Quick question, would you like to improve your sleep? Here are 10 tips on how to sleep like a pro.
You are on a mission to improve your health. You have spent countless hours reading blogs and scrolling Instagram looking for tips on how to 10X your body and mind. You are now confused and tired, and all that snacking you did while scrolling has deposited itself onto your thighs.
You wait for the first day of the month like it’s some miracle date to start your new life because starting it a mid-month and worst mid-week would totally ruin your fabulously elegant health diary. You read inspirational quotes daily and repeat to yourself that you are going to nail this and that you will be beach ready by summer.
We all have been there, lying to ourselves, negotiating with ourselves and the snicker bar at the shop counter. Let me tell you this, you don’t need a massive list of health goals to work through to drastically improve your health. You can start small, and you can start today no app, no tracker, no hundreds of $$$$ needed to invest because all you need now is a Good Sleep. Yes, the opposite of staying up late scrolling Instagram, binge-watching Netflix and snacking your way into that flight seat belt extension.
Why Sleep Is Important
Getting enough sleep is essential if you want to maintain optimal health and well-being. Not only do we function worse when we don’t get enough quality sleep, but it can also lead to long-term health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and overeating (your waistline can vouch for this).
The following are some of the many benefits that health professionals associate with getting a good night’s sleep.
- Better Focus – your brain will no longer need buckets of caffeine to focus and process information, #genius mode on.
- Increased Productivity – suddenly time expands as you glide through your to-do list no more micro naps at the office loo (yes, I have been there).
- Better Athletic Performance – OK, so you will not be marathon ready just yet, but you will have the energy to get your ass out of bed and do that morning gym session you have been planning for the last 8 months.
- Lower Weight Gain – good sleep = snacking mode off. No more frantic pacing at the shop trying to justify why you need to stuff your pretty face with those doughnuts or unconscious snacking on everything and anything you can locate in your kitchen cupboards.
- Better Mental Health – you will be more together, have a better mood and will be less likely to turn into a fire-spitting Godzilla by 3:30pm
How much should you sleep?
On average most adults seem to need around 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Just because you’re able to operate on six or seven hours of sleep, it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t feel a lot better and get more done if you spent an extra hour or two in bed.
You may feel fine, but trust me you want to do everything in your power to never have to say ‘I am fine’ again. I am ‘fine’ is just another way of saying ‘my life is void of all meaning, and I have no memory of how I got to work today’. And no, the answer to your time deficiency is not on YouTube video tutorial on how to 10X your life by getting up at 4am. You can get up at 4am, however, you have to go to bed at 8pm and let’s be frank this might work if you are single, work from home and have zero social life but for the rest of us 8pm bedtime is unachievable. I tried getting up at 4am to catch up on reading, housekeeping and working out but it was hell, and I was not impressed with having to maintain a toddlers schedule.
I went back to going to bed at 11pm (start getting ready for bed at 10:30pm) and getting out of bed before my alarm starts to ring. I can’t remember when was the last time I used the alarm function on my phone. Because I go to bed at the same time at night, I get up at the same time in the morning. You can too ace your Circadian Rhythm and divorce your alarm clock.
Here is what you can do to have a better night of sleep.
Design Sleep Friendly Environment
You need the right bedroom set to get a good night’s sleep. The same as you need a fridge to keep your milk fresh, google maps to locate your nearest coffee house and oversized sunglasses to feel sexy and to look vogue. #IrisApfel #legend
TIP 1 - Keep it Dark
One of the most essential features of your bedroom should be proper blackout curtains. This is because the all-important sleep-inducing hormone melatonin is extremely light-sensitive.
You can darken your bedroom by:
- Install blackout curtains
- Replacing LED lights. Blue wavelength light in lightbulbs is the type of light that specifically suppresses melatonin and keeps you awake.
- Turn off lights from electrical devices such as phones and clocks.
