We eat our kale, train our butts off and (try) to limit our sugar intake. But there’s one critical piece of the puzzle missing for optimal health and wellbeing: sleep.
In recent years, it was common to wear that elusive lack of sleep as a badge of honour. Less sleep meant a more packed life – more work, more gym, more socialising. Sleep? Who needs it? As one famous advertisement once stated, you can sleep when you’re dead.
But sleep is back, and with good reason. From influencers such as Arianna Huffington and Elle McPherson to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, everyone is talking about sleep, and how we can get more of it.
As the New York Times recently quoted, “for years, studies upon studies have shown how bad sleep weakens the immune system, impairs learning and memory, contributes to depression and other mood and mental disorders, as well as obesity, diabetes, cancer and an early death.” Sedated sleep – i.e. sleep induced by sleeping pills – has been proven to be just as ineffective as poor sleep.
So why are we standing up now and finally paying attention? Whether it is the popularity of the Swedish-born “hygge” craze, rise of the sober social scene, or just that self-care is now finally being prioritised, getting our nightly dose of shut eye is in vogue and, as the Times points out, a skill to be cultivated and nourished.
So how can we achieve our nightly dose? Below are three tips to help you get your nightly zzzs.
1. Aim to eat an earlier dinner
Food takes time to digest, and a large meal eaten close to bedtime can disrupt sleep patterns. Even late night snacking can impact our ability to fall asleep. Aim to eat dinner 2 to 3 hours prior to shut eye. If you need something before bed, sip on herbal teas.
2. Develop and stick to a regular routine
Getting 8 hours’ of shut eye is considered optimal, so count back from when you need to get up the next day, and organise your nightly bed time routine around that.
At least two hours prior, limit or, if possible, stop all device usage. This means ignoring those Insta stories and the incessant Facebook scrolling. This extends to iPads too, or basically anything with a blue light, as these devices have been shown over and over again to disrupt sleep, by supressing the release of melatonin, the body’s natural sleep hormone.
Read a book, have a cup of (herbal) tea or take a bubble bath. Indulge in activities that indicate to your body that it’s time to wind down and get ready for sleep.
3. Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary
A darker bedroom promotes an environment more conducive to sleep. If your bedroom faces a streetlight or is otherwise bright, invest in some blackout curtains or blinds, which will completely darken the room.
Your bed plays a crucial role in cultivating sleep, so make it as cosy as you can. Invest in beautiful sheets, good pillows and adequate blankets and quilts. Make your bed a destination, and one you look forward to jumping in to!
If possible keep devices out of the bedroom all together. This means no televisions in bed, and ideally, no phones either. If, like most of us, your phone doubles as your alarm clock, you may wish to invest in an old school alarm clock, again as recommended by Arianna Huffington.
And never, ever work in the bedroom, especially in your bed. Work is for the office, or home office, and that’s where it should stay.
Given that sleep is crucial to resetting both our mind and body, start prioritising it tonight.