Many of us are guilty of poor sleep habits, spending every hour of the day (and then some) in a perpetually connected and active state. By the time the morning alarm starts to beep, many of us will regret how long we stayed up the night before, checking emails or trawling the Internet.
It’s not just the fact that we feel a bit groggy with lack of sleep, our core ability to function properly is hijacked. Expert sleep advisor for Warren Evans bed makers, Dave Gibson BSC says:
“Our short-term memory, our ability to plan and to make decisions and rational judgements are all affected by lack of sleep. So you are much more likely to stick to a new diet, stop smoking, get fit or generally be more organised when your brain and body is well rested from continuous and good quality sleep.”
We have some top tips to help you prepare for losing an hour since the clocks went forward on Sunday 26th March – or any lack of sleep, especially if you need a boost to get going.
Get to sleep more quickly…
Eat to sleep
When it’s near sleep time, our bodies start to produce the hormone melatonin, which causes that sleepy feeling and tells our bodies to start winding down Certain foods contain an amino acid called tryptophan, a precursor to melatonin, and so can help to send you on your way to the land of nod. Tryptophan is in a host of foods including turkey, nuts and seeds, and dairy foods and is best absorbed when eaten with carbohydrate. Yoghurt and honey for breakfast and a turkey sandwich for lunch will all help your body to absorb more Tryptophan during the day. Tart (Montmorency) Cherries are another great food to eat as they contain their own source of Melatonin. If you fancy a snack before bed, bananas are a great fruit to eat as they contain tryptophan and the minerals potassium and magnesium which can help your muscles to relax. If you fancy a drink before bed milk and honey is another great combination.
Don’t drink alcohol to help get you to sleep
Whilst alcohol can help relax us and get us to sleep quicker, it disrupts our REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep leading to a reduced quality of sleep. REM sleep is when we dream and is also the part of our sleep cycle when our brain is restored and detoxed.
Take a nap during the day
A nap is a good way to top up any lost sleep but be careful to work with your natural sleep patterns. Our bodies are brilliant, when given the chance, at healing a sleep ‘debt’. Just make sure it works with your body’s natural sleep habits, a 90 minute nap should work, giving you one full circuit of your sleep cycle. However don’t try to make up just the full hour with a 60 minute nap as this would mean you wake in the middle of the deep part of your sleep cycle and end up feeling groggy. If you can’t manage 90 minutes, set the alarm for a 20 minute power nap instead. Find somewhere quiet, set an alarm and get snoozing!
Drink green tea rather than coffee
Caffeine is a great energy booster after a bad night’s sleep. A lot of us drink coffee early to wake up in the morning, and then hopefully ease off it by midday so that our bodies start to relax when it’s bedtime. Caffeine can take up to six hours to leave your body! Green tea however is a great alternative to coffee, containing around half of the caffeine. More importantly green tea also contains theanine an amino acid which helps us relax and reduces anxiety, and therefore can help us get to sleep more easily at night. Perhaps the best of both worlds?
Sunlight is our body’s natural alarm clock, which is why we naturally wake up when it gets brighter in the mornings. Our bodies take the presence of sunlight as a sign to stop producing melatonin, the sleep hormone, which will help you to feel more awake. Open the curtains when you wake up and, if you’re feeling tired in the daytime, try to get outside in the day for a short walk.
About Dave Gibson: Dave has been practising as a Naturopath and Osteopath for over 15 years in London NW3, he is also a qualified hypnotherapist. He has worked on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing as their osteopath and provides naturopathic advice across a wide range of conditions to promote good sleep patterns and quality sleep.
He has a diploma in Naturopathy and a BSC (1st Class Hons) in Osteopathy – during which he came top of his class four years out of four which has only been done one other time in 100 years! Dave qualified as a hypnotherapist under the Marisa Pier School and specialises in sleep and weight-loss.
Dave also works as the resident sleep expert for Warren Evans, the bed company, on their mattresses and also has a special interest in natural remedies for sleep and sleep patterns.