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Sleep Easy - 7 ways to get a better nights rest naturally

Updated: Mar 27

Today is World Sleep Day—the annual celebration of healthy sleeping patterns and awareness day for sleep disorders.


The NHS state that nearly one in three of us suffer from poor sleep. And the Mental Health Foundation found that nearly (48%) of UK adults agreed that sleeping badly has a negative effect on their mental health.




The Significance of Adequate Sleep


Sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining our mental and physical health. While the exact amount of sleep needed can differ from person to person, the general recommendation for most adults is between 7 to 9 hours each night. Individual needs may vary, with some requiring more and others less, but the common thread is the noticeable benefit of waking up feeling revitalised, energised, and prepared for the day. Humans sleep in cycles with each cycle lasting between 90-120 minutes. Once a cycle starts it must finish, otherwise you risk feeling tired and sluggish. Each cycle has different phases including REM sleep (this is where your vivid dreams occur), deep sleep (this is deep restorative sleep) and light sleep (the longest phase of our sleep). Each phase is important as it serves different functions for restoration and rest. A wearable device like a smart watch or ring can help you understand which phases of your cycle you are lacking in and your overall quality per cycle.


The negative effects of insufficient sleep are likely familiar to you, impacting numerous facets of our physical and mental well-being. For instance:


Physical Health: Inadequate sleep can significantly harm our physical health, leading to difficulties in clear thinking, diminished immune function, challenges with weight management, and heightened risks of developing conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.


Mental Health and Well-being: Studies have demonstrated that poor sleep quality can impair our emotional regulation, affect impulse control, reduce positive thinking, increase anxiety, and contribute to or exacerbate depression.


The consequences of poor sleep


  • Poor sleep can lower immune response, creating greater susceptibility to infections that further reduce sleep quality.

  • Poor sleep has been linked to obesity, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and cardiovascular mortality.

  • Certain sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnoea and rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder are associated with cognitive impairment, dementia, risk of seizures, and increased risk of stroke.

  • Poor sleep can result in reduced reaction times, impaired judgment, and cognitive impairment similar in effect to alcohol intoxication.

  • Drowsiness can impair safe driving even if the driver does not fall asleep.

 

7 ways to naturally improve sleep


  1. Have good sleep routine (sleep hygiene) Having a regular routine helps to improve sleep. It's sometimes called sleep hygiene. A good sleep routine should include having a set time to start winding down – and a way to relax is important too. Going to bed and getting up at fixed times is another good sleep habit. Ideally, a sleep routine should be the same every day, including weekends.

  2. Relax, unwind and try meditation to help you sleep Remember, your sleep routine starts before you get into bed, so build in time every evening to relax. Avoid electronic devices at least an hour before bed, as mobiles, tablets and computers all throw out blue light that stops sleep. Activate airplane mode to avoid any distractions. Reading, listening to soft music or a podcast, or sleep meditation can all help if you have trouble sleeping. Meditation has been shown to slow brain waves down which prepares your body for sleep.

  3. Try mindfulness for sleep Anxiety, worry and stress can affect how well we sleep. Luckily, there are things you can do daily to help manage your worries, like talking to someone you trust or writing in a notebook about your concerns. If you often lie awake worrying, set aside time before bed to make a to-do list for the next day – this can be a good way to put your mind at rest.

  4. Create the right sleep environment It's generally easier to drop off when it's quiet, dark and cool – although the right sleep environment is personal, so try different things and see what works for you. Silence is golden when it comes to sleep for many of us, so wearing earplugs, putting your phone on silent (or out of the room entirely) can keep things quiet. Good curtains or blinds can help to keep a room dark and avoid unwanted lights by keeping clocks out of view and phones facing down. Make sure your room is the right temperature for you and well ventilated, as a cool room is usually better to sleep in than a hot or stuffy one. Some people also find it helps to play music for sleep, such as ambient sounds like rainfall, gentle music or white noise.

  5. 5. Do not force sleep If you're lying awake unable to sleep, do no not try to force it. If you're tired and enjoying the feeling of resting, then sleep may naturally take over. But if you cannot sleep, get up and sit in a comfy place and do something relaxing, like reading a book or listening to quiet music. Only go back to bed when you feel sleepier.

  6. Improve sleep through diet and exercise A good diet and regular physical exercise can help us to relax and get better sleep. And the opposite is also true: an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise can stop us from sleeping well. Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime. Try to also ditch the bedtime caffeine (like coffee), alcohol or nicotine if you can, because these are stimulants that make us more alert. Stimulants are a common cause of sleep problems. The general advice is to avoid stimulants 1 to 2 hours before bed. Try it and see if things improve. Regular exercise helps with sleep, but avoid anything too energetic in the 90 minutes before bedtime if you find it stops you from sleeping.

  7. Natural sleep aids Even if the above are strictly followed, sometimes we need an extra hand. Valerian root has been shown to help promote sleep in those suffering with mild insomnia. Medical cannabis can help with sleep by interacting with the body's endocannabinoid system to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety, making it easier to fall asleep and potentially improve the quality of sleep. Magnesium plays a key role in supporting deep, restorative sleep by regulating brain chemicals that the mind and nervous system preparing the body for sleep. Foods high in magnesium include dark leafy greens (such as spinach and Swiss chard), nuts and seeds (like almonds, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds), whole grains (such as rice and quinoa), legumes (like black beans and lentils), and dark chocolate. Magnesium can also be supplemented in the form of capsules and tablets.


Sleep is vital to our health and getting better quality sleep is essential to our bodies running optimally. There are many ways to improve sleep and identifying some areas you can improve on could lead to the biggest positive changes in how you feel.


Take a step towards improving your sleep and watch as other areas of your health improve!



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