10 Ways to Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
As well as brewing a delicious cup of our delicious Night Lights tea, here are some other really useful tips on getting a proper nights rest. Getting 7-9 hours a night can help your body function well in myriad ways, from better cognitive function to reduced anxiety, to making healthier food choices and feeling motivated to exercise! Start on the upward health spiral beginning with sleep. If you're having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep through the night try these things.... try them all!
1 - No caffeine after 10:30am - 12pm
Caffeine has a quarter life of 12 hours, which means that 12 hours after drinking your coffee, there’s still 1/4 of the amount of coffee circulating your body, and whilst at the beginning of the night your body may be making enough melatonin (the sleep hormone) to override the caffeine and allow you to drop off, if you had your last coffee at 4pm, there’s still 1/4 of that coffee’s caffeine in your system at 4am. Meaning interrupted sleep and lighter sleep. (See tip ’10 - Don’t Drink Alcohol’)
2 - Get natural daylight exposure in the morning
Our biology works with 24hr cycle of light & darkness called the circadian rhythm. Natural light is one of the most important factors in setting your day up for success. Light is a brain stimulant, so getting up and outside 30 mins after you wake up, or as soon as it gets light, tells our bodies that our day has begun & gives us a boost & improves mental cognition for the day.
When we don’t see natural light in the daytime, we’re more sluggish & less alert. Light is measured in LUX. A cloudy day in winter measures around 5,000 LUX. On a sunny day in Summer, the LUX reading can be around 100,000. In an office that is solely lit with artificial lighting the LUX reading will be around 200-300. With most of us spending 90% day spent indoors, we’re not getting the natural light we need for optimum health & mental cognition. Getting a big dose first thing in the morning can really change the effects that office lighting has on us. Just 10 minutes each morning will really help.
3 - Dimming lights in evening
Paired with getting natural light in the morning, dimming the lights in the evening prepares our bodies for sleep, and releases the natural sleep hormone, Melatonin, earlier meaning our bodies are ready for sleep earlier. Bright lights in the evening can push your circadian rhythms later, making the time when you feel sleepy later resulting in less sleep which in turn impacts on mental function & mood.
4 - Exercise
Incorporating exercise into your daily routine is beneficial in so many aspects of our lives. It reduces the risk of disease, including degenerative ageing diseases, helps us with mental clarity, decreases affects of menopause, makes you happier by providing us with serotonin dopamine & endorphins in a healthy way. I could go on and on!!! (I feel another blog coming on!) But another great benefit is that exercise de-stresses us, allowing for a more restful sleep as our bodies work on building muscle after our exercise routines as we sleep. The endorphins released during exercise also help us to put our worries and stresses into perspective.
5 - Sleepy teas & herbs
Humans have used plants for their health benefits forever. Lavender oil on your pillow or applied to temples or wrists is a great was to calm your body and prepare for sleep. I love sleepy teas like Chamomile. There are so many out there, I’d definitely recommend giving some a try to find one you love. Our Night Lights tea by XO is delicious too, by the way!
6 - No stressors late in the day
Sometimes disagreements with our loved ones are unavoidable. But if you can, try to reschedule any topics that cause you stress for earlier in the day. Anything that raises our cortisol levels in the hour or two before bed is best avoided where possible! I actually don’t exercise too late in the day either. I leave at least 2 hours between ending exercise and eating, before going to bed.
If you've been feeling the stress a little too much recently, big, slow, deep belly breaths, with relaxed shoulders, can help bring your stress levels down & return a little zen to your den!
7 - Don’t eat within 2 hours of sleep
When we go to sleep, our digestive system really slows down. If you eat and then go to bed, not only is it harder for your body to digest as is doesn’t have gravity to help it, (sometimes causing reflux or acid indigestion), but the system slows and the food is only slowly digested as we sleep. Ideally our digestive system needs 10-12 hours without food in it to repair itself ready for the next day’s food intake, so stopping eating at 7 or 8pm is ideal for lots of people.
8 - Keep your phone out of the bedroom
This is possibly one of the hardest things to implement. But like many of the tips here, this can improve much more than your sleep. (Think your relationship?!) Having another place in your house to charge your phone overnight is hugely beneficial. It helps you wind down in the moments before sleep. Even the ‘blue light blocker’ screen doesn’t help that much. Phones, as we’re still discovering, are designed to make us addicted to them, which is a pretty scary thing. All the beeps, bings & flashing notifications gives us an unhealthy dose of dopamine, which makes us crave our phones more and more.
Not having our phones next to our bed allows us some space from that. Not checking the phone first thing in the morning allows us space for our own thoughts & feelings, allows us time to process our dreams & perhaps think about the day ahead. I would go so far as to say it’s a good idea to just check our phones during certain hours that you set for yourself. But I haven’t quite managed that myself yet!
9 - Switch off to stress
Making sure that you can totally switch off from your daytime stressors, whether that be not checking work emails after 6pm, or taking a yoga class to have some time without your kids. This can be so beneficial to your overall stress levels, which directly affect our sleep.
10 - Don’t use alcohol
Many people like a glass of wine, or a beer or two in the evening to help them relax, but you’d be sooo much better off switching to a herbal tea and following the points above, for a truly restful sleep. Here’s just a couple of the reasons why…
Alcohol is a sedative, and sedation is not sleep. Alcohol effectively knocks-out your cortex, meaning your brainwaves are not doing the same restorative work when you’ve been drinking. Alcohol fragments your sleep, which becomes littered with awakenings during the night. It also blocks REM sleep, which is critical for emotional health, providing us with overnight therapy. You know the phrase “sleep on it”? That’s why!
Many of us use alcohol to mask symptoms of anxiety temporarily, but in the long term it makes these symptoms worse, coined by the phrase ‘hangxiety’. Alcohol totally tanks healthy sleep, just one glass can leave you groggy the next day, and actually makes any other efforts to make healthy choices harder to make, like exercising, eating well or meditation.
Unsure some of the tips? Give it a try - I promise you’ll notice the changes.
This is not medical advice. Consult your doctor for medical advice. If you’re still feeling bad after trying these tips definitely visit your doctor as it may be worth getting screened for other issues.