TIP 2 - Keep it Cool & Fresh
Temperature is critical when trying to fall asleep. The room that is too hot will prevent your core temperature from going down, which is essential for switching on the ‘sleep mechanism’. When you sleep, your body’s temperature drops to its lowest level, which usually occurs around 3-4 hours after you fall asleep, so keeping your bedroom at a lower temperature may lead to better sleep.
It is recommended to keep the window slightly open when you sleep so that air can circulate around the room. Also, reduce your central heating as much as you can to prevent dehydration and dry skin.
Let’s face it dried prunes have zero sex appeal. Instead buy a warmer duvet.
However, a room that is too cold can also disrupt your sleep studies have found that cold hands and feet are associated with sleeplessness so invest in night socks or a hot water bottle.
TIP 3 - Less Is More
Clutter is a great energy drainer your room should be tidy, clean and mess-free. Make sure you hoover and dust your bedroom more often than the rest of your house to prevent allergies and to keep the air fresh.
TIP 4 - Get Rid Of The Technology
Your bedroom should only be associated with sleep and sex. That means moving the TV, laptop and your phone (YES, your phone too), and anything else that may distract you and keep you awake or building pillow walls between you and your obviously horny partner.
TIP 5 - Keep It Quiet
If you don’t have the luxury of living in the countryside (who does, right?!) invest in some earplugs. You can also get a machine or CD that plays ‘white noise’.
TIP 6 - Invest In Comfy Bed
The foundation of good sleep is a comfortable bed. A poor quality mattress will result in burnout and a steep increase in your coffee bill. If you sleep better in a hotel or other bed away from home, it’s time to upgrade one of the following or all: mattress, bed frame or pillows. Once I’ve asked the hotel to sell me one of their pillows because it was so lush and because my neck was screaming for it. They were super cool about it and gave it to me for free. #askandyoushallreceive
TIP 7 - Slow Down
Our twenty-first-century lifestyles are fast-paced and full of artificial stimulus. From the moment we peel our eyes open, we are back on the hamster wheel: checking our social media feeds, emails, news… Then we get hit by street adverts, radio adverts, work & family commitments and endless hours of entertainment available at our fingertips. In fact the later is available at our voice command, you don’t even have to flick the finger.
Thanx to Alexa, your sofa and the takeaway food you now can save more time to do things that don’t matter that result in you feeling ever so slightly empty and your brain ever so charged and exhausted unable to switch off for the night.
Take time to design healthy bedtime habits!
Commit to a bedtime routine and maintain a regular sleep pattern. Trust me it works, same as it works with kids. You are never too old for implementing a bedtime routine. Your brain needs to know when to start to slow down. Small physical actions such as getting ready for bed, brushing your hair and teeth, washing your face, putting on pyjamas, reading a book, listening to calming music if done consistently, at the same time every evening, will result in you fine-tuning your Circadian Rhythm. You will fall asleep easier and get up refreshed.
- Avoid Alcohol. Not like EVER, life is for living so, by all means, enjoy a happy social life but never use Alcohol as a sleep aid. It can help you get to sleep but will cause you to spend less time in REM Sleep (the most satisfying type of sleep). Also, your kidneys will thank you later.
- Avoid late-night use of mobile phone, make 10pm your cut off point. Be brutally efficient with this rule! There is an increasing body of medical evidence which confirms that late-night use of mobile phones is more disruptive to sleep than watching TV. If you love to read before going to bed, buy a kindle because it does not emit blue wavelength light that suppresses the release of melatonin (aka sleep hormone). P.S. if you don’t have the budget to spare for buying more technology then at least install on your phone a ‘Blue Light Filter, Night Mode’(Android) or Night Mode (iOS) and f.lux on your computer. Your brain and eyes will love you for it.
- Finally the toughest suggestion of all, however little you have slept, set your alarm and get up at the same time each day – no lie-ins to compensate. A little sleep deprivation will soon get you back into a better sleep routine.
