6 Ways To Get A Good Night Sleep

Sleep accounts for one-third of an average day and contributes to physical and mental wellbeing. We cannot do without sleep, but for many sleep often evades them. Lack of sleep leaves people feeling groggy, lacking in workplace creativity and productivity and can all too often lead to physical and mental illness. Here are some tips, including the science, to help you get a good night sleep.

Photo by Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush on Pexels.com
  1. Eat and drink well

The nutritious intake of food and drink is essential to maintain a healthy body and mind. Healthy body weight is attributed to better sleep quality. A diet rich in vitamins and minerals should help improve sleep quality. Vitamin B6 can help boost melatonin, a sleep hormone produced naturally by the body to aid in the sleep-wake cycle. Magnesium is also thought to improve sleep quality in sufferers of insomnia. Magnesium can be found in dietary sources such as nuts and seeds, and oily fish such as mackerel and salmon. These fish also contain essential fatty acids OMEGA-3s which are good for brain health!

2. Mindfulness

One of the common reasons for poor sleep quality is anxiety and stress. I am sure we have all experienced at some time the rolling of thoughts preventing sleep coming to us. One of the most important ways you can help alleviate the stress is to practice mindfulness, the act of being in the present.

You can practice mindfulness by laying comfortably, closing your eyes and then feeling the sensation of your body against the sheets. Feel the rise and fall of the chest with each breath. Feel the breath move into the body and then leave again. Allow stress and tension to leave the body with each exhalation. Listen to the sound of breathing. If your thoughts wonder off, just gently bring them back to the present.

I suffer from bad dreams, and I have used this technique many times to go back to sleep after waking up from a disturbed night – trust me it takes a bit of practice, but it works.

3. Create a nice environment

This may sound like common sense, but when you are dog-tired, it is very easy to just crawl into bed and hope that sleep arrives. You need to make sure that the environment is calm, the temperature is right and bed welcoming.

Create a really peaceful environment using soft and calm earthy colours such as blues, green and grey. These are all suggested to assist with sleep, but of course, you will pick what works for you and your bedroom.

Make sure the bedding textures are just right for you, I don’t like satins but love the coolness of cotton, for example. Replace that lumpy pillow if you are finding it is not comfortable, it may be affecting your sleep more than you realise. I frequently turn my pillows over to feel the coolness, this is a personal preference and helps me drift back off. Take a more objective look at your bedroom and decide what changes would create a better feel of the bedroom. You must make sure that you are comfortable we spend a lot of time in bed!

4. Physical activity

Not everyone will like this one, but it works! Physically active people usually sleep better and regular exercise helps those that suffer from insomnia. I am an advocate for health and fitness, but I know it is not everyone’s cup of tea.

You need to make sure that the activity you choose works for you. I am not suggesting you take up running if you are not a runner (well, maybe…!). Walking is a great way to raise the heart rate, practice mindfulness and destress. Best of all, it is free. The only caveat is when you exercise may affect your sleep. Exercising immediately before bed may be a stimulant for some, so experiment with when will work best for you, starting with a morning or early afternoon walk.

5. Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is not for everyone and scientifically is controversial. There are studies that clearly show aromatherapy oils work to promote sleep and reduce anxiety. It is thought that the aromatherapy particles are able to reach the limbic region of our brain, producing a sedative and relaxing effect. Lavender is an oil that is frequently used to promote feels of relaxation, it is added to baths, used in massage oils, burnt or vaporised. Aromatherapy oils really are subjective because if you don’t like the smell, it will not help you to sleep so you will need to find the oil that is right for you.

6. Reduce Brain Stimulation

There is scientific evidence that suggests a bright screen before sleep will impact on sleep quality and this is particularly true of children. One reason for this may be due to the fact bright screens decrease the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. A reduction in melatonin would interrupt the effectiveness of the sleep-wake cycle. So, to improve sleep time, dim the lights of your screen, or better still listen to an audible mindfulness or meditation App.

Avoid stimulation by reducing coffee consumption during the day. Caffeine is a stimulant and can impair sleep quality. Coffee is my hot got-to drink of choice, so I usually stop drinking it early afternoon.

Those are my top six tips for improving sleep. Remember, regular quality sleep of between 7 to 9 hours is good for your health, your physical appearance and general wellbeing. You can implement changes one at a time or make radical changes – whatever will work for you! Feel free to leave comments about what works for you.

So, tell me, what changes are you going to make first?

Exercise and health

I thought today I would provide a brief overview of why we should exercise; there will always be differences based on an individual’s own circumstances so this is a guide, written and summarised based on the science.

Health benefits from exercise

It is well established and understood that exercise positively impacts on physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. There are plenty of studies providing substantial evidence for regular physical exercise being able to reduce the incidence of chronic diseases in the older population. This evidence supports both infectious diseases, such as viral and bacterial and non-infectious, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. Additionally, exercise can help a person maintain healthy body weight, reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, assist with sleep and promote bone strength.

Exercise and mental health

More recently, research has focused on the effect of exercise on mental health, with a wealth of evidence suggesting that exercise can contribute to mood enhancement. The mechanism is not entirely understood, although some suggest that the endorphins released during exercise have a calming and mood-lifting effect. Others report the release of monoamines, for example, the neurotransmitter serotonin, during exercise can act in the same way as anti-depression drugs. The reality could be a combination of effects.

Disease control

Exercise can assist in the control of diseases such as asthma, while not preventative, symptomatic control can be observed in some. From a subjective perspective, I can personally testify to this! Individuals suffering from cardiovascular disease, including post heart operation, can improve heart strength, under guidance from a qualified fitness trainer/medical professions. Also, exercise can assist with blood glucose management in diabetics, essential to controlling the symptoms of diabetes.

How much exercise is healthy?

There is a lot of scientific evidence to support the role of exercise in physical and mental wellbeing, still there is also the suggestion that too much or too intense exercise regimes may be harmful. The widely accepted consensus is that moderate exercise, which should be performed daily, is beneficial to health. Of course, it could be argued that moderate exercise is subjective and is also dependent on an individual’s level of fitness. As a general guide, a brisk walk is considered moderate exercise; however, in a more athletic individual, one would think that moderate exercise would be jogging. A good determiner would be that during exercise, a reasonable conversation should still be able to be held. There are some good guidelines provided by the NHS in terms of exercise that should be undertaken: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/.

Exercise should not be a chore

To make sure exercise is not a chore, be sure to choose an activity you enjoy. Maybe incorporate exercise with a new hobby such as bird watching or flower spotting while walking? I am fortunate to live close to some beautiful walks, if you do not have the same luxury, consider listening to a series of informative or fun podcasts, this may help pass the time. It is also the perfect opportunity to join a club and meet new people, look up local cycling, jogging, hiking or walking groups.

In summary

Exercise is good for our health so whatever form of exercise you enjoy – just do it! Each person will have different limitations, so if in doubt about what type of exercise should be carried out, or it will be the first time for exercise, take medical advice. Finally, always listen to your body, if you experience chest pain, or breathing difficulties stop exercising and call for help. Some degree of muscle discomfort is likely to occur when starting a new form of exercise; however, this should not persist, and any post-exercise aches should disappear in a few days – if persistent seek professional assistance.