In 2016 the big health trend was clean eating and 2017 looks set to be the year of clean sleeping. In a recent article penned by Gwyneth Paltrow, she says that while diet plays a vital role in her health and wellbeing, so does sleep.
She explains that she aims to get “at least seven or eight hours of good, quality sleep” each night and claims that sleep is more important than diet when it comes to health and overall wellbeing. “Sleep plays such a powerful role in determining your appetite and energy levels that I believe it should be your first priority — even before you think about your diet,” she writes.
While it may seem obvious, the world’s largest ever online sleep study has revealed we’re a sleep deprived nation, with 77 percent of people in the UK failing to wake up refreshed. We’re clearly in need of practice.
The study estimated the worldwide “sleep debt”, defined as the amount of sleep people need to effectively function mentally and emotionally the next day, minus the actual sleep they get each night. It found that men on average lose 28 minutes of sleep per night, but women fare worse, losing an average of 56 minutes each night. This equates to a staggering five days per year in lost sleep for men, and 10 days per year for women.
So what is clean sleeping and how do we achieve a good night’s sleep?
- Set an alarm before bed
Setting an alarm before you go to bed prevents you from waking up in the middle of the night panicking that you’re going to be late in the morning. Giving yourself that comfort should help you sleep more soundly.
- Resist the urge to snooze
Sleep caught between soundings of an alarm is just not high-quality sleep. The snooze button often disturbs REM sleep, which can make us feel groggier than when we wake up during other stages of sleep. You don’t have to leap out of bed in the morning, but setting the alarm for a slightly later time and skipping a snooze cycle could bring big benefits.
- Avoid alcohol before bed
While alcohol may help you drift off, the sleep you’re getting is unlikely to be good quality sleep. After a night on the tiles sleep is more fitful and you wake up feeling unrested.
- Sleep and sex only
Resist the urge to watch television, read a book, or play on your phone in bed; it doesn’t set you up for a good night’s sleep. Your bed is for sleep and sex only.
- Have a hot bath
A warm soak raises your body temperature slightly. Then, when you hop out, you’ll cool down quickly, which mimics the natural drop in body temperature caused by the brain as it readies the body for sleep.
- Power down for an hour before bed
Dim the lights and turn off all your devices — smartphones, laptops, TVs, all of which belong outside the bedroom — about 60 minutes before bed. Bright light is one of the biggest triggers to our brains that it’s time to be awake and alert, so start sending the opposite signal early.
- Write down anything that’s troubling you
If you have something that’s playing on your mind, write it down before bed. Offloading this information will allow for a better night’s sleep and you’ll feel better placed to deal with it in the morning.
- Invest in a good pillow
A pillow that’s too hard, too soft or just too old will prevent you from getting good clean sleep. Being comfortable is key, so invest in a pillow that works for you.
- Keep your bedroom cool
A cool, well ventilated room will help you get a better night’s sleep. Turn off the central heating, open a window slightly and enjoy the fresh air.
- Avoid heavy meals after 7pm
Your body isn’t meant to be digesting while you sleep, so a big meal too close to bedtime may keep you up at night.
- Exercise regularly
In the National Sleep Foundation’s 2013 Sleep In America survey, regular, vigorous exercisers reported getting the best sleep. The best news is that it doesn’t take much; adding even just a few minutes of physical activity to your day can make a difference at night.
- Go easy on the coffee
Your afternoon jolt stays in your system longer than you might think. Experts recommended laying off the caffeine by early afternoon to guarantee it won’t keep you up in bed later.
- Ensure your bedroom is dark
Even the most discreet light — like that from a digital alarm clock — can disrupt your sleep. If you can’t seal up all the light sources in your room, consider using a comfy eye-mask.
- Try yoga or meditation
Yoga and meditation are helpful tactics to encourage your mind to wind down. These quiet activities may help you slow your breathing and heart rate and drift off sooner.