Seven Steps To A Good Night’s Sleep
Over a sustained period of time chronic partial sleep loss has been shown to reduce mood, increase the likelihood of picking up infections, impair mental performance and reduce physical performance.
In addition, sleep loss can have unhelpful effects on the way the body regulates our appetite and how it handles glucose leading to weight gain.
Try to make sure you are getting at least 7 hours’ good quality sleep per night. If you have trouble falling asleep try these evidenced based hacks:
- High tryptophan containing foods such as turkey and pumpkin seeds can help aid sleep if taken before bed. Eating 300g of turkey or 200g of pumpkin seeds prior to bed may speed up the time it takes you to get to sleep and enhance sleep quality. Other dietary measures that can help include reducing sugar and saturated fat and increasing fibre in order to help restorative sleep.
- Ensure you have a good bedtime routine to help you wind down physically and mentally from the day. Including some stretching or myofascial release can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the “rest and recovery” part of the nervous system. Avoid doing any strenuous exercise in the 2 hours before bed though. This will stimulate the sympathetic nervous system having a stimulating effect. Reading fiction is also a great way to relax and take your mind off the stresses of the day.
Chill-out with heat
- Try having a warm bath 2 hours before bed, this helps reduce your body’s core temperature and will aid sleep as well as providing an opportunity to relax. Help keep your body temperature cool by making sure your bedroom is not too hot.
Create a Haven
- Make sure your bedroom is a sleep sanctuary. Keep the lighting low while you are preparing for sleep and avoid having any TVs or computer equipment in your room. Mark sure the room is pitch-dark and peaceful.
- Avoid using your smart phone or tablet in the two hours before bed. The light it emits prevents the brain from entering a relaxed state and also reduces the body’s production of the hormone melatonin.
Set Your Alarm
- Try to have a set time for going to bed, not just a set time for waking up. This not only gets your body into the habit of going to sleep at a certain time but also reduces your anxiety about getting enough sleep.
- Make sure you find out which changes enhance your sleep quality. There are lots or great ways to monitor your sleep from wearable devices such as the Ōura Ring to apps such as SleepCycle. It’s also a good idea to see how your improved sleep benefits your performance and mood. Track your workouts using apps such as Strava, MyFitnessPal or TrainingPeaks. (There is some great information on cycling trains apps and software on Bikemunk). Apps such as Inflow help track changes in mood so you can see what changes in your life make you feel good. Note down your goals so that you can see how important sleep is to achieving your goals. You can track the beneficial changes to your health by tracking your blood biomarkers.
Dr. Hugh Coyne