Let’s start with a universal truth that cannot be disputed: we all need sleep. Whether you are a 8 hour person or a 5 hour person, you can’t live without it. Now interestingly, it also happens to be one of those topics that gets people talking … I mean really sharing their sleep details. I guess it’s our preoccupation with our sleep, especially those of us whose sleep is less than fabulous that is helping to fuel the boom in sleep related information and of course why we have National Sleep Week and National Bed Month, both of which are pretty good reminders of the importance of sleep for pretty much E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.

According to the British Sleep Council’s ‘Great British Bedtime Report’A ‘very poor’ night’s sleep can be defined as less than five hours” and “a third of those who suffer from insomnia routinely sleep for less than five hours.”

As a lifelong ‘poor sleeper’ I’m always looking for ways to improve my sleep quality, as my average of of 4-5 hours per night doesn’t really cut it over the longer term.

How are you sleeping and if your sleep isn’t so great what’s keeping you up? I think that we can all guess that stress and anxiety is one factor and according to the Sleep councils report “almost half of Britons now say that stress or worry keeps them awake at night (47%), rising to 54% of women (compared to 40% of men)”. Of course there are lots of other factors that can cause poor sleep like health issues but we’re focusing on the effects of our stressful lives and steps that we can take to improve our sleep.

Interestingly at 2 of our recent events …our skincare event and our Wellbeing Zone Event at the end of January, sleep was discussed in some detail ….the idea that we should be in bed by 10pm was touted by the experts and left many of us open mouthed! (I have to admit that I’m still struggling with that one) The other thing was… you guessed it… switching off our gadgets by 8:00 pm. As you can imagine there were many confessions about Netflix addictions etc…

Wow wellbeing expert Nova Reid says: “My biggest tip is: Switch your mobile phone off  long before you go to bed, or better still – remove the temptation and leave your mobile phone out of your bedroom entirely. The world won’t end. Perhaps use it as an opportunity to be nostalgic and reintroduce a stylish landline into your household (in case you are worried about emergency contact) and if you use your mobile phone as an alarm clock – buy an old school one from John Lewis instead so you don’t have to leave your phone on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!”

One of the other factors that we should all be considering is our ‘Sleep Hygiene’- according to the National Sleep FoundationSleep hygiene is a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness.” Interestingly, they say that one of the most important sleep hygiene practices is “to spend an appropriate amount of time asleep in bed, not too little or too excessive”… so much for lounging in bed then. Some of  the insights that they offer are : avoiding alcohol before bed, because although it will make you feel sleepy and relaxed in the short term, later in your sleep cycle it will keep you up as it’s being processed: they also suggest that you stay away from foods that might cause disruption to your sleep such as fried food, heavy rich foods etc…

Wow wellbeing expert Malminder Gill says that we should actually eat foods that can help to induce sleep: “There are foods that naturally contain certain substances that help induce sleep. These include walnuts which are good sources of tryptophan, an amino acid that plays a role in the production of melatonin and serotonin; almonds which are rich in sleep-inducing mineral magnesium; lettuce which contains lactucarium which also has sedative effects; and tuna which is high in vitamin B6, an important vitamin for producing melatonin.”

It also helps to also having a regular bedtime routine because “a regular nightly routine helps the body recognize that it is bedtime”.  

Tip 2 from Nova Reid is Start to Introduce a bedtime ritual that helps you prepare yourself for sleep. To wind down from the day and give yourself the best chance of uninterrupted deep sleep. For example, you could start by changing the lighting in your environment, dim the lights or use candlelight. Switch off electronic devices and allow your mind to slowly unwind. Perhaps welcome a nice warm soothing bath with lavender incense.

Reduce the mental chatter by writing things down- Malminder Gill says “Stress and anxiety can bring a lot of mental chatter which can affect the quantity and quality of your sleep. Addressing stress and anxiety can help you get better sleep each night. You can do it through meditation, yoga, listening to soothing music, or through hypnotherapy.” And Nova Reid suggests that we should “Try journaling putting any thoughts you have onto paper, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting things for the day or week ahead. Try some bedtime mindfulness meditation such as a body scan podcast: https://www.soundcloud.com/time-com/meditation which is a delightful way to ease you into a restful state. Whatever you decide to introduce into your bedtime ritual, go to bed an hour earlier than you intend to go to sleep and give your brain adequate time to unwind.                                    Read the report here.

Read part 2!