Are you fed up with being restless and lying awake all night desperate to get some shut-eye?
A good night’s sleep is key to improved wellbeing, but what happens when you can’t rest?
If you’re reading this and thinking, ‘that’s me!’, you’re not alone! A massive 67% of UK adults experience disrupted sleep, with 23% only getting up to five hours of sleep a night. Most of the UK population is struggling to sleep, and general knowledge suggests that one in three people suffer from insomnia symptoms. The effects of sleep loss may be more harmful than you think. Research suggests that reduced sleep may potentially impact your immune system and increase the risk of developing diabetes, obesity, and mood disorders.
A 2010 review highlighted that a lack of sleep could increase stress hormones (such as cortisol), resulting in higher levels of stress. An additional study researched the effects of sleep deprivation and found it can significantly impact how we feel – suggesting that sleep disorders may make some signs of anxiety and depression even worse.
Improving your sleep should be a priority as it is likely to enhance your overall quality of life. According to the NHS, a satisfying night of sleep can impact your immunity, increase your sense of wellbeing, and may even reduce your chances of developing heart disease in the long term.
In the rest of this article, we will outline five science-backed ways to improve sleep. Don’t worry – you will get back to sleep in no time!
1.Create The Right Environment To Sleep In
Many factors may disrupt sleep, including light, temperature, and too much noise. The environment you sleep in needs to be comfortable and soothing so that it doesn’t cause you unnecessary stress.
While opening the curtains during the day is great for your natural body clock, be careful to shut your curtains and turn off the lights when you’re ready to sleep. Suppose you have your lights on during the evening. In that case, you may accidentally trick your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. As a result, it won’t produce as much melatonin (an essential hormone that helps us relax and achieve deep sleep). In fact, as one review highlights, this hormone is a vital part of the sleep cycle. This shows how important it is to create a dark environment so your body can stick to its natural sleep cycle. In 2011, researchers Kathryn A Lee and Caryl L Gay noted that 50% of women found they slept better when they removed excess light and noise from their rooms.
Create a sleep-inducing environment by closing the curtains (choose blackout curtains if you need to) and reducing unnecessary noise (comfortable earplugs might come in handy). By winding down in these ways, you’re giving yourself the best chance at falling asleep.
2.Consider Your Diet
Challenges with nutrition may be the reason you’re struggling to sleep. Specifically, drinking alcohol and caffeine after 2 pm could disrupt your natural body clock. In the UK, 13% of Brits turn to alcohol to help them sleep. While it may seem like a quick drink before bed is harmless, it can actually disturb your sleep more than you realise. This disturbance is because alcohol can change hormone production. As discussed earlier, melatonin is a crucial hormone in your sleep cycle that tells your body when it’s time to sleep. However, drinking alcohol, especially before bed, can change nighttime melatonin production, causing you to lose sleep and feel more tired. Moreover, some researchers have suggested that alcohol may increase sleep apnoea and snoring symptoms, which can cause poor sleep.
Alongside alcohol consumption, caffeine may affect sleep too. A cup of coffee is a daily must-have for many people. Coffee is a source of nutrients, and drinking it in moderation may impact your metabolism and how ‘sharp’ you feel. However, if you drink a cup six hours before bed, it can worsen sleep quality. This is because caffeine stimulates your nervous system and stops your body from being able to relax naturally.
If it feels suitable for your lifestyle, you might want to consider changing your diet and eating habits. For example, avoid eating too late or consuming caffeine and alcohol right before bed.
3.Wind Down Before Bed
Having a pre-sleep routine could be the answer to helping you fall asleep. An evening routine will help create structure while also winding down and communicating to your body that it’s time for bed. There are many ways to plan your perfect bedtime routine, but it’s essential to make it suited to you and your unique needs. Start with small, simple habits like turning off your screens an hour or two before you go to sleep. Here, it’s helpful to note that light has a considerable effect on the human body. Natural daylight wakes you up, energising you and sharpening your focus. In comparison, blue light from phones and computers can disrupt your natural sleep cycle.
As part of your pre-sleep routine, you may want to:
- Read a book
- Light a candle for a moment or two
- Practice some stretches or yoga
- Enjoy a warm bath or shower
- Listen to some calming music
Many relaxation techniques have proven beneficial for insomnia, which highlights how unwinding before bed could improve your sleep. Moreover, techniques such as massage seem to be a successful option, as one study shows how back rubs helped ill patients improve their sleep quality. To get the most from your sleep routine, try to start it at the same time each night. This consistency will send a message to your brain that it’s time for bed because it will associate your evening rituals with sleep.
4.Manage Your Stress Levels
Insomnia, a common sleep disorder, can be caused by drinking alcohol and caffeine, irregular sleep patterns and even a room that is too hot (or too cold). Stress and mood disorders may also make it hard to sleep.
According to experts at Statista, 79% of Brits frequently feel stressed about work and 60% experience stress related to money. Therefore, as tension seems inevitable in our fast-paced society, you must put measures in place to manage it and prevent burnout or mood disorders from developing.
How to manage stress:
- Write to-do lists in advance
- Try a weighted blanket for some comfort
- Try supplements for stress and sleep-related symptoms
- Create mindful moments
Mindfulness, in particular, has shown fantastic benefits for mental health symptoms and improving sleep. One study looked into various mindfulness techniques and concluded that the participants who meditated stayed asleep longer and experienced decreased insomnia severity. In 2014, David D Maron and others found that meditation and mindfulness may reduce some symptoms of anxiety and stress. Consequently, mindfulness meditation would be an excellent option to try because it may reduce sleep disturbances.
5.Exercise During The Day
It is long-standing knowledge that exercise is one of the primary elements of a healthy lifestyle. Its benefits range from increasing energy levels and improving your skin health to reducing pain symptoms and even impacting sleep quality.
A 2010 study highlighted how regular exercise might reduce symptoms of insomnia and pre-sleep anxiety. Interestingly, the time you choose to exercise is essential for it to impact your sleep positively. It is best to work out during the day rather than right before bed because physical movement energises you. With this said, a study featuring middle-aged and senior adults demonstrated how exercise significantly decreased the amount of time it took for participants to fall asleep.
Alternatively, if you’re keen to get your body moving in the evening, you could try a slow yoga session. It’s key to keep it gentle so you don’t energise your body too much – which can lead to staying awake longer! In a self-report, 85% of yoga fans experienced reduced stress, and 55% reported improved sleep. Yoga is known to aid stress management and can be the perfect addition to a wind-down routine.
In conclusion, regular exercise may reduce anxiety, help you fall asleep faster and affect how awake you feel during the day.
Conduct Your Own Experiment: Try Natural Plant Extracts
If you’re looking for a plant-based way to improve your sleep, you may decide to try a natural supplement like the one we’ve created here at Yawns.
Our Night Caps feature organic ingredients to improve sleep quantity, quality and help you to relax. Interestingly, the authentic and fine-tuned formula is what makes these supplements a promising choice. The unique blend includes Ashwagandha, which has shown the potential to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, lower blood sugar, and impact cognitive function. The addition of Valerian root brings extra prospects for sleep and relaxation; this plant has even been used since ancient times. Next, Griffonia seeds (and the associated amino acid known as 5-HTP) may increase serotonin levels (the ‘happiness’ hormone) and melatonin production. Finally, Black pepper is a versatile spice that may influence your natural brain function and lower your stress hormone levels.
We hope this article has provided you with some scientific insight into how to sleep smarter. From creating a relaxing routine to trying sleep supplements and exercising during the day, these changes are all within reach and can help you to sleep better in the long run.