From having occasional difficulty sleeping, to full-blown insomnia, being sleep deprived is frustrating, exhausting and unhealthy.
We have got together with some of our health and wellbeing experts to create a series of tips which form our ultimate sleep rituals – how to improve your sleep, feel refreshed when you wake and remain alert throughout the day.
Nutrition Tips – Emma Olliff, Nutritionist
It’s best to avoid a number of foods and drinks for optimum sleep, including caffeine, alcohol and fast foods. Recommend considering adding the following into your diet to help you get that elusive, uninterrupted night’s sleep:
Cherry juice (full of antioxidants and shown to increase melatonin levels)
Kiwi fruit (again increasing melatonin – which should be secreted by the brain as soon as it starts to get dark outside. Maintaining optimal levels is key to making sure that you are able to fall asleep soundly)
Dark green leafy vegetables (full of magnesium which assists the conversion of tryptophans to melatonin)
All proteins rich in tryptophans, the amino acid used as the main building block for melatonin.
Yoga and Meditation Tips – James Giuseppi, Yoga Teacher
‘Beditation’ is a new buzz word – and refers to the concept of meditation and yoga before bed – winding down and relaxing your mind in order to achieve a better night’s sleep. It has achieved ‘official status’ since the NHS declared that the advantages of beditation have been clinically proven and that it’s the “ideal bedtime wind-down”.
Try and complete a selection of restorative poses daily (preferably during the afternoon or before bed). These poses are especially good for relaxation. Stay in each of these poses for at least 5 minutes. While you are in each pose it will help if you can try to ‘switch off’ your thoughts. It will help if you bring your attention therefore away to your own inhale and exhale, counting slowly with a deep 3-5 count on each inhale and exhale. This will help calm the mind, release tension and aid relaxation.
Take a reclining or inverted position whilst supporting your body with props (gather as many comfortable items as you can, such as a bolster, pillows, cushions, eye mask, blanket), creating a good alignment to relax and gently stretch muscles.
Legs up the wall pose (Vipariti kurani): Move to a clear wall and floor space and lie with your bottom as close as possible to the wall, lie in an ‘L shaped’ position, with your legs vertical up the wall and your back and head resting comfortably on the floor. Lie with backs of hands resting on the floor and inner elbows pointing upwards and breathe deeply.
Lying down ‘corpse’ pose (Savasana). This pose is usually practised at the end of a yoga class as final relaxation. Recline gently on your yoga mat and place your body in a neutral, balanced reclined position. Your legs should be straight but let them relax so that your feet turn out. If, however, it is more comfortable for your back, bend your legs with feet flat on the ground and gently let your knees fall together. Let your arms rest and relax by your side with palms facing upwards. You may want to place your head on a folded blanket for comfort. Try to relax the body all over, including the face, brow and tongue. You may like to place an eye mask over your eyes.
If you would like to watch some high quality sleep enhancing yoga and meditation classes streamed to wherever you are, we have teamed up with Movement for Modern Life that streams yoga and meditation classes direct to your laptop and are offering a 10% discount on any subscription service – just use the code HEALTHYHOLS to automatically get 10% off. See Sleep Well for classes tailored to help you sleep – from under 10 minutes to over 30 minutes.
Aromatherapy Oils – Frank Horstmann, Massage Therapist
Aromatherapy oils including lavender, clary sage, chamomile (Roman or German) and sweet marjoram can calm and relax the mind before sleep. Use them in a bath mixed with a ‘shot glass’ measure of full fat milk, or in a spray bottle filled with distilled water sprayed over your pillow and bed sheets.
Additional Sleep Environment Tips
Temperature is very important. We sleep better if the room is cooler than the body but it is also difficult to sleep if we are too cold so we need to find a balance. Drink something hot or have a warm bath for no more than 10-15 minutes before retiring – and if the temperature outside is chilly wear a hat, gloves and socks.
Consider wearing an eye mask to remove light stimulation – this also has an added benefit of applying a gentle and relaxing pressure to the forehead.
Use a mattress suited to your individual need and ensure pillows support your neck. If possible use bed linen made from natural fibres.
Turn off all electronic equipment at least 60mins before retiring; read a (real) book instead.
Avoid eating, watching TV and discussing emotional issues in bed as we learn to associate the bed with other activities – making it difficult to fall asleep.
Try not to drink fluids after 8 p.m. This may reduce awakenings due to urination.
Do not expose yourself to bright light if you need to get up at night. Use a small night-light instead.
Nicotine and caffeine (coffee, soda, tea and various over-the-counter medications) are stimulants and should be avoided particularly near bed time and upon night awakenings.
A light snack is sometimes good for inducing sleep but a heavy meal too close to bedtime interferes with sleep. Stay away from protein and stick to carbohydrates or dairy products.
Do not exercise vigorously just before bed.
Do not allow yourself to start planning and thinking about what needs doing the next day.
Find a Routine that Works for You
If possible, create a routine of waking, sleeping, eating and exercising at the same time every day – even weekends.
Allow yourself time for regular calm interludes during the day – meditate, participate in restorative yoga or take a 10 minute nap.
Sleep better programmes
Amonst the numerous health and wellbeing programmes that we recommend around the world, we also offer a selection of specialist programmes designed to help you achieve a good night’s sleep, including: