by Laura Butler an accredited health and wellness coach who has 15 years experience in the health and wellness industry, having coached thousands of private and corporate clients worldwide. She has set-up The Wellness Hub online to offer an affordable solution to businesses, to help their employees develop their sleeping, eating, self-care and mindfulness habits to improve overall wellbeing and motivation.

It’s 3 a.m. and you’re shifting positions for what feels like the millionth time, anxiously watching the minutes tick by on your alarm clock, and wondering how you’re going to function at work tomorrow. We’ve all been there! While a night of tossing and turning is bound to happen every once in a while, you shouldn’t be struggling to get restful sleep on a regular basis.

While modern-day living in the UK doesn’t always embrace the necessity for adequate, restorative sleep, it’s a crucial ingredient for health, wellness, and success. Today, we’re going to discuss the importance of sleep, plus five healthy sleep habits you can adopt to improve your sleep.  

First of all, why is sleep so important?

Sleep is an essential function that allows your body and mind to rest, repair, and recharge. While it may seem like nothing is happening when your body is lying quietly at rest, your brain and body are actually hard at work overseeing a wide variety of biological upkeep. Restful sleep benefits you in the following ways:

·   Helps you stay alert and energetic during the day

·   Increases productivity and concentration

·   Boosts your memory

·   Supports a strong immune system

·   Lowers inflammation and the risk of many common diseases

·   Supports good mental health

·   Allows your body to repair damage

Pretty impressive for simply laying there doing nothing, right?

Although sleep is one of our basic human needs, two-thirds of UK adults suffer from disrupted sleep and nearly a quarter manage to get no more than five hours of sleep a night. If you struggle with sleep, it may seem like getting deep, restorative Z’s is nothing more than a fanciful dream. In many cases, however, you can improve your sleep by changing certain aspects of your lifestyle and adopting healthy sleep habits. Here are five strategies to help you get the rest you need:

1. Stick to a sleep schedule

Try your best to get up and go to bed at the same time every day, allowing for eight hours of quality sleep per night. While you can sleep in an hour or so later on the weekends, try your best to maintain your sleep schedule seven days a week. This reinforces your body’s circadian rhythm (or internal clock), which can make it easier for you to fall asleep at night and get up in the morning.

2. Create a relaxing bedtime routine

Our days are filled with errands, responsibilities, meetings, work tasks, decisions, and activities, which naturally stimulate our nervous system and can put us in fight-or-flight mode. A relaxing bedtime routine helps calm your mind and body so that you’re able to fall asleep more easily. While everyone will have different preferences, some soothing activities to try include taking a bath, reading a book, diffusing essential oils (particularly lavender!), practicing yoga, sipping on a caffeine-free herbal tea, meditating, or performing deep breathing exercises.

3. Cultivate healthy daily habits

Setting yourself up for a good night’s sleep doesn’t just start in the evening. What you do during the day is just as important. To encourage a restful night’s sleep, regularly include these healthy habits into your days:

·   Get 10-30 minutes of midday sun several days a week.

·   Engage in some form of physical activity each day.

·   Limit daytime naps (and don’t take naps over 20 minutes).

·   Find ways to reduce tension and stress, perhaps through exercise, therapy, meditation, journaling, or deep breathing. 

·   Set boundaries, such as putting your work phone and laptop away for the day at a certain time and making time for relaxation.

4. Optimise your bedroom for sleep

Your bedroom can have a big impact on your ability to get to sleep and stay asleep. It’s important to set your bedroom up to be a relaxing place that encourages sleep. This entails investing in a comfortable mattress and pillow, setting your thermostat to a comfortable, cool temperature (about 18 degrees Celsius), blocking out as much light as possible, and, if necessary, where silence isn’t possible then drowning out noise with a white noise machine, earplugs, or a fan.

Also, be sure to stop using electronic devices, such as cell phones, tablets, and laptops, a half-hour to an hour before bed. These devices generate blue light which has been shown to suppress the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin.

5. Pay attention to what you eat and drink 

While many people don’t give much thought to when and what they eat and drink, it’s something you should pay attention to, especially if you’re struggling with sleep. Here are some tips to guide you:

·   Avoid heavy, large meals in the evening and stop eating at least two-three hours before bedtime. 

·   Eat a balanced diet filled with healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and lean meats. Do your best to avoid processed foods and refined sugar.

·   Reduce alcohol consumption and avoid drinking alcohol in the late evening.

·   Don’t drink caffeine after 2 p.m.

The bottom line

Good sleep is essential for your health and well-being—not to mention, good performance at work. While getting poor sleep might seem like a regular part of life, it shouldn’t be—and it doesn’t have to be. By becoming mindful of your daily habits and applying the above tips, you will be well on your way to getting the restorative sleep you need and deserve. Sweet dreams!