How many hours do you sleep a night? Ideally, according to the World Health Organisation, we should be sleeping at least 8 hours a night, uninterrupted. Anything less counts as sleep deprivation. And guess what: on average, most of us get 7 or fewer hours of sleep a night.
According to Matthew Walker, the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, we are suffering from a sleep deprivation epidemic in the Western world. We work longer hours, have less down time, are more stressed and spend our evenings staring at screens emitting blue light. All of this effects our sleep length and quality.
And to be clear: sleep deprivation is not heroic, despite the machismo around getting by on as little sleep as possible.
Sleep deprivation reduces the body’s ability to repair and heal itself, as most of these processes happen at night. It also increases the risk of insulin resistance, susceptibility to weight gain, cardiovascular disease and developing Alzheimer’s, amongst many other morbidities.
So what can you do to get more and better quality sleep?
1. Go to bed around the same time every night and wake up around the same time, even on the weekends. Deep sleep is essential for our physical and mental health, especially between 12am – 4am, so get to bed before midnight!
2. Create a digital sunset: turn off your devices at least 1 – 2 hours before bedtime. If you have to use your devices, use night shift mode to reduce the blue light, which affects melatonin production (this is the hormone that helps you get to sleep!).
3. Get your bedtime routine down pat: Unwind with a book (a physical one) or a bit of journaling, have a hot bath with a few scoops of magnesium salts (magnesium is a great relaxer), get some cosy, clean pyjamas and make sure your room is cool and pitch black, as even the smallest amount of light affects your circadian rhythms.
4. Try a lavender spray on your pillow. It’s not woo: lavender contains compounds that have a sedative effect.
5. If you have kids that still wake up in the night (still in that boat!), go to bed a bit earlier so you’re getting an extra hour or two of sleep. It’s hard to sacrifice that time you get to unwind with your partner in the evening, but the health benefits are worth it!
6. Stop drinking coffee, tea and other caffeinated beverages after midday, as these stimulants can affect your circadian rhythms. I love a cup of Pukka Night Time tea just before bed.
7. Eat tryptophan foods. Tryptophan converts to serotonin and melatonin, to help you feel good and sleep well. Try adding some of these foods to your meals and see how you feel: almonds, organic chicken & turkey, wild salmon, avocado, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds.
What are your top tips for getting a good night’s kip? Here’s what happened when I tried going to bed early and prioritising a good night’s sleep.
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