7 Healthy Habits for a Restorative Sleep

7 Healthy Habits for a Restorative Sleep

Author -  Good Health

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1. Go to bed at the same time each night

Creating a bedtime routine will help your sleep hormones regulate so that you not only drift off to sleep quickly, but wake feeling revived. It is recommended that you go to sleep before midnight as your stress hormone cortisol level begins to rise from around 2am. If you stay up past midnight you may feel as though you have a ‘second wind’ but this is due to the increase in cortisol. It is believed the ideal time to sleep is between 10pm and 6am. If you find you cannot get to sleep once in bed, make sure the room is dimly lit, then take the time to write down everything that is running through your mind. Putting your thoughts on paper can help you disconnect from them, allowing your mind to relax and your body to unwind.

2. Notice the sun each morning

As soon as the sun begins to rise, expose yourself to the natural light. Whether it is simply noticing the sunrise, stepping outside, or going for a walk in the sun, light reduces our sleep hormone melatonin and increases our happy and calm hormone serotonin. The natural fall in melatonin and rise in serotonin also helps to regulate the natural rise and fall of cortisol, so that it peaks in the morning and reduces throughout the day.

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3. Eliminate blue light exposure at least 2 hours before bed

The production of our sleep hormone melatonin is inhibited by the exposure of blue light from devices such as phones, computers and TVs. If you text, read an electronic book or watch TV before bed, the blue light may be affecting your quality of sleep. Natural dim light from lamps and candles may be a gentler way to unwind and get into a better frame of mind for sleep, which helps us to connect to our circadian rhythm. In the evenings, take time away from your devices and spend it in the kitchen creating a healthy drink or snack, read a book or spend quality time with someone significant in your life. Our brain is very active during the day, so it is good to remember that you need time to wind down before you are able to sleep.

4. Reduce stimulant consumption after lunch time

If you are someone who reaches for a caffeine-based energy boost during the day, have you ever thought how that may affect you in the evening? Caffeine has a half-life of 6 hours, meaning that it takes 6 hours for the body to eliminate one half of the caffeine in your system. This means that the same coffee you needed for more energy at 3.30pm, is now preventing you from going to sleep at night. And while alcohol may seem like it is helping you to fall asleep, it is quite dehydrating, preventing the body from achieving restorative REM sleep. Drinking both coffee and alcohol may seem like a good idea at the time, but as stimulants, your body may come to rely on them. That innocent cup of coffee or wine today, may be the reason why you are reaching for another one tomorrow. 

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5. Our secret weapon: Magnesium

Magnesium plays a key role in regulating our stress-response system, so it is no surprise that the deficiency of this mineral is commonly found in people suffering from insomnia. Magnesium helps to relax tense muscles, regulates sleep neurotransmitters and reduces feelings of anxiety. For a restorative sleep, the rest-and-digest branch of the nervous system must be activated. Magnesium helps us out of the fight-or-flight response, enabling our heart rate to drop and our breathing to regulate, resulting in restorative sleep. 

6. Eat earlier in the evening and avoid snacking late at night 

Do you start craving food late at night? This is your body signaling that it is ready to sleep. Eating late at night raises blood sugar levels, causing blood sugars to suddenly drop during sleep, stimulating the release of cortisol that wakes us up. With approximately 80% of serotonin made in the gut, good gut health is crucial for a good night’s sleep. Eating at the same time each evening and avoiding overeating can help us to get to sleep, and stay asleep throughout the night.

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7. Create an evening ritual that works for you

Spraying essential oils on your pillow, lighting a candle as evening falls, having a bath to unwind or writing in a gratitude journal, are some of the ways that can help you to achieve restorative sleep. If you have little ones at home, lighting candles or using an essential oil diffuser is a great way to help them wind down for the evening and signal that bed time is just around the corner. The important thing is to find a ritual that works for you and your family.

Sleep is one of the most important things that you can do for your health. During the day we make choices that will affect the quality of our sleep that same evening, however many of us do not realise the effect of these choices. Incorporating an habitual evening practice and making better choices during the day, will help you to relax, unwind and allow your body to prepare for a good rest. Waking up feeling fresh, revived and able to conquer the day ahead, is an amazing feeling.

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