1. Be mindful of sugar
If you find yourself awake all night, tossing and turning, and would like to know how to sleep better, it’s time to look at what you eat before you go to bed.
While having a small amount of healthy carbs with your evening meal can actually be beneficial for sleep (it triggers the release of serotonin), eating meals high in sugar and refined carbohydrates late in the evening can lead to fluctuating blood sugar levels. Over time, this can lead to nocturnal hypoglycaemia, a condition in which low blood sugar in the middle of the night triggers a surge of adrenaline, disrupting your sleep. If you’re a late-night sugar bunny and find yourself regularly waking between 3-4am, try eliminating processed or added sugar and large amounts of fruit in the evening. Instead, try substituting in a smaller amount of healthy, whole food carbohydrate sources (like sweet potato, squash or brown rice) and focusing more on lean protein and fat to stabilise your blood sugar throughout the night.
2. Take a sleep supporting supplement
Herbal sleep aids can have a restorative, calming effect – without the side effects of over-the-counter sleep aids, like gut issues, poor mood and difficulty concentrating. In addition, pharmaceutical sleep aids are highly addictive. Non-habit-forming natural alternatives are the best sleep aid.
Passiflora, one of herbal medicine’s most treasured sleep aids, has been shown to improve sleep onset, duration and quality. Many herbal sleep aids also have synergistic effects, which can help have a knock-on benefit when it comes to mood. Both Passiflora and Valerian are natural anti-anxiolytics, meaning they’re used as a natural anti-anxiety. Since a high proportion of insomnia or sleep disturbances are linked to anxiety, using a support that will help address one of the root causes can help calm the mind and restore natural sleep cycles. Our go-to supplement is Artah’s Deep Sleep – a natural herbal formula designed to help you switch off and sleep through.
3. Treat the gut
The health of our gut microbiome affects almost every biological process – and our sleep/wake cycle is no exception. Bacteria in the gut communicate with cells that produce sleep related hormones and neurotransmitters like Serotonin. We all know Serotonin as the happy hormone, but it’s also the precursor to melatonin – our main sleep hormone. Upwards of 80%+ of serotonin is made in the gut, and our bacterial balance is crucial to this process. When the gut is off, so is the production of this vital soothing hormone. The gut also influences the production of GABA, B vitamins and Melatonin, all of the sleep essentials. So how can you influence your gut balance? Avoid antibiotics unless absolutely necessary and aim to remove processed food, excess sugar and cut back on alcohol.
Studies have shown that eating wild fermented food regularly (think 4 servings per week) and getting a high variety of prebiotic plant foods can improve microbial diversity dramatically. Great prebiotic foods include things like artichoke, jicama, dandelion greens, chicory root, asparagus, banana, barley and oats.
4. Avoid late night eating
Digestion takes energy, and with modern eating habits, we’re often loading our digestive system up with our biggest meal right when we’re supposed to be winding down. Eating late at night can interfere with the hormonal cascade that activates our natural sleep cycle, cause fluctuating blood sugar levels, and because the body is spending energy on digestion rather than its usual cellular detoxification and repair, can often result in a less restorative sleep. Aim to leave about 3 hours between your evening meal and your bedtime, or if this isn’t possible, try to have a light dinner that is easy to digest.
5. Watch out for rebound insomnia
Rebound insomnia is on the rise, but the good news is it’s totally preventable. What is it? Rebound insomnia is caused by too much alcohol late in the evening. While alcohol can feel immediately calming because of its depressive effects, its effects are far more disruptive to the metabolism than you may think. Alcohol suppresses glutamate, which is an excitatory neurotransmitter (making us feel calm, but as alcohol is metabolised, we produce a rebound surge of glutamate, which can disrupt sleep and contribute to anxiety. If you’re going through a poor sleep spell and are wondering how to get better deep sleep, cutting back or eliminating regular evening alcohol consumption will allow you to catch up on that much needed restorative sleep.
6. Say no to screens
By now we all probably know that screen time in the evening is a major disruptor to sleep, but it’s probably the thing we’re the most reluctant to cut back on. Blue light is a potent suppressor of melatonin, and late night exposure can shift our circadian rhythm by up to 3 hours – meaning we miss out on those highly restorative hours of sleep between 12-3am. If you find avoiding screens too difficult to commit to every night, but would like to learn how to sleep better, start with baby steps. Try implementing some yin yoga or stretching a few nights a week to start with and notice what it does to your sleeping pattern. You can also invest in protective blue light glasses or light therapy boxes to help ensure you’re combatting your screen time.
7. Stay in sync with your body’s sleep-wake cycle
Do you spend a lot of time lying awake at night thinking about how to get to sleep fast, without taking prescription sleep aids?
One effective strategy to help you nod off quicker is to ensure you stick to a regular sleep-wake cycle - going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Yes, even on weekends!
