5 Ways To Help You Sleep Through The Night
This piece first appeared on Wellfest.ie's blog in October 2021.
Aisling Grimley, founder of The Silk Pillowcase, is passionate about sleep. Here, she shares why we need to prioritise our sleep and her 5 sleep non-negotiables.
HOW MUCH SLEEP IS ENOUGH?
We all know people who operate well on very little sleep and others who are constantly exhausted while sleeping well. How much sleep do we really need? The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and The Sleep Research Society recommends that
“adults aged 18-60 years sleep at least 7 hours each night to promote optimal health and well-being. Sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress.”
START WITH A SLEEP AUDIT
Are you sleeping for 7 hours a night? A Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report found that 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep. If you’re sleep deprived what is your pattern? Get yourself a Sleep journal and track your sleep habits for a week. Do you have difficulty dropping off? Are you waking frequently or too early in the morning? Are the patterns in terms of the time that you wake at during the night? Once you identify the gaps we can begin to find solutions that’ll work for you. Read on and let’s try to get you sleeping through the night.
HERE ARE OUR 5 SLEEP NON-NEGOTIABLES
1. Create the right environment for a good night’s sleep
This is important given that we spend one third of our lives in bed. Your bedroom should be dark maybe get some blackout blinds or curtains. Your room temperature should be comfortable - 18•C. (65•F) is a good sleeping temperature . Your mattress and pillows need to be in good condition. Your mattress should be firm, a standard mattress and has a life span of approx 10 years. Maybe invest in some crisp and comfortable new bed linens. We love a silk pillowcase for our beauty sleep. Find out more: Do Silk Pillowcases Work? The Pros say yes.
2. Have a healthy sleep schedule
Start early, a 20-minute walk in the morning light will help set your body clock for the day. A consistent wind down routine and bedtime will help your circadian rhythm and melatonin. Research by sleep expert and author of Tired But Wired: The Essential Sleep Toolkit Dr Nerina Ramiakhan, shows that the sleep we get before midnight is the most valuable:
“The 90 minute phase before midnight is one of the most powerful phases of sleep, because it’s the period where the body is replenished. It’s also a really important phase for reorganising the brain. So all the information we’re taking in during the day gets reorganised during that phase of sleep before midnight, and it’s very important for bringing adrenaline levels down – if you’re under a lot of stress, you want to make sure you get the phase before midnight.”
3. Prepare to sleep soundly
Remove all blue light from your bedroom and consider your bedroom to be a place for sleep and sex only. Wind down with a book - reading slowly and calmly before you sleep will prepare your mind for sleep. A 2009 study from researchers in University of Sussex showed that just six minutes of reading reduces stress by 68%. Avoid stressful situations or difficult conversations near bedtime. If you find you wake with a racing mind keep a pen and paper beside your bed and make a to-do list before you go to bed.
4. Eat well to sleep well
If you’re having difficulty with middle of the night waking your eating and drinking habits may be the cause. What and when you eat and drink can affect your sleep.
It’s not just coffee that can keep us awake. Watch your intake of energy drinks, high sugar snacks, chocolate and cocoa products in the hours before bed.
Research shows that healthy people who drink alcohol often fall asleep more quickly and sleep more deeply but when the alcohol wears off they may wake and miss some of the most important restorative stages of sleep. If you find you wake between 1am and 3am this may be associated with the energy meridian associated with the liver.
Avoid eating spicy or acidic foods that can cause heartburn within three hours of bedtime. An Epsom Salts bath at least an hour before bedtime can help your mind and body to relax our body temperature drops for sleep.
The amino acid tryptophan helps to stimulate the production of serotonin and sleep-promoting melatonin. Try to include tryptophan-containing foods to help you to sleep through the night. Good sources include: dairy, oats, almonds, fatty fish, nuts and seeds, turkey and chicken.
5. Manage your night waking
Night waking is a natural part of sleep. Writing about the clinical effects of sleep fragmentation ‘a series of brief arousals repeated consecutively throughout the night’ Bonnet MH, and Arand DL on Sleep:
“The average adult may experience more than 20 such awakenings each night – and more 40 nightly awakenings after the age of 50.”
Minimise the impact of night time waking as you move through different sleep phases by doing relaxation exercises before bedtime.
Don’t look at the clock as this will increase night anxiety and stress about not sleeping. Keep your clock out of your night vision especially if you use your phone, tablet or computer to keep time. Blue and green light make you more alert and should be removed from your bedroom.
Make yourself comfortable. Go the bathroom if you need to then make yourself comfortable in bed. Try a silk eye mask to give a sense of a cocooning and help get your back to deep slumber. Take some long, slow, deep breaths and a feeling of letting go to get back to sleep.
Don’t be tempted to sleep in the day after a poor night’s sleep. By feeling a bit tired next day you’ll increase your body’s appetite and need for sleep ensuring a better night sleep and putting yourself on a good track for longer term sound sleep.
Getting a good night’s sleep can improve your memory function and motor skills, support your immune system and longevity and help you manage your weight. Sweet dreams!
At the Silk Pillowcase, we love the luxury and comfort that a little silk can add to our everyday lives. Our products are beautifully presented and make popular gifts. We sell silk pillowcases, mulberry silk eye masks for better sleep and during the pandemic we added silk face masks to our catalogue.
We primarily sell through our website, www.thesilkpillowcase.com, as well as through a limited number of retailers. Our products are designed in Ireland and ethically sourced from some of the finest producers of silk in China.
Aisling also founded and runs My Second Spring, www.mysecondspring.ie, Ireland’s first dedicated menopause website. This menopause resource reaches almost 750,000 visitors a year, and has contributed significantly over the years to the opening up of the topic of menopause in Ireland and further afield. She is the author of The Best Friend’s Guide to The Menopause.