Bad sleep habits can affect your hormones, your brain function, and your mental wellbeing. Hell, it can even lead to weight gain. Good sleep on the other hand is blissful, rejuvenating rest. It’s a time for your body to repair and replenish, for your hormones to balance and your immune system to strengthen. Sleep is when our brains get gifted with much-needed downtime to process and store the information we encounter throughout the day. Basically, if you’re not giving your brain the rest it needs through sleep, it’s not given the capacity to properly enact all the functions it provides the body, ultimately affecting your mood and ability to concentrate.
Good sleep means a clearer mind and more social and emotional intelligence. It means getting enough zzz’s (for most people, that’s between 7-9 hours per night) so you actually feel like starting your day with exercise and makes you a more productive human at work. Good sleep is essential to living a healthy life. You heard it here first.
If you’re the kind of person who manages to get tucked in at 10:30 but scrolls aimlessly for hours, downs a sneaky 8pm coffee, or can’t quite pick when to cut the Netflix binge session, here are a few tips to getting that extra good REM sleep:
Establish some wind-down rituals
We’re pro getting in the bedtime mood, and not even in an s-e-x way. We’re talking lavender-scented pillows (lavender is a potent calming herb) and evening meditations (yoga nidra helps relieve stress). If that’s not your vibe, even something as simple as turning on a lamp to create a bit of ambience in the room is also an easy way to alert the brain that sweet dreams await.
If you’re the type of person that requires a little bit of distraction to get your mind to drift into Z’s, reading or listening to a sleep story (we could not recommend Harry Styles’ sleep-time story on the Calm app enough) whilst snuggled up under a weighted blanket is primed to get you relaxed. Hot tip, studies have shown weighted blankets have been known to reduce anxiety and aid insomnia sufferers in their pursuit for quality sleep too, so you can bank on them to help you if you’re struggling.
Get some sunshine
Our bodies work to a thing called the circadian rhythm. This is the natural, internal body clock that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. A good dose of sunshine helps keep our rhythm healthy, improves daytime energy and makes for quality sleep.
It’s not like you needed another reason to get outside – but surprise! We’ve just given you one. Go for a walk around the block, eat lunch in the park, get that vitamin D however you can, just remember to slip, slop, slap, seek and slide friends.
Be a conscious caffeine drinker
This might be a little obvious, but don’t drink an extra-large, double strength latte when you knock off every day. Yes, coffee is delicious. Yes, it makes us feel good. But it does bad things to our sleep cycle. It stimulates our nervous systems and prevents us from chilling the hell out because of how long it stays in our system for.
Studies have shown that even caffeine consumed 6 hours before bedtime can have an immense effect on the quality of your sleep. So, try and get your caffeine in before midday, and if you really need a coffee late in the day, go decaf.
Stop chugging liquids after dinner
Although we all know we’ve gotta stay hydrated, it’s recommended that we don’t drink a heap of liquids right before hitting the hay. Why? Because your body will be so busy processing and peeing out the two litres of oolong you just sculled that it will forget to relax (we’re not about those midnight trips to the bathroom).
Do not disturb
You can’t, and shouldn’t, be available 24/7. It’s distracting and draining and terrible for your sleep hygiene. If you really want to give your brain the break it needs (and deserves), try ditching all devices including phones, laptops and TVs at least 30 mins before bed. You’ll notice a huge difference in the morning.
Do not disturb. Aeroplane mode. Screen-free hours. Daily app usage limits. Utilising all of the above will make for a better night’s sleep. We promise. Sometimes you just gotta set up some rules for yourself (like not having your phone in the bedroom) and boundaries for others (letting your friends know that you’re not ghosting their 2am IG tags).
Cut the blue light
Speaking of tech, this is another one that’s connected to your circadian rhythm. Blue light – AKA the light that’s emitted from your smartphone and computer screen – tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime and reduces your body’s production of the hormone melatonin which helps you relax into a deep sleep.
Nowadays most smartphones have a blue light filter function, so switch that sucker on in the evenings and let your body do its thing.
Average an early bedtime
Our bodies like sleep, and they also like routine. Irregular sleep patterns, or super late nights, can alter both your circadian rhythm and levels of melatonin, leaving your brain confused about when it’s time to sleep.
Get into some solid bedtime habits (going to bed and getting up at the same time each day), the earlier to bed the better, and maybe you’ll actually be able to get up for that 7am cardio class tomorrow.
If you’re looking for more healthy body, healthy mind, healthy you tips, check out this handy dandy info.Image: The Simpsons