Our body’s have a natural circadian rhythm, or body clock, that runs in 24 hour cycles and tells us when to sleep, eat, wake up and more. Getting in sync with this natural cycle can help you sleep better and wake up feeling more refreshed. If you have a late night followed by a long lie in, the chances are that despite sleeping for the same amount of time, you will feel much more groggy than usual. This is because you are disrupting your body’s natural clock. Sticking to regular bedtimes is key to better sleep and preventing morning grogginess.
8. Wind down and relax before going to bed
The stresses from our everyday lives can make getting to sleep a challenge. We often go to bed with our minds churning and worrying about what the next day will bring. Learning how to sleep better with anxiety can be difficult and there is no quick fix. But there are definitely a number of pre-bedtime habits you can adopt to promote relaxation and sleepiness. Here are a few tips from us:
- Identify the main causes of stress in your life and consider whether there is anything you can do to minimise the effect on you.
- Develop a relaxing bedtime routine that includes calming activities, such as a warm bath, reading, listening to a podcast or audiobook.
- Journalling can help ensure you don’t take your anxious thoughts with you to bed.
- Use a weighted blanket which can reduce stress and anxiety to help you get a more restorative sleep.
9. Optimise your bedroom environment
Creating a calming bedroom environment is crucial to helping you get into the right frame of mind for sleeping. This could involve:
- Dimming the lights and blocking out any light from external sources outside. Avoiding screens is a must! As the blue light they emit will contribute to wakefulness.
- Wearing ear plugs to prevent noise from the outside world from disrupting your sleep. According to research, noise from traffic can significantly reduce the quality of sleep and negatively impacts mood.
- Ensuring the temperature of your bedroom is comfortable and neither too hot or too cold. Research suggests that elevated body and bedroom temperature reduces sleep quality and increases the likelihood of waking during the night.
- Spring cleaning your bedroom to make it a nice clutter free environment. Mess equals stress!
- Burning some calming essential oils or candles that promote relaxation.
10. Have more bright light exposure in the daytime
Getting adequate amounts of sunlight during the day can help keep your circadian rhythm on track and improve your sleep at night. According to one study on people with insomnia, exposure to bright light improves sleep quality and reduces the time taken to fall asleep by 83%.
If possible, try to get outside daily and soak up some sunlight. However, we know this can be hard in the winter, especially in the UK. Sunning yourself in front of an artificial bright light can be a great alternative to natural sunlight and still provides the same benefits.
11. Avoid caffeine after mid-day
Do you want to know how to get more deep sleep? One way is to watch your coffee intake! Caffeine is a nervous system stimulant that boosts energy and improves our focus. While caffeine can be helpful to get us through our busy days, if consumed late in the day it may interfere with your ability to sleep properly.
According to research, caffeine remains in your bloodstream for 6-8 hours. Therefore consuming it in the afternoon has been found to significantly impact quality of sleep, due to its stimulatory effects on the body that prevent you from relaxing. Decaf coffee can be a great alternative for times that you crave that delicious coffee taste!
12. Avoid irregular and long daytime naps
As glorious as a daytime nap may be, unfortunately it can negatively affect your sleep. This is because sleeping in the daytime disrupts your body’s natural body clock and plays havoc on your sleep cycles. Although short power naps that last no longer than 30 minutes are considered beneficial to health, as they promote wakefulness and improve brain function.
However some people find they are able to take naps during the day and sleep completely fine at night. If you find napping beneficial, then go right ahead! But if you struggle to sleep at night, it is recommended to stick to regular sleep-wake cycles.
13. Exercise often, but not before bed
Exercise is well known for its positive effect on sleep. Regular moderate to vigorous exercise helps reduce the length of time it takes to fall asleep and improves quality of sleep. It can be especially beneficial for those suffering with sleep problems, like insomnia.
However, exercising in the evening can make it harder to get to sleep at night. This is because exercise stimulates the release of a number of hormones, such as adrenaline, that increase wakefulness and energy. Which is why exercising in the morning can be most beneficial for those with sleep problems, as it helps you wake up, whilst also promoting a better night’s sleep.
14. Avoid drinking liquids before bed
Nothing is more annoying than being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night by the urgent need to urinate. Frequent waking for bathroom breaks also disrupts your sleep and can lead to daytime sleepiness.
To prevent this from happening, try to limit your fluid intake 1-2 hours before going to bed. And always make sure you visit the bathroom before you fall asleep.
15. Get a comfortable bed and bedding
The key to a good night’s sleep is comfort. If you find yourself tossing and turning, trying to get comfortable for hours on end, it might be time to consider a new mattress and bedding. It is recommended that your bedding should be replaced every 5-8 years.
According to one study, people that were prescribed a new mattress for 28 days had reduced shoulder and back pain and quality of sleep was improved by 60%. While another study reveals that top quality bedding is also essential for a good night’s rest.
View our bedding range to help you sleep better.