1. We are all governed by circadian rhythms – from the Latin circa diem or “around a day” and fixing a wake-up time is the best change you can make to your sleep. The brain starts waking up 90 minutes before you wake up, preparing the body to wake at its best, so try to avoid hitting that snooze button!
2. Your evening meal is also key. Cut down on spicy, fatty foods, alcohol and caffeine, but remember that turkey, eggs, fish and nuts are rich in amino acid tryptophan which can make you drowsy, especially eaten with carbs. And eat no later than 7 pm if possible: eating late at night can contribute to weight increase, higher levels of insulin, glucose and cholesterol and mean that your system is working to digest food, keeping you awake.
3. Blue light from screens disrupting melatonin is a relatively new finding, but it doesn’t change ages-old advice — that being cognitively aroused before bed is the enemy of sleep. Any device, including TV or radio, is bad because it excites the mind, even if you’re just watching cat videos. The key is to choose content carefully and avoid bringing worry, stress or – via Instagram! – unnecessary FOMO into the bedroom.
4. We really need to listen to our circadian rhythms because humans were “built” to sleep when it is dark and to be awake when there is light. The light bulb invention created a 24-hour society but we really need to learn to switch off again. A good tip is to gradually decrease the lighting until bedtime so your body adjusts. Light some candles! (Ideally with soy or beeswax candles).
5. Night-time beauty rituals are now an established part of the skincare regime, improving sleep quality with the mini massage effect of applying cream or serum to the skin. Products often include ‘sleep-friendly’ scents such as lavender and valerian. And it’s a booming category: anti-ageing night skincare increased 9% from October 2017 to the end of September 2018, driving 74% of growth in night-only skincare.
6. Taking a warm bath 1-2 hours before bed induces sleep because, at night, body temperature drops slightly, signalling to our bodies to start producing melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep. Having a warm bath raises our body temperature artificially before allowing it to drop again, as you adjust to the cooler environment of the bedroom. (Interestingly, as an aside, restoring the body’s natural temperature rhythm can also help ease the symptoms of depression, according to a recent study at the University of Freiburg in Germany.)
7. Journaling is also a great way to download the to-do list. I keep a pen and notebook by the bed. If you write down a concern, you don’t have to worry about it; if you have a brilliant idea, record it. I’ll scrawl in the dark – a few keywords, not an essay. Writing things down stops them from going around in your head.
8. A good mattress is essential. The National Bed Federation recommends getting a new bed every seven years. Popular brands such as Simba and Eve use the latest hybrid technology which combines the comfort of memory foam with the support of thousands of pocket springs. Halsa Mattress is the new kid on the block, blending traditional 100% natural horsetail hair from Austria (Europe’s best) with spring technologies from American world leader Leggett & Platt. Its active support technology enables muscles to rest in a more natural sleeping position.
9. A clutter-free space is also essential. In a room that feels cluttered, your mind goes to work on a subliminal level, taking inventory of things that need fixing, clearing or cleaning and making you feel restless. When you declutter, your mind is at ease.
10. Room temperature, plants and diffusers can also make a difference when it comes to serene slumber. When it comes to room temperature, 18.5C is the general consensus for good sleep. If you overheat in bed, consider cooling gel technology for heat absorption and a split-tog duvet if you and your partner have varying needs.
A few of my favourite sleep saviours
Nour Luxury Organic Bedding
Your bedroom should be an oasis of calm, softness and sensuality. Because many fabrics are produced from chemically intensive crops, natural cotton, linen and silk are the best choices for comfort and health. Cotton is popular because it wicks away moisture, breathes and helps us to regulate heat, keeping us cool at night, but bear in mind that pesticides and synthetic fertilisers are heavily used in growing “traditional” cotton. Instead, opt for certified organic cotton home textiles produced according to GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards).
One of my top picks for organic bedding is Nour Luxury London, who use only 100% organic GOTS certified cotton, which means they are free of any toxic dyes, chemicals or pesticides. Plus, they are ethically sourced and feel incredible.
Neom Perfect Night Sleep Face Oil
Neom Perfect Night Sleep Face Oil, £10 (www.neomorganics.com) is full of antioxidants and vitamins and has Neom’s special ‘Tranquility fragrance’ made from lavender, chamomile and patchouli to make you sleepy. A lullaby in a bottle.⠀
Gingerlily London Silk Pillowcase
Pillows are important too, filling the gap between your shoulder and neck to keep neck and spine aligned. Another way to reduce chemical exposure is with a hypoallergenic and naturally dust-mite resistant silk pillowcase. Unlike wicking cotton, it doesn’t suck up my (organic) serum/night cream. I have used www.gingerlily.co.uk for years.
This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray
Plants such as lavender, peace lilies, ivy and orchids absorb carbon dioxide and improve air quality. Jasmine – shown in one study to reduce anxiety levels – also has a soothing effect on body and mind.
There’s a growing body of research demonstrating the anxiety-reducing effects of lavender: in mice, researchers found that some components of lavender odour offered similar results to taking Valium. My favourite lavender pillow spray is This Works deep sleep pillow spray, £18 (www.thisworks.com)
De Mamiel Lovely Sleep Series
De Mamiel‘s lovely Sleep series of roll-on products – Settle, Soothe, Anchor, Rise and Shine – prep you for good sleep, from £37 (www.demamiel.com)
Tisserand Aromatherapy Sleep Better
Tisserand Aromatherapy Sleep Better pulse point roll-on, £5.95 (www.tisserand.com) contains soporific sandalwood and lavender
Lumie Alarm Clock
I used to be a grumpy zombie in the morning until I discovered dawn simulators – alarm clocks that wake you up gently with light not sound. My Lumie alarm clock gradually increases light, reducing the spike of “stress hormone” cortisol when we wake to a shrill alarm clock. www.lumie.com, From £75 for the Bodyclock Spark 100
Ilapothecary Diffuser Ultrasonic Dispenser
I love Ilapothecary Diffuser Ultrasonic Dispenser, £62 (www.ilapothecary.com) a modern diffuser that purifies and scents the air around you for hours at a time. Use with Dream Space essential oil blend that contains the plant spikenard, known for its ability to alleviate insomnia, migraines, stress and nervous tension and create a peaceful atmosphere.