Wednesday, 6 Jul 2022

Can’t sleep? Here are five ways you can improve your sleep

Olympian Greg Rutherford shares his top tips on sleep

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Sleep – and plenty of it – plays a vital role in the overall functioning of our bodies. An insufficient amount of sleep can put incredible strain on the mind and body and if continued for a lengthy period of time, can put you at risk of a number of serious health conditions, including high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Seven to nine hours is the recommended time we should spend sleeping. This all aids in the recharge and rejuvenation of our bodies; repairing muscles, releasing hormones, strengthening neural connections to improve our memory, reducing stress… the list goes on.

That being said, millions across the UK regularly suffer from poor sleep.

The NHS says one in three of us has admitted to doing so, and pins much of it down to stress, computers, and working from home.

However, many aren’t too aware of the repercussions poor sleep can have on the body, and if they do, they struggle to find ways to improve it that work.

So, in light of Sleep Awareness Week, a campaign held annually to highlight the importance of sleep and spread awareness for conditions and sleep disorders, Express.co.uk spoke to experts to gather some quick tips to help better your sleeping pattern.

Phoebe Liebling, nutritional therapist and sleep expert working with Motion Nutrition, provides five methods to try out.

Be a slave to the sun – or at least to light

Ms Liebling said: “Our circadian rhythm, which means our sleep-wake cycle, is dictated by correct light exposure.

“The first thing you should do in the morning is get out into natural light – and do the same at the end of the day too.”

Sunlight will regulate your circadian rhythm by telling your body when to increase and decrease your melatonin levels.

The body produces melatonin just after it gets dark and acts on receptors in your body to encourage sleep.

Exposing yourself to the morning sunlight will set off a timer in the brain for the appropriate time to release the melatonin hormone – which will tell your body to go to sleep when it’s dark.

Balance your blood sugar

Ms Liebling said: “If your blood sugar fluctuates over the course of the day due to incorrectly balanced meals or constant grazing, you will find it will peak and dip during the night too.

These peaks and dips will result in the body getting “light sleep”, which will result in frequent waking up.

Regular exercise and a balanced, more fibrous diet will help balance your blood sugar.

Re-evaluate stimulant consumption

Caffeine can have a strong impact on the body’s ability to sleep.

Caffeine can block adenosine receptors. Adenosine is a sleep-promoting chemical produced by the brain, which builds up the longer we’re awake.

When caffeine blocks the chemical, it leaves the body feeling alert and vigilant instead.

You don’t have to remove your source of caffeine completely, but reducing intake would be beneficial if you’re suffering from poor sleep.

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Ms Liebling said: “An un-rested body relying on constant adrenal peaks is crying out for help.

“An ‘I could take it or leave it but I have it because I love it’ meander through the morning is a perfectly acceptable way to include [caffeine].”

Move Mindfully

Exercise is a key contributor to getting a better sleep. Not only does it wear the body out, it can help stabilise your mood and decompress your mind.

Ms Liebling said: “We are not designed to be sedentary, but we are also not designed to do unending amounts of incredibly intense exercise every single day.

She continues: “Challenge your mind and body in different ways over the week; walk, swim, run, cycle, dance, stretch, lift weights – and then run through the list again.

“Omit any that don’t bring you joy.”

Avoid Digestive Distractions

Ms Liebling said: “Going to bed on a full stomach means your body has work to do when you want it to rest.

She advises: “Aim to finish your last meal at least three hours before going to bed for an optimally rejuvenating rest.”

However, habits can be hard to break – especially ones relating to sleep.

Joe Welstead, CEO of Motion Nutrition, shares three new habits you should pick up to replace your current ones to help boost sleep performance.

Mr Welstead said: “Firstly, limit your caffeine intake to no more than two beverages a day – and enjoy this after breakfast but before lunch.

He continued: “Secondly, allow yourself to prioritise rest. Make a conscious commitment and tell yourself: “I’ll perform a lot better when I’m rested.”

Lastly, Mr Welstead advised to “create a clear separation between day and night, with a nighttime routine that you do every evening.”

He recommended starting this routine an hour before bed, switching your phone to airplane mode, and if necessary, incorporating a natural sleep supplement, such as Motion Nutrition’s “Unplug”.

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