Sleep – the best natural medicine there is! However, how many people do you know who actually sleep well? I reckon I know more people who don't, and in fact over a third of the UK population suffer from insomnia and a quarter have a sleep 'problem'.
Once we've lost a good night's sleep, it's difficult to recoup – eyes become dark and baggy, skin drawn and sallow and all we look forward to during the day is going back to bed!
Breaking bad sleep habits can be a challenge, I know that myself, and the first thing we're usually told is to stop trying so hard to get to sleep, which is very frustrating!
Here are 16 tips to encourage sound sleep so you'll feel energised and vibrant, as well as looking pretty good the next day too!
#1 – Get A Move On
Being active during the day is essential to promoting good sleep due to its de-stressing and mood elevating effects.
Exercising causes a rush of endorphins and that's why we love it. However, when training too late in the evening, even tough workouts that are physically draining, can cause the mind to bounce all over the place so you're mentally wide awake at 2am.
Try switching your workouts around and try different types of exercise in the evening.
#2 – Napping
Although power naps during the day are beneficial, ensure they are no more than 20 minutes and not too late in the afternoon as they can become a major contributor to interrupted sleep that night and interfere with your body clock.
#3 – Late-night Munching
Avoid eating a heavy meal before bedtime. Eating too late can make you feel uncomfortable, bloated and heavy and spicy foods keep you awake too.
#4 – The Caffeine Rule
Make a rule to avoid caffeine after 1pm. Caffeine has notoriously negative effects on sleep.
#5 – Relax & Restore
Practising restorative yoga and breathing exercises for example have been shown to aid sound sleep.
#6 – Winding Down
Get into the habit of starting a wind-down ritual before bedtime so you signal your brain it's time to slow down. Draw the curtains, dim the lights, play soft music. Reduce stress and anxiety levels with hugging!
#7 – Bath Time
Another traditional remedy is a warm bath with a few drops of lavender essential oil. Also a couple of cups of Epsom salts added to your bathwater releases tired and tight muscles.
#8 – Well Supported
Buy the best support mattress and most comfy pillows you can afford.
#9 – Silence Is Golden
Ensure your bedroom is quiet, use ear plugs if necessary.
#10 – Keep Your Cool
Get the room at the right temperature – no higher than 70 degrees.
#11 – Lights Out
Your room needs to be pitch black, so use blackout blinds or an eye mask. If you have to get up to go to the loo during the night, avoid putting a bright light on as this disturbs the quietness of the brain.
#12 – Digital Detox
Resist the temptation to watch TV in bed. Stop all texting and wasting precious sleep-time on your laptop – the blue light from the screens of our mobiles and PCs suppress the release of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone.
Your bedroom needs to be a sanctuary and your bed only used for sleeping and you know what! Keep all digital devices in another room.
#13– Bedtime Routine
Go to bed at the same time every night and wake at the same time every morning (even if you're tired, or it's the weekend). This helps set your own natural sleep pattern.
And further on from point #12, it's a big no-no to use your mobile phone as an alarm clock. Use sunlight to rise by or buy a battery alarm clock that doesn't startle you to jump out of bed. A loud alarm is enough to put anyone in a bad mood for the rest of the day!
#14 – Night & Day
Our sleep/awake cycles are naturally regulated and synchronised with the amount of daylight and darkness we are exposed to. Most of us prefer to be awake in the daytime and asleep at night.
Exposing ourselves to as much natural light during the day as possible – especially during the morning – reinforces this cycle, making it easier to fall asleep at night.
#15 – Herbal Heaven
Taking a herbal supplement like Relora, helps reduce cortisol levels and raises libido. Sleep is truly the best natural medicine there is and we need between 6 and 8 hours undisturbed every night – whether we are larks or owls. Or drink a cup of camomile to promote relaxation and serenity.
#16 – Abstain From Alcohol
Going overboard on alcohol may send some people to sleep and snore for hours but many wake in the middle of the night for a wee! The tyramine in red wine is such a strong stimulant you may well spend hours eyes wide open tossing and turning berating yourself!
Sound sleep is literally life-enhancing and there is even evidence that shows it helps maintain your natural healthy weight too!
So even though Margaret Thatcher got by on four hours and Thomas Edison thought sleep a complete waste of time, we need it for our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.
Please feel free to comment and share your sleep-enhancing tips below.