By Sarah Finley
We all have sleep stresses and are often left wondering how to sleep better. From struggling to nod off, waking up in the middle of the night, and failing to get back to sleep, it can sometimes be a real struggle for something that should come naturally.
Experts claim that in order to get a good night's sleep, we need 6-8 hours. This gives the body time to repair itself, gives us enough energy for the day ahead, and improves and regulates brain function, our immune system, and even our bowel movements.
But, there are lots of outside sources that can affect our quality of sleep, including stress and anxiety, a lack of bedtime routine, not having the best pillow for a comfortable and supportive sleep environment, our obsession with our mobile phones, and easily accessible streaming services like Netflix.
So, how can we sleep better? From sleep supplements to acknowledging stress, three sleep experts share their top tips for getting a good night's sleep.
Create a sleep sanctuary
First things first, if you're struggling to sleep, you need to look around you and assess your sleep environment. According to Sleep Foundation, if your bedroom isn’t dark enough, you’ll block the natural production of melatonin, a hormone that helps us sleep. If you find this to be the case, invest in some black-out blinds or even try an eye mask at night.
Comfort is also important – a lumpy pillow or an old duvet won’t aid good sleep. Sleep expert for Emma Mattresses, Dr. Verena Senn, says, “Your pillow should support your head and neck whilst keeping it in a neutral position while you sleep, otherwise, it can lead to stress on the cervical vertebral structures – the seven vertebrae that make up your neck."
The temperature in your bedroom is also super important for creating the right sleep environment.
“Maintaining a bedroom temperature of 18 degrees or lower will mimic the body’s hibernation state and help maintain a calmer state of mind,” says Hope Bastine, a resident sleep expert at Simba.
Focus on eliminating stress
Stress from the day can build up and keep us awake at night.
Dr. Guy Meadows, founder of the Sleep School app, explains, “As we get older, we have more mental and physical baggage so our thinking mind can sometimes keep us awake at night.
“The organic compound adenosine, which helps us to naturally fall asleep, isn’t as present so we are more likely to be wide awake and worry about work or personal stresses.”
Journaling at the end of every day is a great way to get your worries out of your mind and release the stresses of your day.
Dr Meadows also says having awareness of these stresses will help. “Labelling what type of stress it is – work, relationship or something else is a great way of telling your brain that you know that the stress exists, but it’s something you’re not able to deal with right now.”
Establish a good wind-down routine
When you say yes to one more episode of your favorite Netflix show or pick up your phone late at night, you’re affecting the quality of the sleep you'll get, says Dr. Senn.
“Social interactions are keeping your brain busy when it is really craving to relax. Take some time away from bright screens to settle your mind.” Instead, she suggests, “Reading a book in the evening instead of texting on your mobile. And make sure that book is physical and not on an e-reader if you can.”
As well as keeping your mind busy, the blue light on your mobile phone can also be damaging to your sleep cycle. “Modern light sources contain a high level of blue light that disrupts melatonin production and throws off our natural circadian rhythms, keeping us awake when we should be sleeping,” reveals Hope. So put your phone down, turn off Netflix and enjoy one hour of peaceful, low light stimulation one hour before bed.
Cut down on your caffeine intake
If you’re tired, you’ll no doubt be reaching for the caffeine as soon you wake up and to keep you going throughout the day. But, too much caffeine can negatively impact our ability to nod off.
“Caffeine increases vigilance and mental performance. The most common side effect of caffeine is blocking off processes in the brain that allow the body to sense tiredness, thereby making it harder to fall asleep," Dr. Senn explains.
Invest in sleep supplements
If used right, natural supplements for sleep can help us relax as we settle down for the evening. There are so many supplements out there, from Melatonin to Valerian Root, and they come in a range of forms such as pills, capsules, and teas.
CBD for sleep has become really popular over the last couple of years, and Pure Sport's CBD oil can be dropped into the mouth before bed, helping you relax and get ready for sleep.
Wicked Gummy Co’s Peaceful Zzzzz passion-fruit flavored gummies can also help with sleep as they’re made of 5-HTP, an amino acid that your body uses to produce serotonin and contributes to wellbeing. If you’re really struggling to nod off, Kalms Night One-A-Night – a traditional herbal supplement containing valerian-can be used to temporarily relieve sleep disturbances.
Always consult your doctor before taking any sleep supplements, as if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking any other medication they may not be suitable.
Sleep aids to help you drift off
If sleep supplements aren’t for you, there are other natural sleep aids you can incorporate into your bedtime routine to help dispels stress and help you relax. Start by running yourself a bath and add in bath salts like Westlab’s Sleep bath salts. They contain magnesium from epsom and dead sea salts to relax the mind and body, while valerian will promote peaceful sleep.
Before you jump in the bath, brew yourself a cup of Pukka’s Night Time tea, made from organic oat flower, soothing lavender, and silky-sweet lime flower. Once you have your duvet and pillows in the right position, spray OlvRum’s Restful Sleep Pillow Mist - a mixture of bergamot and lavender oil that's said to induce a restful night’s sleep.
Meditation can help calm the body and mind, helping us to unwind and hopefully fall asleep quicker. Recent research shows that over 85% of participants who meditated with the meditation app Calm for 10 minutes daily reported better and longer sleep. As well as a range of meditation practices to try, the Calm app also has sleep stories to listen to as you doze off.
If you still need a little convincing to give meditation a go, FitBit has just launched a series of videos and audio sessions, called the Mindful Method by wellness guru Deepak Chopra’s, covering the impacts of mindfulness, how we can manage stress and our mind-body connection – all factors that influence our sleep patterns.
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