular physical activity ideally outside for natural sunlight exposure. 10 to 20 minutes of brisk walking or activity every day is enough to stimulate your circulation and natural rhythms.
10- .Track your Sleep.
There are several sleep tracking devices available and maybe worth investing in to help you to keep track of your sleep cycle. From fitness watches to a ring which will not use EMF energy if worn through the night. Most will link to an app. which will provide a reading of how well you slept through the various sleep stages. By learning how to interpret these readings you can see whether your daily routine is effective and make small changes to help improve your sleep cycle.
I hope my top 10 strategies to help you have a better night's sleep and work in harmony with your natural biological systems, will inspire you to gradually make changes to live a happier, more energetic and more productive life.
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