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Six simple ways to get more sleep

Ashleigh Went

Apparently, we got an extra hour of sleep over the weekend, courtesy of the conclusion of daylight savings.

I use the term “apparently” because I, for one, am feeling a little worse for wear – tired, hungry, and unfocused. A quick survey of my office reveals that I’m not the only one.

I love my sleep, and I go to great lengths to make sure that I get enough of good quality shut-eye.

Why?

It’s pretty widely recognised that sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. It’s essential for recovery – to help your muscles repair themselves and to replenish your energy levels. Not to mention, adequate sleep helps with mental clarity, focus, decision making (ever felt better after ‘sleeping on it’?), aids with maintaining a healthy weight, controlling appetite… the list goes on and on.

The general recommendation for adults is 7-9 hours per night, which sounds achievable on paper but can often be difficult to put into practice. There are some simple tweaks that you can make to improve your chances of getting plenty of good quality sleep. Here are some tricks I use:

Dim the lights 

Our bodies have their own internal clock called a circadian rhythm, which dictates whether to feel awake or sleepy depending on the time of the day. This clever system operates on light – which is why we can feel so tired when daylight savings finishes and it begins to get darker earlier. Artificial light can also interfere with our circadian rhythm, so if you’re keeping your home lit up like a Christmas tree until bedtime, it’s little wonder that you might find it hard to nod off.

In our house, we aim to switch off the lights nice and early – around 8pm, and rely on candlelight. For extra relaxation, you can use some aromatherapy candles with scents like lavender or chamomile to help – although if you’re not into scented candles, plain unscented ones also do the job. There’s no need to burn your Diptique nightly (unless you want to) – you can get a pack of white pillar candles from Ikea for around $5 that are perfect for daily use.

It’s also a good idea to make your bedroom as dark as you can – consider using block out blinds or even invest in a sleeping mask if you’re sensitive to light.

Techno-no

 While regular artificial light can wreak havoc on sleeping patterns, the blue light that’s emitted from TV, computer and phone screens is particularly disruptive. This is because this kind of light is the one that will have the biggest effect on our bodies ability to produce melatonin, the ‘sleep hormone’.

Not to mention, we’re often stimulated by the content we consume, so you’re unlikely to feel tired. I for one have been guilty of watching “just one more” episode of Making a Murderer on Netflix, only to hop in bed much later than I’d prefer and lie awake mulling it over. Alternatively, if you’ve ever found yourself lying awake scrolling through your Instagram feed, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

If you have an iPhone, you can switch on “night shift” in your settings which will reduce the level of blue light from your screen during certain times.

The best solution though? Put away the phone, shut the laptop and turn off the telly well before you hop into bed.

Watch the clock

… when you exercise, that is. Exercise often energises us – so working out too close to your bedtime can affect your chances of nodding off quickly. Conversely, exercising too little over the course of the day can also reduce the likelihood of feeling tired.

The solution? Find a workout time that works for you. I personally find that hitting the gym from 6.30-7.30 in the evening is my ‘sweet spot’ – I feel like I have enough energy to work out, but it’s not so late that it interferes with my sleep. I know a lot of people who find working out in the morning is the best time for them. Experiment and find out what works for you.

Track it

Ever heard the saying “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”?

If you’re not looking out for it, it can be hard to remember exactly when you’re hitting the hay and when you’re waking up. Even with the best intentions, you can sacrifice your sleep without even realising that you’re doing it – particularly when you’re stressed, which is when you need sleep most.

Keeping track of your sleep helps keep you accountable. There are plenty of ways you can do this – keeping a notepad by your bedside, downloading a sleep app on your phone, or for the truly lazy (like me!) wearing a fitness tracker like a Fitbit Alta, which tracks it for you and then displays it in pretty graphs so you can analyse it over time.

fitbit sleep

Night time rituals

A ritual isn’t necessarily something that’s tied to religion – it’s really just a habit that we attach meaning to. Consistently performing the same habits before bedtime can help to signal to your body that it’s time to go to sleep.

I’m a big fan of Tim Ferris (of the Tim Ferris Show podcast, or Tools of Titans) who counts Yogi Soothing Caramel Bedtime Tea as one of his ‘Five tools I use for faster and better sleep’. I was intrigued, so bought myself a box and have become hooked. Is there actually anything in it that helps sleep? I don’t know. I do, however, know that the ritual of making myself the same tea every evening helps me get into “wind down mode” and fall asleep easier.

For many people, significant change needs to happen slowly over time in order for it to stick. By adopting small changes, one by one, you can begin to alter your sleep habits and reap the benefits of getting enough good quality sleep.

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Ashleigh Went

Ashleigh Went has a passion for all things health and wellness. She’s currently furthering her studies in nutrition, but also has a Bachelor of Communication and is a qualified fitness instructor with over five years experience working in a gym. Among other things, she’s a lover of great food, coffee and fashion. She can usually be found shopping for activewear, in the gym or updating her Instagram @wentworthavenue More about the Author

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