The Best 15 Sleep Tips
Sleep can be a real issue for many people, myself included. These problems can range from going to bed too late, struggling to get to sleep, waking in the night and not getting back to sleep and not sleeping at all!
The affects of sleep on our health are profound. As a nutritionist and exercise specialist I always knew the importance of sleep and have helped coached clients through this importance for years, but after hearing some of the latest evidence I am convinced that sleep is THE MOST IMPORTANT factor in health. Just to help demonstrate why I've shifted my belief, check these statements out.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) have said there is now sufficient data to say that lack of sleep has a CAUSAL relationship with Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. Not a correlation, causal. The evidence needed to say this is astounding, they can't make this statement without being 100% sure of this.
The WHO have also stated that shift-work is a probable carcinogen, meaning shift-work will probably give you cancer. Again, the evidence needed for the WHO to make this statement is huge. Don’t take it lightly.
So needless to say, sleep is kind-of important.
If you struggle with sleep, then the list below is a great starting point for you. I tell all my clients the same advice. While some of these points are general, they all have an impact on your sleep quantity and quality, and so part of figuring out why sleep is an issue for someone it is often important to weed out the little things that can have an impact. If you're still not sleeping well despite doing all 15 points, for at least 3 months, then look to seeking professional advice.
The list below comes from Dr Matthew Walker's book, Why We Sleep. Dr Walker is a professor of neuroscience and expert in sleep. His book is a little heavy on the science, but is fascinating nonetheless, you can purchase it here. For an audio deep dive on the subject, Dr Peter Attia's podcast, The Drive, has a 3-part interview with Dr Walker. Dr Walker also has videos on YouTube and TED talks.
Keep a regular schedule — our bodies like regularity. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same times. With a regular schedule, your body will know when to release calming hormones before bed, and stimulating hormones to wake up.
Keep alcohol and caffeine moderate — both will interfere with sleep. Try to avoid caffeine within 8-9 hours of your bedtime. Never go to bed drunk, it impacts your REM sleep.
Eat and drink appropriately — a regular to smallish-sized meal about 2-3 hours before bed, one that is balanced in nutrients, can help facilitate sleep. Try not to drink too much liquid in the hours before bed, which will help you avoid waking up for bathroom breaks.
Do a brain dump — take a few minutes to write out a list of whatever is bugging you. Whatever is in your brain, get it out and on to paper.
Turn off electronics — digital devices stimulate our brain. We recommend unplugging from all screens at least 30 minutes before bed. This includes television, computers, and smartphones. The screens release a blue light that prevents our brain from preparing for sleep.
Stretch / read / de-stress before bed — maybe some yoga poses, reading, or meditation.
Go to bed before midnight — this is better aligned with natural light cycles.
Sleep at least seven hours — work backwards here. If you need to wake up at 6 AM, 11 PM will be the latest you want to hit the pillow.
Exercise regularly — physical movement (especially outdoors) can promote restful sleep at night.
Take a bath or shower — a warm bath with epsom salts or even a cool shower (depending on personal preference) can promote restful sleep.
Keep the room dark — this means curtains, shades, and / or a sleep mask.
Have a stress-free / clutter-free bedroom — get rid of stacks of mail, boxes, clothes strewn about, etc.
Keep it cool — anywhere from 15-20 degrees appears to work best at night.
Use white noise — turn on a fan, humidifier or HEPA filter.
Get outside in the sunlight and fresh air during the day.