6 habits to improve sleep

6 habits to improve sleep

A good night's sleep is not only essential for battling those dark, puffy eye bags, it’s vital for our physical and mental wellbeing. Without sleep our brain cannot function properly, sleep allows our bodies to recharge and feel refreshed and alert when we wake. And when we’ve had a good night's rest, we really do wake up feeling like we can take on anything!

Here at Free Soul, we are obsessed with perfecting our night time routines and learning about factors that impact sleep, and along the way we’ve learnt some interesting things about sleep that we wanted to share with you.

The science of sleep

Adults typically need 7-8 hrs sleep a night in order to maintain bodily function and health. Our sleep cycle is made up of different stages and repeats multiple times throughout the night.

The 4 sleep stages: 

  • REM (rapid-eye-movement) 
  • Non-REM - which is broken down into 3 stages:
    -Falling asleep
    -Light sleep
    -Deep sleep

When we sleep, our body goes into recovery mode. Body temperature drops, breathing rate and heart rate slow down and hormones that control appetite are regulated, causing an imbalance in the body, which lowers leptin levels, causing an increase in appetite. (Explaining why you might feel more hungry the day after a bad night’s sleep!)

Sleep deprivation can have a significant impact on your physical and mental wellbeing, as you are not getting the restorative benefits of sleep. Long term sleep deprivation can also lead to chronic health problems such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Lifestyle habits and routines to improve your sleep quality and quantity 

  1. Routine, routine, routine

    As with all new habits, consistency is key! So, when trying to improve our sleep, forming a consistent sleep routine is essential. Sleep jet-lag is a real thing! Having late nights and lying in till mid-day on the weekends might feel necessary to maximise your social battery, but this can be detrimental to your sleep routine and will impact you through the week, when you are most likely to need good quality sleep. Aim to get up and go to bed at a similar time on the weekend as you do during the week! Equally, having a wind-down routine before bed, away from your phones and screens is important to help you relax before going to sleep. 

  2. Put down those devices

    Step away from the phones and limit your screen time for at least 30 mins-1 hr before you plan to go to sleep. The bright lights emitted from screens, suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle. Instead, invest in a new book, listen to a bedtime meditation or journal before bed.

  3. Limit caffeine and alcohol

    Alcohol and caffeine can have a big impact on your sleep, so it’s important to limit your intake before bed. The recommended guidelines suggest you should stop drinking caffeine 8hrs before bed. If you love a bedtime brew, try switching to herbal tea alternatives that are decaffeinated or hot water with lemon. Alcohol can impact your sleep quality throughout the night, so it’s important to regulate your alcohol intake during the week.

  4. Natural light exposure

    Our circadian rhythm is our natural internal clock and is determined by external factors such as light and dark. Which is why setting your circadian rhythm and getting out in the daylight first thing in the morning (where possible) is key to promoting a healthy sleep wake cycle. Try to spend time in natural light first thing in the morning, or alternatively go for a walk on your lunch break, this helps set your circadian rhythm and in-turn will improve your sleep.

  5. Keep a sleep diary

    If you are experiencing issues with your sleep quality, try keeping a sleep diary to track daily habits that could be impacting your sleep. There are some great apps that help you track your sleep and that even have sleep playlists and meditations to help you fall asleep.

  6. Create the perfect sleep conditions

    There are certain things you can do to improve your bedroom conditions to help you have a more restful night’s sleep. Firstly, temperature, your bedroom should be a cool 16-18 °C for optimum sleep. Keep your bedroom dark and limit light with black-out blinds or curtains. Make your bedroom a relaxing temple, tidy away any mess and spray some lavender spray to help you relax before bed. Finally, if you live in a particularly noisy area, try sleeping with ear plugs or playing a white noise app to help block out any noise distractions.

**At Free Soul, your wellbeing is our priority, and although we pride ourselves on our expertise in women's health and wellbeing, it is important to acknowledge the individuality of each person. Features published by Free Soul are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease, or replace the advice of your GP. We always recommend consulting with a healthcare provider if you encounter any health concerns, and we’ll always be here to support you so you’re never alone on your journey.