TIP 8 - Take a Chill Pill
I know it is easier said than done, but you must install beaks on your mental chatter. Because negative thought loops cause mental tension and in turn, interrupts your sleep. We sleep better when we have the feeling that we’re in control of our lives rather than feeling as if we are at the mercy of circumstance. It’s necessary to be in charge of your thoughts and stand guard at the gates of your mind.
As in, don’t allow other people’s boolshit cause you to lose your beauty sleep. Botox can’t turn back time, it can only freeze time on your face. It can’t make you feel younger, it can only help you look younger until it can’t, and you end up looking like cheese that froze, halfway, the melting processes.
Let’s get real, youth is energy, and it radiates from the depths of your soul, you can feel it in the tone of a person’s voice and see it reflected in their eyes and even their skin. Stop reacting to everything, stop reaching for perfection, stop punishing yourself for your mess-ups with a trip to the All You Can Eat Buffet hoping that food will fill that anxiety hole you have dug yourself into. Instead, develop habits that will relax you and snap you out from the negative thought loops that keep you wide awake at night.
This is how you can relax:
- Just Breathe – place your hand on your heart and quiet yourself so that you can hear it beating. Then breathe in deeply and slowly for three or four –seconds, then breathe out for three or four seconds. Repeat this until you feel your heart rate slowing down. This will then quiet your brain. If you can’t do this on your own, you can use an app like Breathing Zone. I personally love Wim Hof Method.
- Drink some fresh Mint or Chamomile tea with honey 30min before bedtime.
TIP 9 - Design a Better Diet
Diet is a crucial factor that can determine whether or not you get a good nights’ sleep or stay up counting sheep.
- Avoid overindulging in stimulants such as caffeine, green tee and cigarettes.
- Avoid sedatives such as sleeping pills and alcohol. Unless you have been up serval nights tossing and turning, and now slowly starting to approach to the edge of madness, then take some sleep-aiding pills. Your goal is to get a solid night of rest and get back to your regular sleeping routine. Sorry, petals, red vine or vodka shots is still a resounding no. You need to hit and stay in the REM Sleep stage as long as possible.
- Only eat a sugary snack before bed if combined with tryptophan-rich protein food such as Almonds, Walnuts, Seeds and Nut Butters (this is not a green light signalling you to polish the whole tub of peanut butter).
- Combine a protein food with a low to medium glycemic index carbohydrate food to optimize tryptophan levels.
- Eat more vegetables and less sugar throughout the day. This is where your mother nods in agreement and utters the dreaded phrase ‘I told you so’.
- Eat fruit. Don’t hate the fruit they are not the reason why your ass walks in the room 10min later than you do. Harsh, but true, and you know it. Certain fruit contains melatonin and may help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often during the night. Your besties are tart cherries, bananas, pineapple, and oranges. If you have insomnia, eating two kiwis before bed can increase your sleep duration by an hour over the course of a month. It may sound not a lot but when you have insomnia every little help.
TIP 10 - Get Yourself Moving
Exercise has tons of benefits. It improves blood pressure and heart health; it builds and strengthens bones and muscles; it helps combat stress; it helps improve mood, and it helps you look and feel sexy, it can also help you have better sleep quality.
However, don’t overdo it as it can be counter-productive and lead to wakefulness and alertness when trying to sleep. It is best to have a mild workout in the evening to minimize the risk of being too overstimulated.
However, we are all different and if you need to hit the gym hard in the evening to quiet your mind and destress then do it. It’s mind-boggling how that could work, but then some of my Italian friends drink expresso coffee if they can’t sleep. People are #weird, LOL
If you want to get to the bottom of what is causing you sleepless nights start writing a sleep diary and note what you’ve done & ate on days when you’ve slept well or poorly.
Finally, don’t panic about how many hours of sleep you get, measure your sleep quality by how alert and rested you feel during the day and can cope (or not) with your daily life.