Sleep is imperative to looking great and feeling great.
Here are 4 tips to help you get a great nights sleep
Put Your Smartphone Away
Your smartphone is, in a neurological sense, a slot machine. Each notification carries the promise of reward (an Instagram like from your crush) or disappointment (not matching with that good looking girl).
Your brain reacts accordingly, dribbling out dopamine each time your pocket buzzes. But this emotional bungee is bad news for sleep, since it keeps you in a heightened state not conducive to slipping off. Plug it in at 9pm and don’t check it again until the morning.
In Fact, Put All Your Screens Away
Your body has evolved, over millennia, to respond to the cycles of the sun. It goes up, so do you. It goes down, your eyelids follow. When it gets dark, your body releases a hormone called melatonin, which kick-starts your sleepiness.
Artificial light slows this a little, but it’s the blue light from phone, computer and tablet screens that’s most insidious; a study from Harvard University found that six hours of exposure drops your melatonin levels for twice as long and knocks your sleep cycle back three hours.
Dim the lights and swap the screens for a book once dinner’s off the table.
Eat Early, Eat Well
All hormones in your body are built from the fuel you feed it. Melatonin is no different. One of its raw building blocks is an amino acid called tryptophan, according to Dave Gibson, a sleep expert at Warrens Evans, which is particularly concentrated in eggs, poultry and hard cheese. Snack on them early in the day to replenish your stocks – just leave enough time before bed to avoid weird dreams.
You know caffeine’s out – ideally, you should ditch tea and coffee after lunch – but simple carbs pre-bed are just as bad. White bread, potatoes and rice quickly break down into sugar, spiking your energy levels just as drowsy kicks in.
Swap them for whole grains like quinoa and brown rice, says nutritionist Cassandra Barns. These complex carbs drip-feed energy through the night, to stop your body from releasing its starvation hormones, but release it slowly so you don’t get a sudden, wake-up spike.
Lose The Booze
When your brain’s racing, a couple of pints might ease you into unconsciousness. But the sleep it initiates isn’t beneficial, according to a study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
The researchers found that a nightcap spiked levels of alpha waves in the brain, which are normally present when you’re resting, but not asleep. These override the rather handier delta waves, which reboot your brain and make sure your day’s experiences are filed away properly. The result? You wake up groggy and forget where you put your keys.
For a better pre-bed tipple, swap the hard stuff for coconut water. It’s low-sugar, which circumvents those sudden energy spikes, and is packed with sleep-inducing electrolytes, like magnesium, potassium, calcium and phosphorous.
“Balanced levels of these minerals are necessary to maintain normal muscle action, nerve function and hydration in our body,” says Barns. “Deficiencies or imbalances may cause cramping and restless legs at night, and therefore disturbed sleep.” Just don’t be tempted to add a glug of vodka.