We can’t emphasize it enough. Sleep is crucial for you health! To perform optimally, you need to focus on sleep as the number 1 priority for the day.
A fantastic night’s sleep is restorative for the mind, body and soul. But to sleep well, you need to consider what you are doing during the day, and in particular in the hours before you go to bed.
Sleep hygiene allows your system to wind down as nature intended, preparing you for sleep. In a natural environment, Melatonin, the ‘sleep hormone’ is released as the sun sets and it gets dark, make us feel sleepy and able to fall asleep. Blue light, from screens for example, fools our bodies into thinking it’s still day time and reducing the amount of melatonin that is release.
Melatonin is also a powerful anti-oxidant and so it has been suggested that it may reduce the odds of contracting COVID-19, in a similar manner to Vitamin C.
For my full guide on how to support your immune system as protection from COVID-19, you may want to read my article on the topic.
The release of melatonin is blocked by blue light, from screens for example. Our bodies are ‘fooled’ into thinking it is still day time. Therefore, avoiding blue light as well as stimulation before bed is key.
My tips for improving sleep are:
#1 Avoid screen time before bed
This is critical to make sure that melatonin is released as nature intended. Avoid computers, phones or TV for at least 1 hour before bed. At the time of writing, many of us are facing increased stress due to the COVID-19 situation, and you may need to start this winding down up to 3 hours before bed!
If you end up using your phone / computer in the evening, use an app such as f.lux to reduce the amount of blue light from the screen.
Do something that doesn’t involves screens in this time before bed. Have a bath, make something, read a book, meditate, draw, write in your journal, whatever works for you..
#2 Wear Blue Light Blocking Glasses
Wearing blue light blocking glasses before bed also helps your body’s circadian rhythm. You can also replace the light bulbs in your house with ones which don’t emit blue light, but have a warm red glow instead.
#3 Cool and darken your bedroom
Around 60-67 Fahrenheit or 15.5 – 19.5 Celsius is perfect.
You can use blackout shades/blinds on the windows or a sleep mask if necessary. This includes blocking all blue light including the lights from alarm clocks.
#4 Exercise, Meditation and Body Scans
If you wake in the night, try not to use a device – try this body scan instead.
This collection of free resources from Headspace also include meditation, sleep and movement exercises.
Getting a good sleep doesn’t just involve the hour before sleep but what you do during the day matters too. Michael Krugan in his book ‘The Insomnia Solution’ provides a number of exercises (mini-moves) which you can do during the day and at night that calm your nervous system to help you with sleep when you get to be
#5 Get some sun in the morning
Get outside, and get some sun or natural light, early in the morning to reset your circadian rhythm. The light that we exposed to during the day can affect how we sleep at night!
#6 Work on other health issues
If you have any sources of increased inflammation within the body, such as gut issues, these may be disturbing your sleep.
#7 Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey
This suggestion was has been popularised by Tim Ferris.
Try this before bed:
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (unfiltered is best e.g. Bragg’s), 1 tablespoon of raw honey stirred into 1 cup of hot water.
It’s key to use raw honey – it will help to maintain your blood sugar throughout the night and has been considered a sleep remedy for thousands of years. The apple cider vinegar provides key amino acids.
Maintaining blood sugar is important as if it drops too low, your body releases cortisol. Although cortisol is considered a stress hormone, it’s also causes the release of glucose stored in the liver into the blood to maintain that blood sugar balance. This can cause you to wake in the middle of the night as cortisol rises at an increased rate. Balancing blood sugar, prevents this.
You can also try almond butter on celery sticks, and optionaly 1-2 tablespoons of flaxseed oil, before you go to bed. See what works for you!
#8 Intend to Sleep
When you go to bed, go with the intention to go to sleep.
Don’t use your bedroom for anything apart from sleep, sexual activity and mindfulness. Don’t watch TV, have conversations, worry or eat in bed!
If you wake up during the night, for longer than feels like more than 10 minutes, try getting up and leaving the bedroom. Do something really boring, like reading the dictionary! Avoid bright lights, TV, stimulating music during this time.