Updated: Oct 13, 2020
So, does it really matter how much sleep you get, or is it the quality of sleep you get more important?
What I always tell my clients (and it applies to many things, not just sleep) is quality over quantity. We all know the feeling after a night of tossing and turning - it doesn't matter how early you went to bed, you still feel rubbish the next day. Which is exactly why, when it comes to sleep, you should focus on how well you slept not how long you slept for.
Want to know how to get better quality sleep? Just follow these 10 simple steps...
1. Block off some wind-down time. Try setting an alarm to start winding down 1 hour before bed. This really helps me stay consistent, and ensures that I get to bed on time, and at a similar time each night.
2. Get into a bedtime routine. What happens when your kids get out of their normal bedtime routine? You pay the price in the middle of the night or the next day. So why would it be any different for ourselves? Do something that tells your body its time for bed - I love to read a good book in bed as it always makes me nice and sleepy. You could have a bath or listen to a podcast. Whatever you do, make sure it's something you look forward to, and that it's something that prepares you for sleep.
3. Limit your light exposure. Dim the lights a couple of hours before you go to bed. Maybe you could light a candle instead? Low light levels helps you produce melatonin, which is the hormone that makes you feel sleepy and keeps you asleep all the way through the night.
4. Get rid of all tech. Try to use phones and computers as little as possible before bed because the blue light they produce blocks melatonin, and disturbs your sleep. It's also a good idea to keep tech out of sight when you go to sleep - you could invest in an alarm clock instead of your phone alarm? Sometimes, like me, you really need to use your phone before bed, so try an app that reduces blue light.
5. Wake up at the same time everyday. Find a wake-up time you can stick to. Having a regular wake-up time keeps your body in a rhythm, and helps you fall asleep and wake up more easily. If you lie-in on the weekends, make sure it is not for more than an hour extra or you risk messing up your sleep for the whole week.
6. Lower your body temp. Sleeping in a cool room helps you fall asleep faster because it increases the release of melatonin. You could also try lowering your body temperature by taking a cool shower or using a cool flannel before bed (but not too cold or you will shock your body!).
7. Kickstart your body clock in the mornings. Good sleep starts in the morning (I know, it sounds odd but its true!). Early morning sunlight increases body temperature, alertness, and boosts serotonin, which improves both your mood and your sleep too. When I struggle to wake up in the mornings, I always find some early morning sunshine helps me wake up more easily, and I sleep better that night too. Can you fit a morning walk into your routine? Maybe you could sit by a window or take your a breaks outside? Another way to sync your circadian rhythm/body clock is to eat or exercise within your first waking hour.
8. Try Lavender. I absolutely love lavender - not only does it smell amazing, it also helps to lower your blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature, which are all things that help you sleep better (win-win!).
9. Reduce stress. Don't you find it harder to sleep when you're stressed? That because cortisol (the stress hormone) interferes with your melatonin production. Stress also puts your brain on high-alert hence why you may find it hard to shut off your thoughts properly at night. Check out last week’s blog on ways to manage stress here.
10. Be tactical about caffeine. Everyone knows to avoid caffeine before bed but did you know caffeine can still have an effect on your sleep 6 hours after consumption? So try to avoid that caffeine-fix late in the afternoon. Can't go without your after-dinner coffee? Switch to decaf -there are actually lots of decaf options that taste (nearly) as good as the real thing!
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