Your Sleep Environment
Changes in sleep patterns can, in turn, shift the body’s natural clock; known as its circadian rhythm. Recent studies have shown that shifts in this clock can have devastating health effects. Minimising disturbances on your sleeping environment can have a real positive effect.
Sleep in darkness – Exposure to light causes the eyes to send messages to the brain telling it to stay awake. By having too much light in the bedroom during sleep, the natural sleep cycle is disturbed and the quality of sleep suffers as a result.
Temperature – It can be difficult to sleep when the room is too hot or cold. The ideal temperature for a good night’s rest is thought to be between 16–18°C.
Décor and room use – Bright colours and busy wallpapers may be exciting and eye-catching, but that is not a recipe for a good night’s sleep. Similarly, avoid clutter and ensure that the bedroom does not also double up as a home office or study. This is known as sleep hygiene.
Get a great bed – Not surprisingly, we believe that the bed is the most important aspect of sleep. Size, age and quality of the sleep surface all play a role in achieving greater comfort and improving the quality of sleep. It’s proven that bigger is better, if you can fit a Kingsize or even better a SuperKing, your health will thank you for it.
Your Sleep Routine
Establishing a consistent pattern of behaviour around bedtime is crucial to encouraging the body and mind to prepare for sleep. Here are just a few things to build into your sleep routine:
Keep regular hours – Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time, day in and day out, can significantly improve quality of sleep.
Relax – Get yourself in the right frame of mind for bed with your favourite form of relaxation. Whether it is having a warm bath or listening to soothing music, allow your body to slow down gradually.
Hit the dimmer – Reducing light intensity in the evenings through the use of low-wattage bulbs or dimmer switches can send sleep signals to the brain in preparation for bedtime.
Ditch the screen time – The screens on our devices emit short-wavelength rich light,” This ‘blue light’ affects levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin more than any other wavelength. Exposure to blue light can have more serious consequences on sleep and health than originally thought.
Bin the brew – Tea and coffee are stimulants, which can be great for getting you going in the morning. Drink one in the evening, however, and the caffeine can prevent the brain from entering the first stages of non-REM sleep.
Your Nutrition & Exercise
The effects of eating, drinking, and exercising can have a profound impact on the body’s natural circadian rhythm. Overindulging in the wrong foods at mealtimes or getting the heart rate up through cardiovascular exercise can easily lead to a disturbed night’s sleep.
Avoid alcohol – It may help make people drift off, but alcohol reduces the amount of essential REM sleep. It can also encourage around 20 to 30 micro-awakenings throughout the night. Sleep induced by alcohol is not restorative.
Diet – We all know that a healthy, balanced diet is crucial to our lives. But eating the right food at the right times can also impact on your sleep cycle. Proteins, in particular, help the body maintain serotonin levels – the chemical in charge of anxiety, stress, and depression. Consuming caffeine, acidic foods, and cheese late in the day, all have an adverse effect on these serotonin levels.
Exercise – Getting the heart rate up is, of course, good for general health. And exercising throughout the course of the day can help to bring on sleep in the evening. Excessive exercising just before bedtime, however, can be counterproductive.
Smoking – Among the many damaging effects of smoking is the way it disrupts sleep. Studies have shown that smokers take longer to fall asleep, wake more often and are more restless during the night.