10 science-backed tips for more restful sleep

For every single one of us, getting enough good quality, refreshing sleep helps us feel good, and it’s also vitally important for our health, both physical and mental. Sleep is proven to strengthen the immune system, it helps to maintain a healthy weight, it lowers the risk of many serious health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, it helps to improve mood and emotional well being and sleep even helps improve brain functioning and memory. In fact, Professor Matthew Walker, leading sleep researcher and neuroscientist, states that “Sleep is the most effective thing that we can do to reset our brain and body health each day.”

Sleep – and too often the lack of it – has a direct impact on so many different areas of our lives. It’s vitally important therefore to do what we can to set the optimal conditions to maximise our own sleep cycle. It might be that simple adjustments to your existing routine, or the inclusion of one or two of the following tips as new habits could help you create the best conditions for more restful sleep.

1 Set a consistent bed and wake time

Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day (give or take 15 minutes!) has been shown in studies to help strengthen the body’s internal clock that regulates our sleep – wake cycle. So much so in fact that it’s recommended that if you have a late night, or you sleep less well one night for any reason, that you keep a consistent wake and bedtime the following day and night, as this is more beneficial than trying to make up for it by having a lie in or napping in the day.

2 Create your own relaxing wind-down routine

Our bodies and our minds aren’t designed to go from ‘go-mode’ to ‘sleep-mode’ in an instant.  It’s really beneficial to have a consistent routine – for about an hour before bed time – made up of the things that help you feel relaxed to help your body and mind unwind and prepare you for sleep. Try including things like listening to music, journalling, reading, meditating or a warm bath or shower – the drop in temperature when we get out signals to our brain that it’s time to sleep.

3 Make your bedroom a relaxing place

Keep your bedroom clutter and gadget free and invest in a good quality mattress and bed-linen, as well as curtains or blinds that block the light. It’s also important to keep bedrooms well ventilated and cool.  Studies have shown that a bedroom temperature of about 65F/18C is most beneficial in terms of encouraging healthy, restful sleep. Your brain needs to drop its temperature by 2 or 3F before you can sleep.

4 Get outside in the daylight every morning

A good dose of morning light as early as possible each day – some people even take their morning cuppa outside! –  has been shown in studies to help better regulate sleep patterns. Every aspect of how we function is in fact regulated by light because the circadian rhythm – our own internal clock – is set to a 24 hour cycle that affects all of our physiology and all of our behaviour. Morning light, in particular blue light wavelengths, have been shown to have the most powerful impact – we have special ganglion cells in our eyes which send signals to our body clock and are sensitive to morning blue light.

5 Dim the lights

Lowering the light levels in your home in the evenings helps keep your circadian clock in a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Too much bright light in the evenings interferes with the brain’s ability to release melatonin, the hormone that tells our body that it’s time to wind down. Turn off or dim the lights, use low wattage lamps and limit your use of mobiles and other screens that emit blue light. If you have to use a device in the evenings, invest in readily available blue light blocking filters or glasses.

6 Unplug an hour before bed

Besides the blue light which all mobiles, tablets, games consoles and computers emit and which has been shown to disrupt our circadian rhythm as explained above, all of these devices are designed to keep you engaged and scrolling. This means that your brain will be way too stimulated and active to be able to switch off for restful sleep. Devise your own habits that will help you achieve this – perhaps consider keeping devices out of reach in another room after your designated time, or buy a traditional alarm clock so that you’re not tempted to keep your mobile next to your bed!

7 Limit caffeine intake

Caffeine is a stimulant that makes us feel alert and awake and is found not just in coffee and tea, but also chocolate, fizzy drinks and some pain relievers. Caffeine effectively blocks chemical signalling in the brain that would otherwise signal your true tiredness levels. As caffeine stays active in our system for 5-7 hours after consumption, it is a good idea to stop consumption of food and drink containing caffeine at least 6 hours before bedtime.

8 Limit Alcohol

Although alcohol might initially make you feel relaxed or drowsy, it actually interferes with natural sleep cycles and affects the quality of sleep, blocking your ability to get enough of the deep, restorative sleep that is essential for health. Studies have shown that alcohol fragments sleep – people are momentarily waking up multiple times through the night, even though they are mostly not consciously aware of this. Alcohol also prevents your ability to get enough REM sleep – a vital part of your deep sleep essential for emotional regulation, healthy brain function and memory.

9 Get regular exercise

As well as all the other numerous health benefits, regular moderate-to-vigorous exercise three to four times a week has been consistently shown in numerous scientific studies to increase sleep quality – both by reducing the amount of time it takes people to fall asleep, as well as increasing the amount of deep, restorative sleep people are able to get. It is a good idea however, to avoid vigorous exercise too late in the evening – try to have a gap of at least two to three hours before bedtime.

10 Don’t lie in bed awake

If you find yourself lying awake for more than twenty minutes when you get in to bed, or if you are starting to feel worried or anxious, get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy once again and able to go back to bed. Lying in bed awake can increase anxiety, which makes it harder to fall asleep.

Our emotional state can affect our ability to sleep well, particularly when we are experiencing stress or anxiety related disorders. If you are regularly experiencing sleep disruption or struggling with insomnia, experiencing difficulty falling asleep, waking in the early hours and finding it hard to get back to sleep or experiencing bad dreams or nightmares, this may be a sign that other factors are at play and hypnotherapy can be extremely effective at tackling the root causes of this. Chemical changes in our body during times of upset or stress impact our ability to rest and sleep well, but hypnotherapy can help with stress and anxiety disorders, helping to calm your mind and free you from intrusive thought patterns and so restore your natural ability to enjoy deep, restorative sleep.

Get in touch with Catherine to find out more about how hypnotherapy can help you

Catherine Laing
Homewood Hypnotherapy
Tel: 07434 842388