Today is World Sleep Day, an annual celebration dedicated to raising awareness of sleep health around the globe. Getting enough quality sleep can do wonders for our physical and mental health and boost our quality of life, bringing us onto this year’s theme – Quality Sleep, Sound Mind, Happy World. Yet with all this knowledge around sleep, 53% of people surveyed in the UK admit that they probably don’t get enough shut eye.
So, if you’ve been tossing and turning for too long, and want to know what to do about it, read on to discover our top tips for a restful night’s sleep.
Create the right environment
Environmental conditions such as light, temperature and noise all play a significant role in our ability to get quality sleep. If possible, use blackout blinds or curtains to make your room dark at night and avoid screen time approximately one hour before bed. A 2011 study found that when we use a phone or laptop before bed, the artificial light emitted from these devices confuses our brain into thinking it’s time to wake by suppressing melatonin, the hormone that controls our sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm).
Another factor that can affect our quality of sleep is the air around us. Indoor air quality can particularly impact our health and wellbeing as we’re exposed to it more often. Pollutants like dust, mould, pollen, pet fur and allergens circulate in the air we breathe inside. Designed with your comfort in mind, many of our homes feature MVHR (Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery) systems, a sustainable way to ventilate your property. These work by providing a continuous source of ventilation to the home, extracting stale, moist air from inside and resupplying fresh, filtered air back in so you can enjoy cleaner, healthier air, all year long.
Who doesn’t love a good cup of coffee? However, that delicious frothy beverage may be hindering your ability to sleep. Most often consumed in drinks, caffeine is a natural psychoactive substance which can have energising and alertness-promoting effects. According to Cleveland Clinic, six hours after caffeine is consumed, half of it is still in your body, and it can take up to 10 hours for caffeine to completely clear from your bloodstream. This means if you consume a caffeinated drink in the afternoon, it could keep you up at night. To combat this, we recommend avoiding caffeinated drinks after 2pm. If you’re still craving your coffee fix, why not opt for a decaffeinated alternative from Roar Gill, an eco-friendly coffee provider who uses only recyclable packaging materials and compostable coffee pods.
Get into a routine
Humans are creatures of habit, so if you want to improve your chances of some quality shut eye, creating a bedtime routine could be the answer. Our circadian clock naturally begins to wind down a few hours before bedtime, so to make this process more effective, set a sleep and wake up time and try and stick to it each day. Following a consistent routine helps train our brain to naturally feel tired when it’s bedtime. Another way to promote a great night’s sleep is by having a nice warm bath 60-90 minutes before bed. Research shows that the warming up and cooling down effect from the bath water changes our bodies’ core temperature, making us feel ready for bed – tricking the body into thinking it has gone from daytime into night-time. As mentioned, avoiding screentime before bed is important to achieving a restful night’s sleep, so why not ditch those electronics for a good book? Research shows that bedtime reading reduces stress because your mind is distracted from your own thoughts and daily worries, accelerating the time it takes for you to fall asleep.
There is nothing worse than going to bed on a full stomach or waking up hungry. To avoid playing havoc with your sleep, avoid heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime. Research shows that eating late at night can affect both sleep quality and the body’s natural release of melatonin. That said, going to bed hungry won’t help you either so if you’re still craving a bite to eat, consider a light healthy snack such as yoghurts, nuts, and wholemeal crackers.
Many studies have found that incorporating regular exercise into your lifestyle can do great things for your sleep. According to Hopkins Medicine, moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of deep sleep we get, though there is still some debate as to what time of day is best to exercise. Aerobic exercise causes the body to release endorphins and raises our core body temperature which can keep some people awake. To avoid this, limit strenuous exercise at least 2 hours before bedtime.
On the flip side, practicing yoga before bedtime may actually improve the quality and duration of your sleep. Great for both body and mind, this ancient practice is associated with many positive wellness benefits including reducing stress, supporting healthy habits, improving mental/emotional health and in this case, sleep. Always designed with flexible open plan living spaces and high ceilings where possible, our homes offer the perfect yoga environment, emphasising the openness of the home while promoting air flow needed for exercise. For those with more severe sleeping difficulties, a 2019 study found that practicing yoga can even help people manage symptoms of insomnia.
When we’re worried about something, getting into bed can sometimes make us feel worse as we focus on the many thoughts circling around our head. Knowing how to manage stress can be a saviour for our sleep and kill off any vicious cycles we’re in if we’re armed with the right tools to do so. If your thoughts are racing at 100 miles per hour with everything you need to do tomorrow, sit down and put it all on paper. A 2018 study found that writing a to-do list before bed may reduce the time it takes to drift off to sleep, allowing the brain to “dump” all the items it’s trying to keep track of, promoting a clearer mind and subsequently, better sleep.
Meditation is another good relaxation technique, especially when done before bedtime. Sleep problems often stem from stress and worry but meditation is known to improve our relaxation response. According to Healthline, meditation increases melatonin (the sleep hormone) and serotonin (the feel-good hormone), reduces heart rate and blood pressure and activates areas of the brain that control sleep. Meditation doesn’t need to be a lengthy commitment – just 5 minutes of practice a day can help quiet your mind. If you’re looking for a good place to start, why not download a free trial of the Calm or Headspace app, both named by The New York Times as ‘The best meditation apps’ in 2021.