Man sleeping

The importance of a good night's sleep

There are four things we need to live; Air, Water, Food and Sleep. Sometimes sleep is forgotten about, but we all know how hard a working day can be after a bad night’s sleep and how the stresses and strains of work can lead to us struggling to drop off at bedtime. Here are some tips to help you to sleep better and feel healthier.

  • Have breakfast within half an hour of waking up; this will help your digestive system to start working and will mean you don’t crave sugar and caffeine all day.
  • Try to keep caffeine to a minimum and don't drink it after 3 o’clock. Caffeine is not only found in coffee, but also teas, soft drinks and energy drinks.
  • Don’t work too close to bedtime - if you try to go to sleep straight after you finish working then the quality of sleep will be poor as your body has not transitioned from work to rest mode. Leave at least an hour and a half between finishing work and going to bed.
  • As you get close to bedtime, reduce the amount of time you spend on blue screen devices. These include phones, tablets, computers and televisions. The blue light tells your body that it is still day time and stops the production of melatonin (the hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles).
  • Have a banana - bananas (and other foods such as nuts, turkey and cranberry) are rich in Tryptophan, which is an enzyme that helps your body produce melatonin. A banana an hour and a half before bed can be a great help.
  • Don’t clock watch - having a clock next to the bed can lead to you worrying about dropping off. Put the clock outside the room to reduce anxiety.
  • Watch something funny - comedy is great as it relaxes us and produces endorphins which help in the production of melatonin.
  • Baths or showers are great. They help you to relax and they are also an indicator to your body that it is time for sleep.
  • 4-7-8- this technique has had a lot of coverage in the papers recently. While lying in bed:

    1. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
    2. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
    3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
    4. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
    5. This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

The most important part of this process is holding your breath for seven seconds. This is because keeping the breath in will allow oxygen to fill your lungs and then circulate throughout the body. It is this that causes your body to relax.

Hope these tips help!

James Wilson is a sleep practitioner and sleep environment expert who works with companies to develop products and services that help people to sleep better. For more information, visit thesleepgeek.co.uk.

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