By Amira Hashish
As we kick off the year our minds are abuzz with what lies ahead and the goals we hope to achieve. Coupled with the cold days and dark nights of winter and the tyranny of getting back on that treadmill, it’s little wonder that insomnia has a tendency to rear its ugly head during these months. The weight of the pandemic adds an extra layer of discomfort.
The power of sleep is not to be underestimated. It is a vital ingredient of our physical and mental health. Leading medical spa Lanserhof, which has retreats in Austria and Germany, takes sleep very seriously, explaining it is essential for tissue repair, cell regeneration, the immune system and memory functioning. “When people are sleep deprived or develop a persistent sleep disorder, the consequences include loss of energy, drowsiness, impaired concentration or memory and disturbed mood. Inadequate sleep has been associated with increased risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes and the risk of developing anxiety or depression,” say the experts.
Getting a good night’s rest is easier said than done but there are ways you can improve your cycle. Here are some essential steps.
Let There Be Light
The more sunlight the merrier. When our bodies release the happiness hormone serotonin there is a direct correlation with the elimination of stress. Several studies associate low levels of vitamin D in your blood leading to a higher risk of sleep disturbances and reduced sleep duration.
Natural and artificial light absorption helps your body to stay more alert during the day whilst increasing the quality of your sleep in the evenings. Small changes can help; try to go for a walk outside during your lunch break or use a lamp with a daylight bulb at your desk. Use natural sunlight to wake up where possible or a device that simulates this.
Dr Victoria Revell, a senior lecturer in translational sleep and circadian physiology, outlines the significance of our circadian rhythms: “The duration, timing and quality of our sleep are determined by two different processes – our sleep homeostat and our circadian clock. The sleep homeostat acts like a timer with sleepiness accumulating during the day the longer we are awake. The circadian clock drives 24-hour rhythms in nearly all aspects of our physiology and behaviour, including our sleep-wake patterns, and determines the timing of our sleep. Light is the most powerful stimulus for synchronising our circadian clock to the 24-hour day.”
Adapt Your Diet
A varied diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and dairy is ideal. Avoid caffeine, fizzy drinks and alcohol from late afternoon. You may also consider introducing a supplement which includes melatonin (a man-made version of the hormone that controls your sleep patterns) such as Lanserhof’s Beauty Sleep.
Wellness brand RAIN harnesses the power of the botanical world to help people find calm and balance. CBD is a key ingredient. According to RAIN: “The boom in popularity for CBD stems from both scientific research and substantial anecdotal and experiential reporting to suggest that it has beneficial effects in helping to alleviate anxiety and stress, reducing inflammation, as well as improving mood and sleep.”
Establish a Routine
Eye health specialist and ophthalmologist Alastair Lockwood at Feel Good Contacts encourages consistency with your patterns: “No matter what time you go to bed, wake up at the same time every day as much as possible. Having a consistent bedtime will help you to sleep better because your body will start to get tired on cue. After a while of doing this you might find that you naturally wake up just before your alarm. Even if you don’t always manage to stick to your routine, the more you can do it, the better.”
As well as helping to reduce anxiety, which can impact the ability to nod off, exercise can cause changes in your core body temperature. According to the Sleep Foundation: “During exercise your body increases its temperature, and afterwards your body’s temperature drops. That drop in temperature mimics a similar temperature change that happens before you fall asleep, when your body cools down in the evening in preparation for rest. The similarity between these changes may signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep.”
It is all too tempting to check those emails or see who’s doing what on Instagram just as we should be winding down but the issue isn’t just that you are keeping your mind active. Our screens emit a type of blue light which keeps us awake and boosts reaction times by suppressing the release of melatonin. Your body’s natural circadian rhythm is disrupted and you are tricked into thinking it is still daytime. So it’s a big no go for electronic devices, including the television, at least half an hour before bedtime.
Set the Bedroom Tone
A clutter-free space with a soothing smell and cool temperature (apparently 18C is spot on) can work wonders. Add an excellent mattress and pillow to the mix. Bed manufacturer Hypnos emphasises that choosing the right fillings in your bed and bedding can help regulate your body’s temperature to keep your cooler at night. Natural, sustainable fibres promote healthy air flow and wick away moisture, helping achieve that good night’s rest.
HOME ACCESSORIES & APPS FOR A DREAMY NIGHT’S SLEEP
Lumie Bodyclock Luxe: £199, lumie.com
Bramley Sleep Spray: £16, bramleyproducts.co.uk (Become a member of BBB to receive 20% off)
The Morphée sleep aid: £79, evesleep.co.uk
RAIN CLOUD CBD pen: £40, raincbd.co.uk
1001 Remedies Sleep Balm: £29, 1001remedies.com (20% off for BBB Members)
The Dual Pillow: £52, melacomfort.co.uk
BetterYou Sleep Bundle: £24.95, betteryou.com (15% off for BBB Members)
Headspace sleepcast: start with a free trial, headspace.com
Calm Sleep Stories: download the app with a 30 day free trial from the BBB Boutique, calm.com/sleep
*Click here to become a BBB Member and take advantage of these amazing discounts!