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How to Boost Your Sleep Hygiene for a Better Night’s Rest
Can’t sleep? You’re not the only one. Research shows that more than one third of adults sleep less, on average, than the recommended seven hours or more per night, with another study suggesting 10% to 15% of people experience chronic insomnia that impacts their day-to-day life.  Sleep struggles can feel isolating, lonely and like a never ending challenge, but just a few simple changes to your routine to boost your sleep hygiene could make all the difference and have you snoozing in no time.  To help you improve your sleep hygiene for a better night’s rest, we spoke to Sleep & Health Coach Annika Carroll. Here Annika shares her top tips for building healthy habits that will help you to sleep better. What is sleep hygiene?  Sleep hygiene refers to the environment you sleep in and your behaviours. This includes, for example, how hot or cool your bedroom is at night or what you do in the hours before bed. Poor sleep hygiene can include the likes of answering emails in bed late at night or having a bedroom that’s too bright and impacts the production of your sleep hormones. Drinking caffeine late in the day or eating a heavy meal before bed can also have a negative effect on your sleep.  But, it’s not just about what you do in the hours before bed that determines how healthy your sleep routine is. In fact, everything you do from the moment you wake up contributes to your sleep hygiene and will determine how easy you find it to fall asleep each night. “Everything we do throughout the day either adds to our ‘sleep account’ or subtracts from it. What we do one or two hours before bed is important, but it is just one piece of our sleep puzzle,” Annika explains.   How to boost sleep hygiene  Set a wind down alarm  This is your sign to put your phone away and start winding down for the evening. When you’re stressed your nervous system activates your fight or flight response. This causes your stress hormones to be released and your heart rate and breathing rate to increase. Not quite how you want to feel before bed! Instead, focus on calming activities like reading a book, practising a sleep meditation or relaxing under a weighted blanket. These will help to activate the nervous system’s rest and digest response (aka your relaxation response). If you can, avoid using your phone as you start to wind down. “Our phones emit blue light, which can interfere with the release of our sleep hormone and make it more difficult for us to fall asleep and stay asleep,” explains Annika. “Also, the content we consume (think: work emails and social media) can trigger the nervous system and raise our stress hormones, which will then make it more challenging to fall asleep.”  If you find it difficult to wind down and switch off, consider incorporating a sleep supplement into your daily routine. Our Relax Capsules contain research-backed ingredients that help reduce stress, promote relaxation and help you get a great night's sleep. An easy way to get a little more chill into your life.  Keep your bedroom dark and cool Natural light regulates our body clock and signals to our brain when it’s time to wake up and time to sleep. Melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep, is released in the absence of light, so it’s important to keep your bedroom as dark as possible with blackout curtains or wear a sleep mask to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. “You should also cover up lights on smoke detectors, TVs, air conditioners or anything that might disturb your sleep,” Annika says. It’s also recommended that you keep your bedroom around 16-18°C for the optimal sleep conditions as if you’re too hot or too cold you’ll not only feel restless, but it will impact your body temperature and make it harder to fall asleep.  Take breaks throughout the day   Now you know that everything you do from the moment you wake up until the moment you lay your head on the pillow will impact how you sleep, consider getting outside within the first hour minutes of waking up for a dose of natural sunlight. This will help to regulate the circadian rhythm (aka your sleep-wake cycle) and signal to the body that it’s time to wake up. “This helps your body set its inner clock, so it will release cortisol - our awake hormone - and set the timer to release melatonin - our sleep hormone - in 14 to 16 hours. That way, you will have more energy throughout the day and fall asleep easier at night.”  It’s also important to take regular breaks throughout your day to regulate your stress hormones and give yourself the opportunity to reflect. “If we don't give our brains a break throughout the day, we start processing experiences and emotions from the day as soon as our head hits the pillow,” Annika explains. “Taking small breaks throughout the day to enjoy the sun or sit for a moment in silence is really helpful.” You don’t have to meditate to take a moment to relax (although we recommend it!), instead you can pick an activity you really enjoy whether that’s reading, walking or stretching.  Cut caffeine after lunch  We know you’ll have heard this one time and time again, but hear us out, reducing your caffeine intake can do wonders for your sleep. And there’s a science to it. Let us explain: when you drink a cup of coffee or an energy drink with caffeine, it will help you to feel more awake and alert because it blocks adenosine, a sleep-inducing chemical that builds up in your body throughout the day to ensure you feel sleepy in the evening. However, caffeine has a half-life of around five hours, that means that it takes five hours for the effects of caffeine to wear off and leave your system. “If you have a cup of coffee at 3pm, about half of that cup could still be in your body at 8pm and a quarter at 1am,” Annika explains. “Moving caffeine intake to earlier in the day is a good idea to help improve your sleep as it will allow its effects to wear off before bed.”  Want to go caffeine-free but still boost your energy throughout the day? Check out our five top tips for naturally upping your energy levels. You can thank us later…  Keep your blood sugar stable  If you find yourself waking up in the night, it could be down to what you’re eating during the day. “Night wakings can indicate your blood sugar is too low,” explains Annika. “If your blood sugar drops too much overnight, your body releases cortisol to wake you up.” To avoid this happening, make sure you eat balanced meals throughout the day. “Ensure your meals include whole foods, protein, healthy fats, and vegetables, and avoid processed foods and foods high in sugar,” Annika advises.  If you struggle to meet your daily protein targets, try our range of protein blends. Each one contains a different combination of research-backed natural ingredients, nootropics and adaptogens. They're also free from soy, gluten, fillers and GMO nasties. Whatever your goal, we have a protein blend to help! What to do if you wake up in the middle of the night  We’ve all been there, lying awake at 3am counting down the hours until the alarm goes off. So, what should you do if you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep? Well, it might sound counterproductive but it’s best to get out of bed and leave your bedroom so you can re-set.  “Do something that’s not too stimulating, such as reading a book, journaling or watching a little TV,” suggests Annika. “Avoid turning on bright lights; keep them dim and once you feel tired again, go back to bed. This way, your brain doesn't associate the bed with worrying and being awake.”  If you find getting out of bed makes you feel even more awake, try a visualisation meditation to help your mind relax and help you drift back off to sleep. Instead of counting sheep, Annika suggests visualising a place that brings you joy in great detail. “For example, you could see yourself walking on the beach, think about how the sun feels on your shoulders, and how the sand feels on your toes. The more detail, the better. This can help you relax and fall back asleep.”  Read more
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