13th March is World Sleep Day, so to celebrate Sam and Ashleigh from the hero team are sharing their favourite ways to wind down, reduce tension and improve sleep quality. Wellbeing Therapist Ashleigh Turner says, “After any kind of physical or emotional release most people tend to get a good night’s sleep whether it be a gym session, evening walk or a good old cry. When we release physical tension or emotional blockage from the body, we encourage a more relaxed state in turn helping us sleep.”
- A warm bath before bed
Research found having a warm bath 60-90 minutes before bed helps to lower your core body temperature, making it easier to fall asleep. The heat of the water also helps release any muscle tension and encourages a more relaxed body state – add a couple of handfuls of epsom salts to help your muscles to relax and unwind too.
- Make the most of technology
Utilising technology solutions in your evening routine can be a great way to wind down. Guided breathing exercises or sleep soundscapes can:
- Slow breathing
- Lower heart rate
- Quiet the nervous system
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Trigger the release of sleep-friendly hormones, including serotonin and oxytocin
hero Navigator has a whole range of articles and videos to support a better night’s sleep – just take a look in the Wellness Library.
- Reiki sessions
Ashleigh Turner says, “99% of my reiki clients will experience a deep night sleep after their session and see it as an added benefit. Their body has been aligned and balanced and many experience physical and emotional releases which in turn makes them feel more relaxed and tired, contributing to a good night’s sleep.” The impact of reiki varies from person to person, so most practitioners recommend a reiki session every week to month depending on the individual.
- Nutrition for better sleep
hero’s Head of Content & Delivery Sam Gaunt says “Never underestimate the power of a balanced, unprocessed diet, and its contribution to sleep. ’Tryptophan’ is an essential amino acid found in foods such as chicken, eggs and cheese. Once consumed, the body converts Tryptophan to a B Vitamin called Niacin, which plays a key role in the production of Serotonin – the happy hormone linked to good mood, promoting positive mental wellbeing.
Serotonin is the forerunner to the hormone Melatonin, a chemical substance that plays a vital role in regulating our sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin (also known as the ‘vampire hormone’) is released in the evening to set off our sleeping cycle. This promotes a whole load of biological events aimed at producing a good night’s sleep, rich in both quality and quantity.”
Try having foods high in Tryptophan with your evening meal and see how it affects your sleep!
- Reduce your screen time
Using TVs, tablets, smartphones, laptops, or other electronic devices before bed delays your circadian rhythm (your body’s internal clock) and suppresses the release of the hormone melatonin (a sleep inducing hormone) so it makes it more difficult to fall asleep. This is largely due to the artificial blue light which is emitted by these devices – the more electronic devices that you use in the evening, the harder it is to fall asleep or stay asleep. As well as increasing your alertness at a time when you should be getting sleepy, using these devices before bed “delays the onset of REM sleep, reduces the total amount of REM sleep, and compromises alertness the next morning” according to the National Sleep Foundation. Over time, these effects can add up to a significant, chronic deficiency in sleep.
- Alcohol doesn’t help you to sleep
We often hear people say that they have a glass of wine before bed to help them sleep – whilst alcohol may initially make you feel drowsy, it blocks REM sleep, which is often considered the most restorative type of sleep. With less REM sleep, you’re likely to wake up feeling groggy and unfocused.
- Mindfulness exercises
Use mindfulness techniques that will clear your mind and allow you to de-stress before bed, such as controlled breathing, try 7-7-7-7. Inhale for 7, hold for 7, exhale for 7, hold for 7 and repeat.
- A sleep-friendly bedroom
The National Sleep Foundation recommends dimming the lights an hour before bed – this helps to regulate your body and tell your brain it’s time to shift into sleep mode. At home, try using room darkening shades and curtains to keep it dark at night and while you sleep.
- Keeping cool
Being too hot or too cold can have a big impact on your ability to nod off, and your comfort levels whilst sleeping. Your body heat peaks in the evening and then drops to its lowest levels when you’re asleep, so a cool 16-18°C is thought to be an ideal temperature in a bedroom. Temperatures over 24°C are likely to cause restlessness, while a cold room of about 12°C will make it difficult to drop off.
- Relax with a good book
Stress tends to build up throughout the day. When it’s time for bed, your mind might be racing, and you’re likely contemplating tomorrow’s to-do list while keeping track of everything that could be possibly go wrong.
By immersing yourself in a good book, you can take your mind off your current situation. One study by the University of Sussex found that just six minutes of reading reduced stress by up to 68%. The content of the book isn’t important, either. It could be fact, fiction or pure trash. As long as it’s interesting to you, that’s all that matters.