Getting enough high-quality sleep is absolutely essential to almost all aspects of health, from improving mental wellbeing to avoiding long term degenerative diseases including cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Poor sleep severely disrupts the body clock leading to weight gain and higher fasting blood glucose levels.
So, here are our top tips for making sure you are getting all of the sleep you need:
- Try to keep to a pattern. Go to bed and get up and the same time every day, and avoid afternoon napping.
- Change the LED light bulbs in your house to incandescent light bulbs to reduce exposure to blue light. Blue light triggers the brain to produce dopamine, which is the hormone that keeps our brains active and excited.
- Wear anti-blue light glasses in the house from early evening. These help to stop the production of dopamine, which then allows the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. You can pick these up online through Amazon.
- End all screen time, including video games, computers, mobile phones and TV, at least two hours before bed. This will also help to stop the release of dopamine and get your body ready for sleep.
- If you must use your phone or tablet before bed, make sure it's set to 'night shift mode'. iPhones now have a specific 'night shift mode' that reduces blue light, and Android's have 'Night Light' which can be switched on under Settings > Device > Display.
- Avoid taking your tablet or mobile phone to bed with you. Rather than using your phone as an alarm, try an old-fashioned alarm clock. This way you won't be disturbed by incoming messages, or tempted to go online if you wake up in the night. Alternatively, you could switch your device to airplane mode and place it on the other side of the room.
- Try an Epsom salt bath with lavender oil shortly before bed. This can help to relax and calm your body, making it easier to fall asleep.
- Keep a note pad next to your bed and write down your thoughts before you go to sleep. This can prevent a racing mind and help you to switch off.
- Make sure your room is sleep ready by investing in black-out blinds and ensuring your mattress and pillows are comfortable. The UK Sleep Council recommends changing your mattress every 7 years.
- Use an eye mask and/or earplugs if you find light or sound disturbing.
- Avoid any sugary foods and drinks in the evenings as this can increase your blood sugar levels and keep you alert for longer.
- Avoid caffeine after midday including coffee, tea or green tea. You could try a cup of decaffeinated green tea or camomile tea instead before bed.
- Avoid alcohol where possible as this can impact sleep quality.
- Try a simple guided meditation before going to bed or a Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) recording.