These days, our lives move at a crazy pace and many of us tend to sacrifice sleep in order to fit it all in, but what happens when we aren’t getting that time to recharge? Sufficient, good quality sleep can be even more influential than nutrition, exercise, or genetics in terms of predicting a long and healthy life.
Most adults simply don’t get as much sleep as they need, whether it be due to busy lifestyles, increased use of technology, stress/anxiety, or your surroundings (including parents who often get woken up several times a night!).
Not only is deep sleep crucial in order for our bodies to physically recover, but our brains need some serious switching-off time in order to recharge our depleted neurons and function at their best.
Did you know that adults who sleep less than 7 hours per night are considered to be at least moderately sleep deprived?? YIKES!
The less hours of solid sleep, the more likely you are to experience heightened levels of anxiety, depressive symptoms, or signs of distress. You may also find it harder to regulate your nervous system (aka living in a prolonged state of “fight or flight”), feeling constantly on edge, or easily disrupted with a low tolerance to any additional stressors.
With insufficient sleep, we also work at a slightly reduced cognitive capacity, find physical tasks more difficult to complete, and can struggle with healthy food choices as your body will be screeeeaming for energy to keep you awake and alert (hello sugar cravings!).
So how can you get more sleep?
First, let’s identify some things that may be stopping you from sleeping well:
- Lack of sleep routine/irregular sleep + wake times
- Too much stimulation before bed from technology/activities
- Stress/overwhelm/swirling thoughts in your head late at night
- Bright light, particularly from screens (phones are by far the worst culprit for blue-light tricking our brains into thinking it’s still daytime!)
- Excessive caffeine consumption
- Too much food causing digestive discomfort at bedtime
- Too little food causing an uncomfortable hunger
Do any of these sound like you? If so, now we have some clues as to how you can actively improve your sleep. The most crucial time to work on this is around 30-60 minutes before bed, where we can commence a “night time routine” of sorts, to cue our bodies to prepare for sleep mode.
Tips for improving your sleep quality
- Create a routine where you go to bed, and ideally wake up, at similar times each day – scheduling here is key, and give your body a chance to get used to it.
- Manage your stress – add something relaxing in the 30-60 mins before bed, such as journaling, reading, meditation, cuddling, breathing techniques, or a steamy shower.
- If you find it hard to switch off from the day, brain-dump those worries/tasks onto a to-do list for tomorrow, so that you can organise your thoughts and get them out of your head!
- Ditch those bright lights and blue-light screens to create a calm, dark, quiet space.
- Ideally, cut off phone use 30 mins before bed, and if you can, remove temptation by keeping it somewhere you can’t reach, to avoid late-night scrolling.
- Ensure you have no more than 2-3 serves of caffeine per day and set a cut-off time of at least 8 hours before bedtime.
- Be mindful of your food intake, to satisfy your hunger (physically + mentally) without going to bed on an extremely full/empty stomach.
You don’t have to have a full-blown night time routine with 10-step skincare and an hour of meditation (although, how nice would it be to have that much free time!) but even a few small steps in the right direction can get you sleeping more, and/or better, which is going to help you function optimally day to day.
Bring on those Z’s!