A focus on health, wellbeing and fitness can help us to live longer, happier lives – that much is considered fact by many people nowadays.
Ensuring that you support, fuel and protect your body properly however, is a whole other matter, and getting the right amount of quality sleep can play an important role in that.
Wondering whether you get enough shut-eye on a regular basis? We contacted The Sleep Council who told us that 74% of Brits sleep for less than seven hours per night, while an astonishing 12% get less than five hours, and one in four of us turn to alcohol to help us nod off.
Those most fond of using alcohol to aid sleep are 45 to 54 year olds, with 30% of this age group having a drink before they head to bed.
Research carried out by the council in 2017 also discovered that an insufficient amount of rest can impact our health, our work performance and our personal relationships to varying degrees, let alone our energy levels and mood!
But what can we do about it? There are many catalysts which are unavoidable to an extent; such as stress, noise or wriggling partners, but there are also some steps you can take.
We’ve collected essential advice from qualified dieticians and rest experts which could help you learn how to sleep better. Keep reading to find out, and be the you that stops stopping.
How a Lack of Sleep Can Affect Us
Beatrix A Schmidt – author of The Sleep Deep Method and founder of The Sleep Deep Practice – is a highly sought-after sleep coach and she helps CEOs, senior executives and entrepreneurs to overcome insomnia and sleep problems at her private practice.
With her extensive expertise, we are inclined to trust Beatrix when she tells us how important it is for our minds and bodies to get a good night’s rest. She said:
“On a very personal level, when you wake up rested and recharged after a great night’s sleep, how do you feel? You feel positive, you have more energy and you feel happier, more fulfilled and ready to ‘conquer’ the day.
“When you ask someone who wakes up this way every morning about their overall wellness – they will rate this very high on the scale. They will feel healthy, able to exercise and do more of the things that they enjoy outside of their working hours, as well as build a rewarding career and achieve all their goals.”
As she points out, sleep deprivation was used as a torture technique to ‘break people’ for a reason! Our ability to fight off illnesses is also altered according to Beatrix:
“When the body and mind is not able to rest well at night, our immune system will struggle to keep us healthy resulting in more colds during winter months to say the least.
“In turn when we are not healthy, our sleep will be impacted because the health issues we are struggling with affect us physically by not producing the hormones that helps us to get to sleep and emotionally causing us to worry, overanalyse, be upset instead of being able to peacefully sleep at night.”
Why a Healthy Diet is Vital for Getting Better Sleep
As time goes on, we learn as a society that there is more and more truth to be found in the expression “you are what you eat”.
Avoiding processed food and preservatives really can help you to feel more energetic, drinking less alcohol does make your complexion brighter, and there is plenty of research proving that a healthy diet can help you to get better sleep.
Beatrix weighed in on the connection between insomnia and diet choices. She explained that poor nutrition doesn’t just impact our ability to drop off, but ironically it also saps our remaining energy during the day:
“When the body is deprived of important nutrition, our energy levels tend to decrease making us feel more tired and often lethargic.
“In turn this means that our body is not able to handle the stresses of our lifestyle, causing us to feel low and feel that we are not achieving as much in our 24 hours. Therefore lack of nutrition not only affects our energy levels but also our mood and impacts on our ability to have a positive mind-set and truly switch off at night and rest peacefully.”
We also spoke to Luke Hughes; qualified dietician, personal trainer and founder of Origym Group, for some insights on how nutrition impacts sleep.
Luke, who has a master’s degree in sports science, explained that disrupted sleep can be linked to a diet high in fats and refined carbohydrates. As he puts it:
“Any personal trainer will tell you that 80% of energy maintenance and efficient rest is down to nutritional choices.”
Be Wary of What You Eat Later in the Day
When we spoke to Luke, he discussed how monitoring caffeine and sugar intake in the evening is probably second-nature to most. However, he also gave us some timing tips that could improve your ability to sleep well no end:
“Sufferers of insomnia should also be wary of portion size and fatty foods after five o’clock.
“This is because large meals late in the day and foods that are greasy directly affect digestion, and the body’s ability to rest during sleep.”
If we start to consider digesting food and repairing during sleep as two different jobs that the body needs to focus on, it’s easy to see why doing both at once would hinder the progress.
Hydration is Key
It’s not news that staying hydrated is important if you want to keep your body in good shape. However, Luke explains that dehydration can also prevent our bodies from resting efficiently. He said:
“Hydration throughout the day is key, particularly if the individual regularly exercises.
“Without regular drinks of water, an individual may suffer from cramps in the night, disturbing their sleeping pattern.”
The simplest way to get your NHS-recommended intake is to buy a two-litre water bottle and ensure you’ve consumed it all by the end of the day. Of course, as Luke says, you should try and drink more throughout the day if you are doing exercise.
Get the Right Balance of Macronutrients and Micronutrients
Luke Hughes also highlights the need for a diet rich in varied macronutrients and micronutrients to keep the body balanced. He explained:
“A key part of this balance is the consumption of essential amino acids found in protein-rich food like eggs and lean red meats.
“These amino acids allow the body to repair muscle, and also promote rest in the form of the body’s ability to sleep.”
We couldn’t agree more! However, we also know that getting the right amount of branched chain amino acids can be difficult when you’ve got a busy schedule.
Creating the Ideal Environment for Rest
As a provider of fitness and performance supplements, it will come as no surprise that nutrition is one of our top priorities.
However, there are many factors that make up a healthy body and – by extension – a healthy sleep pattern, and it is important to consider them all when working on your improved self.
The Right Bedding can be Crucial
Experts at The Fine Bedding Company told us that nearly a third of UK citizens blame their lack of sleep on being too hot or cold in bed. They suggest that this is because many of us (51% in fact) use the same duvet throughout all four seasons, without altering the tog count.
When we contemplate how drastically temperatures can change during the year, this seems like a very valid point!
Bedding expert Helen Johnson advised us:
“Make comfort and body temperature a priority.
“Comfort and the type of bedding that’s best suited to your body’s needs is AS essential for achieving a good night’s sleep as maintaining a room’s temperature, what you do before you go to bed and even lifestyle.
“Being too hot or cold can have a huge impact on the ability to drop off and remain asleep; regulating body temperature is important to maintain quality sleep throughout the night. Sleeping under a climate control duvet can help achieve this.”
For the latest in breathable, moisture-wicking duvets and pillows which release heat when your body temperature is too high, look to The Fine Bedding Company for more information.
Reduce Exposure to Blue Light Before Bed
Helen recommends a commitment to turning off screens at least 30 minutes before bed. She also highlights the importance of a dark sleep environment, in order to increase levels of melatonin (the sleep hormone), and ensuring that your room temperature never exceeds 17oC.
If you struggle to achieve the latter two goals on a regular basis, black-out blinds and a smart thermometer could make life a whole lot easier!
There’s no denying the importance of a good night’s sleep. Interested in finding out more about protein and the impact this macronutrient can have on your ability to sleep, as well as your general health?
Discover why protein isn’t just for muscle building here and go get your goals!