16th November 2020

With all of the adjustments that are being made to the new realities of the world, from national lockdowns to working from home changes, it can be all too easy to forget about the importance of maintaining a regular, healthy sleeping pattern. In this article, we are going to cover some easy ways for you to get a proper good night’s sleep. Some of these hacks might be apparent to you while others will feel like a light bulb moment, but be sure to read through all of them as we have a wide variety of suggestions!

1: Food

Although it may not be immediately apparent to all of us, a change in diet can sometimes be what is needed for an improvement in sleep, with certain foods and drinks having sleep enhancing properties. 

Some known foods to help with your sleep include (1):

  • Almonds (Excellent source of magnesium, providing 19% of our daily needs in 1 ounce. Sufficient amounts of magnesium can help to improve sleep quality, especially for people that have insomnia. 
  • Dairy products: Dairy products including a glass of milk, cottage cheese, and plain yoghurt among others, are known sources for tryptophan (2). For older adults, milk is known to improve sleep, especially when paired with some light exercise (3).
  • Bananas: Banana peels contain tryptophan and the fruit itself is a modest source of magnesium (4). Try eating both of these to help you get a good night’s sleep (5).
  • Oatmeal: Like rice, oatmeal is high in carbs but with some more fiber, it has been reported to induce drowsiness when consumed before bedtime (6). On top of this, oats are a well-known source of melatonin (7)
  • Rice: Has a high carb and low fibre count that gives it a high glycemic index and it has been suggested that eating foods with a high GI may improve sleep quality (8).

2: Coffee

Caffeine is the most popular drug in the world, found in over 60 plants and it is consumed on a daily basis for many people (9). Because it is a stimulant, it is important to be mindful of the amount consumed per day as well as how close to bedtime it is taken. 3 8.oz cups of coffee (250 milligrams of caffeine) per day is considered to be a moderate intake while 6 or more 8.oz cups is seen to be on the excessive side. 

The effects of caffeine can surprisingly last even with a coffee in the late afternoon, with one study finding that consuming it even 6 hours before bed time can reduce total sleep time by one hour (10). This should not scare you off enjoying a coffee any time past 6 o’clock in the evening, but it is worth bearing in mind. 

3: Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is a medical herb that provides many health benefits. Not only does it help with reducing stress levels and building muscle, but the rejuvenating properties can help combat insomnia too. It is traditionally used as a powder mixed with warm milk and honey but you can also have one teaspoon of powdered ashwagandha with a cup of hot milk before bed time (11), both work very well!

4: Exercise 

Exercise is great for keeping healthy and fit, and it is also an effective way to improve sleep. Although it is not known what the causal mechanism is between physical exercise and better sleep, studies have shown that moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of slow wave sleep that you get (a deep sleep where the brain and body recover) (12)

It is important to note that at what time you exercise in the day can potentially have the opposite effect. Aerobic exercise causes the body to release endorphins, triggering levels of activity in the brain that can keep some people awake in which case this type of exercise should be done 1 to 2 hours before bed time. Exercise generally can also raise the core body temperature, usually a signal to the body that it is time to wake up. This effect will start to decrease after around 30 to 90 minutes, after which you will then begin to feel sleepy. 

5: Environment

The environment that you sleep in plays a big factor in your quality of sleep in many ways. Although everyone is of course different, it is recommended that you keep your bedroom for sleeping and little else, watching TV, playing games or likewise in another room (13). Important to note is that the blue screen emitted from devices suppresses melatonin production, the hormone that lets you sleep. It is advised that you stop using electronics two hours before bed time to reduce the negative impacts on sleep (14). 

Light, noise and temperature can also affect sleep, so it is good to consider an eye mask or the like if an environmental factor beyond your control is disrupting your sleep. And a thinner or thicker duvet can counter the effects that being too hot or cold may have on your sleep, so consider adjusting accordingly (15). 

Conclusion:

If you’ve recently found yourself struggling to get a good night’s sleep, then try some of these hacks. Try as many as you want, whether it is just 1, 3 or all 5 of them. Remember that each person has different needs and so what hacks work for one individual might not be what you personally need for your own sleep improvement. The important thing to remember is that sleep has as much to do with mental wellbeing as physical wellbeing, so be sure to take a well rounded approach to improve sleep.