It’s been a long day, the sun starts to set and you start to feel your energy dip slightly. As time passes, you start registering it’s close to bed time.
You get the kids to bed, you have a shower, and you finish putting the final lots of clean dishes back in the cupboard. You make your way to the bedroom and slink yourself into bed. You kick the dog and cat off, and pull up the covers. You check the time, which says 10.30pm and you start to close your eyes…
You open your eyes and the clock says 12pm.
And then 3pm.
Before you know it, the alarm is howling at you to “rise and shine!” yet you have no shine in you whatsoever, let alone the desire to rise.
If this is you, you’re not alone. Because in Aotearoa, sleep is a huge issue for a lot of us!
In March 2022, Sleepyhead (in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation) conducted a survey of 2100 people. Here’s what came out of it:
- 45% said that they got 6 hours sleep or less each night
- 46% said that they felt tired or exhausted upon waking up in the morning
- 90% said that they wake during the night
- Of those who wake during the night, 53% struggled with getting back to sleep
The results may be surprising (or perhaps not), but we can all agree that we could do with more restful and healthy sleep!
Here are 3 ways to rise up and increase the chances of having a better snooze:
- Minimise blue-light (especially before bed!)
Blue light is one type of electromagnetic energy that we are exposed to as human beings. You may be familiar with some types such as ultraviolet (UV) rays, radio-waves, microwaves and even x-rays. Most are invisible, including blue light.
Before the industrial revolution of LED technology, our blue light exposure was mostly from the sun.
When you wake up, and draw back the curtains to let in natural daylight, this kick-starts the process of serotonin in your body, which helps your sleep-wake cycle (versus melatonin which helps your body slow down for sleep).
Nowadays, we live and breath technology (even when we try to stay away from it) which means we can be producing a lot more serotonin.
Blue light is everywhere. Our computer screens, phones, tablets, TV’s. The more we move our world online, the more we’re exposed to blue light - and thus harming our sleep.
Measuring your time spent on devices throughout the day can help you set your body up for a more restful sleep and encourage the production of melatonin.
You can ask yourself these questions to dig a little deeper:
- What is my “screen time” on my phone telling me about my phone usage? (You’ll be surprised about how long you spend there!)
- Am I on my phone/computer/TV before bed?
- Am I on my phone/computer/TV IN bed?
These questions are a great starting point if you know you’re spending too much time on your devices.
Don’t forget that it’s not only blue light itself that can be affecting your sleep, but also what you’re choosing to consume while you’re on the devices too!
2. Drink more water and eat a balanced diet
We can’t talk about sleep and not talk about hydration and our consumption.
Depending on where you read about the brain, the brain is mostly made up of water (73-80%), so it makes sense that it’s going to function less effectively when it’s dehydrated.
Our brain, heart, lungs, liver, and other major organs are all made up of mostly water (and then soft tissues or fat). So, in order for us to function to our highest potential (including sleep), water is going to pay a huge role in this.
When we starve our brains of nutrients (water, food and oxygen) we put additional pressure onto it. In turn, making it harder to switch off. So, make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day. Some say 3L a day. A good rule of thumb is that if you “feel” thirsty, then you’re already dehydrated, so, if you can, sip on small amounts throughout the day and this way, you’re always topped up!
Same thing with your kai. Your brain, heart and other major organs rely on you to give it what it needs. It can’t feed itself the nutrients, that’s your job. So, ask yourself whether you’re feeding it enough to carry you through the day.
3. Shake off excess energy (and stress) throughout the day
Sometimes we struggle to sleep because we have energy that needs to be physically released. Whether it’s additional energy from that midday muffin or scoffing back those lollies you didn’t want anyone seeing you having before dinner, we can carry excess energy in our tīnana (especially those who work sedentary jobs and are desk bound most of the day.)
Give yourself a challenge to move your body throughout the day. Whether it's walking up and down stairs, dancing around the room or chasing the kids around the house, movement can help you sink into bed at the end of the day exhausted and ready for bed - in the best of ways!
Here are some ideas to move your body:
- Dance to your favourite song
- Walk/bike to work
- Walk to the supermarket
- Lunge down the hallway
- Drop some squats as you’re waiting for your lunch to heat up
You don’t necessarily have to hit the gym every day if that’s not on the cards for you. But, you can always find little moments to do something “extra”.
Movement helps to pump blood around the body, providing more oxygen to the brain and other major organs for maximum performance throughout the day. \
No one can tell you what’s going to help you sleep best - you have to experiment and find out for yourself. At the same time, if you’re struggling to sleep, or you wake up feeling tired, it’s a pretty good signal that your sleep hygiene could do with some attention.
Start conducting your own sleep hygiene audit by asking yourself how you slept and spend some time each day taking conscious steps to set you up for a good night's snooze.