Your pre-sleep routine is so important to good quality, natural sleep. Try these five simple tips to help you develop that healthy routine.
1. It's quality not quantity
Quality of sleep is hard to measure so many of us start judging a good night’s sleep on how long it lasts. The media doesn't help; pushing myths such as, "we need eight hours", as it is easier to generalise than talk to people about their individual sleep needs. Without a doubt, six and a half hours of good quality sleep, with your body going through its sleep cycles in a healthy consistent way, is far better than eight hours of poor quality, broken sleep.
2. Go to bed when you are tired
This may seem obvious but people often fall into the trap discussed above, thinking quantity not quality and end up going to bed far too early. This leads to them tossing and turning for a couple of hours, which raises their stress levels and in turn inhibits their ability to produce Melatonin. If you are finding that this happens to you then go to bed half an hour before the time you go to sleep and the quality of your sleep will undoubtedly improve.
3. Wind down before bed
The hour and a half before you go to bed should be seen as a ‘golden time’ to ensure that you get the sleep you need. Make sure you turn off all your devices that emit blue light, such as your phone, tablet or e-reader. The blue light these devices emit tells your brain that it is still daytime and inhibits the production of Melatonin.
You need to ensure that you have eaten at least two hours before bed (digesting food raises your body temperature and inhibits your Melatonin) and the same goes for exercise. Often after exercise we are physically tired but mentally alert and the quality of sleep suffers if we go to be too early after it.
4. The power of Magnesium
A great way to help your body start its Melatonin production is to take a bath or shower.
Melatonin is a hormone made naturally by our bodies which helps create the urge to fall asleep and is key in regulating your body's internal clock.
The fall in body temperature we experience when we get out of the bath or shower is a signal to the body to start producing Melatonin.
You can supercharge this process by adding Magnesium to your bedtime routine. Magnesium helps the body relax by ensuring the GABA receptors in our brain and nervous system are working as efficiently as possible. GABA receptors help the brain switch off and without it our brains would continue to race. I have found that adding Magnesium to the bedtime routine has an effect on a sleep sufferers’ ability to fall asleep.
5. Wake up same time every morning with natural light
My final tip to ensure that you create the perfect sleep routine, is to try and wake up at the same every day, including weekends!
Most of you will be horrified at the idea of giving up your lie-in on your day off, but we know that going to bed at the same time, and waking up at the same time every morning helps your circadian rhythm develop a healthy cycle and dramatically improve the quality of your sleep.
To really make your wake up as beneficial as possible to your night’s sleep, then wake with natural light. In the summer this can be by throwing open the curtains and in winter try a sunshine alarm clock. When we wake with a conventional alarm our body goes into fight or flight mode and adrenaline surges through the body. We press snooze, our adrenaline levels drop and we fall back to sleep only to be woken feeling awful by the alarm again. Natural light pulls your body out of the sleep cycle slowly, inhibits the production of Melatonin and sets you up for feeling energetic all day long.