According to research from insurers Aviva, 48% of UK adults admit to not getting enough sleep. And, a study of approximately 15,000 people by bed specialists, Dreams, adds that 27.8% of respondents say they never wake up feeling refreshed. Given this, it’s unsurprising that Pinterest’s 2019 trends report shows that there are quite a few of us who are interested in making changes to sleep better. Searches for ‘sleep optimisation’ have increased by 116%. With a huge influence on our health, mood and caffeine intake, these people know that sleep shouldn’t be put in last place. We share four tips to improve and optimise your sleep, taking inspiration from a trend that we hope will be sticking around.
4 Sleep Optimisation Tips for a Better Night’s Rest
1. Create Consistent Sleep Times
Research by The Sleep Council reveals that 7% of us don’t have a regular bedtime and almost a fifth go to bed after midnight. According to Sleep.org, ‘our bodies crave consistency’. In other words, creating routines helps our bodies prepare for different activities or events. Prone to waking up at the same time or just before your alarm, even on weekends? That could indicate that your body has adjusted to your wake-up time and is making you feel more alert.
But, you don’t need to strive for a perfect sleep pattern, every single night. In conversation with Healthline, Michael Twery, PhD, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, reminds us that a few late nights here and there is normal, but, “if we’re regularly working against how our biology is organized, our bodies will find it hard to function”.
How, then, do you develop a consistent bedtime? Aside from exploring the following tips that discuss ways to wind down, Sleep.org recommends making gradual adjustments towards your ideal sleep and wake-up times. Adjust your bedtime by 15 minutes each day to give your body a chance to catch-up, rather than trying (and probably failing miserably) to get up at 6am straightaway.
2. Optimise Your Sleeping Space
While it’s fairly obvious, it’s worth mentioning that our sleeping environment affects our sleep quality. Factors that influence our sleep environment could be light, sound and temperature, among others.
The Sleep Council suggests a cool bedroom temperature of 16-18°C, as body heat reaches its highest levels in the evening and then drops to its lowest while we sleep. Light and dark can also impact your circadian rhythm (internal body clock). It’s advised to dim lights before bed and invest in some good curtains, or an eye mask. And if you’ve got noisy neighbours, it might be worth sourcing some earplugs.
3. Switch Off Your Screens
It’s not just lightbulbs that can interrupt our circadian rhythm, our smartphones and screens emit a blue light that can keep our bodies feeling alert. If you’re using your phone in bed, the blue light emitted emulates sunlight and suppresses the release of the hormone melatonin, which should increase naturally when we’re preparing to sleep.
Digital distractions, in the form of emails or other notifications, can also keep our minds feeling alert. Checking our phones before going to bed can extend the stress we try to leave in the office to our bedrooms, and prevent us from really switching off when we need to most. You may also feel stimulated or energised when replying to messages from friends.
It’s recommended to digital detox (stop using all forms of screens) one hour before going to sleep. Try charging your phone outside of your bedroom if you’re prone to checking it in the night or, on the flipside, if you tend to procrastinate getting up by checking your feeds first thing in the morning.
4. Design a Bedtime Ritual
If you’re not scrolling on your phone or watching TV, what else can you do with that last hour before bed? While many discuss the impact of a strong morning ritual, the importance of an evening routine can’t be overlooked.
When it comes to the topic of getting enough sleep, it’s almost impossible not to mention Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post and Thrive Global and author of The Sleep Revolution. After fainting with exhaustion in 2007, Arianna has become an ambassador for talking about sleep deprivation and encouraging the notion that to succeed, a good night’s sleep is incredibly important.
Talking to The Telegraph, Arianna claims, “I treat my transition to sleep as a sacrosanct ritual”. She turns off her digital devices at a certain time each evening before removing them from her bedroom. Later, she enjoys a hot bath with Epsom salts and a candle. And, finally, just before drifting off to sleep, she’ll focus on the things she’s grateful for at that moment. This mindful practice, according to Arianna, means that, “my blessings, not my worries, get the closing scene of the night.”
So, taking it from the sleep guru herself, a bedtime ritual doesn’t need to be overly complicated, just relaxing and respected every evening. Reading, yoga, meditation and physically keeping a gratitude journal are other popular choices.
In addition to a relaxing bedtime ritual, getting a good night’s sleep begins with working towards consistent sleep and wake times, optimising your bedroom environment and unplugging from screens. Ready to give these tips a try?
Discover more about slow living.