Improve Your Sleep
Sleep has an incredibly important role to play when it comes to our mental and physical health. It provides our body with the chance to rejuvenate, recover, repair, process memories and detox. A lack of sleep has been linked to several health issues, including impaired recovery following exercise.
How much sleep is enough?
In order to perform at our best, we are recommended between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Studies into sleep duration show that those who obtain less than 7 hours suffer with up to 60% more injuries, as well as reduced performance in memory, cognitive function and driving reaction tests.
Often, a busy work and family lifestyle does not permit a great deal of sleep. In addition, the number of people experiencing sleep disorders is on the rise. This means many of us are not getting the quantity or quality we need to function effectively.
Introduce good habits
If we begin eating at the same times every day, we begin to become hungry at the same times every day. This is because we are unknowingly training our hormonal and chemical reactions to predict food intake, directly affecting our circadian rhythm or body clock. In the same way, we can influence and manipulate reactions with our other lifestyle choices including sleep and exercise.
In addition to adopting good habits, dropping bad habits such as caffeine or alcohol in the evening will avoid sleep disruption.
Get the temperature right
Nodding off to sleep, our brains begin the process most efficiently at approximately 0.5 degrees cooler than average body temperature. If you often use big blankets or thick pyjamas it is likely contributing to your restlessness. Taking a hot bath before bed can help by creating vasodilation (widening of blood vessels) in your extremities, diverting some blood flow and therefore heat away from your core.
Exercise can help reduce stress, increase blood flow and have a positive impact on mood, among other benefits. Forms of exercise which have been found to have the strongest link to sleep quality are cardiovascular exercise (such as walking, running and swimming), strength training, Pilates and yoga. Undertaking high intensity exercise too close to the time you go to sleep is not recommended however, if you’re managing to sleep every night and are looking to lengthen or improve, gentle - moderate exercise can be very effective.
Try to relax
One of the trickiest causes of sleep deprivation to manage is stress, often induced by the struggle to fall asleep. Mindfulness and breathing control techniques can be effective in providing natural relaxation by increasing the release of sleep-aiding hormones. Mindfulness training and progressive muscle relaxation can also be very helpful in creating a sleep ready mindset.
The above techniques will not necessarily bring immediate relief as the causes have often built up over time. However, if practised regularly, over time you should begin to see an improvement.