How To Get A Better Night's Sleep

By Farzana Rahman
 Credit: Jackman Chiu

Credit: Jackman Chiu

This is an article that we wrote that was featured in Mantra Magazine's July/August Issue. We were thrilled to be part of this brilliant magazine.

 

Let’s Talk About Sleep

When it comes to sleep the conversation is shifting. Gone are the days of CEOs boasting about how they sleep less than 5 hours a night. Nowadays, we have our own Arianna Huffington writing books about it.

Yet, why does sleep still feel like an inconvenient indulgence we partake in on special occasions? Frankly, most of us have jam-packed days where we’re running short on time. By the time we’re ready to hit the hay, we find ourselves lying awake, ironically remembering an article about the importance of sleep.

So how can we practically improve the quality of our sleep? There is a deluge of information out there but here are the tips we find helpful:

 

Set a bedtime alarm

This can be a helpful reminder to go to bed earlier. I tried this for a month and it worked for me. The aim was to remind me to start winding down and stop watching cat videos on Youtube. After a week, I found that I naturally started to slow down and no longer needed the alarm. I also realised that I was as predictable as a Pavlovian dog.

 

Dim the lights

Devices can interfere with our circadian rhythms due to the blue spectrum light that they contain. This blue light disrupts the production of melatonin, a hormone produced in the brain that regulates our natural rhythms.

We can help regulate sleep by dimming the lights in our homes in the evening. This harks back to pre-electricity days when homes were lit by candles (and a trip to the outside bathroom could result in getting eaten by a wolf – not all progress is bad).

 

Carbs and sleep

The humble carbohydrate has been much maligned over the last few years and advice about its effect is mixed. Some advocate avoiding simple carbohydrates before bed as they cause a blood sugar spike. However, one study found the opposite; complex carbs hastened sleep and boosted tryptophan and serotonin, chemicals involved in sleep.

The best thing is to be aware of what works for you – when you eat a plate of pasta in the evening do you feel like drifting off or just lie there tossing and turning?

 

Avoid alcohol

This seems counter-intuitive in some ways. It’s obvious that necking Espresso Martinis will not help you sleep, but what about red wine? Surely that’s good and isn’t it a sedative? Plus, don’t the French drink a lot of red wine and aren’t we all supposed to be more like the French? The short answer is, no. Although alcohol can make you sleepy it shortens REM sleep, which is needed for a restful night’s sleep. Both red and white wine do contain melatonin but the effects of alcohol on REM sleep outweigh these effects.

 

Stop Thinking About Sleep

This is perhaps the most important tip. When you’re lying in bed awake at 4am, thinking about being exhausted can induce extreme anxiety. In sleep clinics, you are taught to let go of any expectations. To stop counting the number of hours you’ve been awake and how many hours sleep you aim to get.

It is important to remember that we are resilient creatures and that if we miss a night’s sleep we will readjust and make up for it later. The more you can relax, the better you will sleep.