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5 tips for a Good Night's Sleep

Insomnia affects around 1 in 3 people in the UK according to the NHS.  Maybe you have trouble getting off to sleep, no matter how tired you are.  Or you wake up often, or once you wake up you can’t get back to sleep.  People who suffer from insomnia can feel wiped out, irritable and struggle to nap. 

One of the benefits of massage that I absolutely love is that it can help us to sleep deeper and for longer.

But as we can't unfortunately have a massage every day, what can we do to improve our sleep patterns and be more energised during the day? Here are my top 5 'sleep habits'.

Tip #1 -Create a cosy sleeping environment

How can we make our bedroom as cosy and inviting to sleep as possible? Get rid of clutter and create a calm space with your favourite colours and soft furnishings. Blue is known to be calming and conducive to sleep. How warm is your room? Between 16 and 18 degrees is optimal for sleep. Think about your mattress and pillows - do they give you enough support and comfort? Try blackout blinds or a sleep mask to block out light and why not use a lavender pillow spray or candle. Use earplugs if you are a light sleeper or listen to music to block out noise. Make your bedroom a sleep haven!

Tip #2 - Aim for at least 7 hours sleep a night

If you need to be up by a certain time each morning, work backwards at least 7 hours plus settling down time and be strict about bedtime. To make this happen requires discipline! We need to decide when to switch off the TV, phones or tablet and switch to more relaxing pastimes to start to wind down. Putting your phone on do not disturb is also helpful overnight. Between 7 and 9 hours of sleep is recommended for adults. By setting your alarm for the same time each morning and going to bed at a similar time each evening you will gradually improve your sleep routine.

"A daily sleep journal can help you keep track of how well you are sleeping and identify factors that might be helping or hurting your sleep. If you are testing out a new sleep schedule or other sleep hygiene changes, your sleep diary can help document how well it is working." – Eric Suni, Sleep Foundation

Tip #3 - Take time to relax

One thing that has made a big difference to me is how I spend the 30-60 minutes before closing my eyes and trying to go to sleep. I used to look at my phone until my eyes felt tired but then my mind wouldn't switch off. Like a lot of people, I need time out to process what has happened during the day. Now I do something to engage my brain, like a crossword puzzle or learning a language (ask me something in Japanese!) for 15 minutes or so before reading a book. This tires out my brain that little bit more and allows me to switch off mentally. If you are already mentally tired but find it hard to physically relax, then try fitting in some physical exercise earlier in the evening, or stretches before bed. It is recommended for vigorous exercise to leave 2-3 hours before sleep.

Tip #4 - Think about what you're eating and drinking

The food that we eat can actually help our bodies produce melatonin, the sleep hormone. Did you know that milk contains tryptophan and serotonin, which are needed for melatonin? This is why a milky drink before bedtime can help. Other sources are chicken, turkey and pumpkin seeds. Avoid caffeine from around 2pm if you are sensitive to it's effects. Alcohol may make you drowsy, but it can lead to more disturbed sleep, so maybe lay off the night cap and avoid alcohol in the hour or so before bedtime. Heavy meals and sugary foods are also best avoided in the evening. I am currently drinking a herbal tea with lavender, oatflower and limeflower on an evening which I can recommend.

Tip #5 - Get up after 20 minutes

If you have been trying to get off to sleep with no success, either at bedtime or after waking in the night, it is best to get up. This helps prevent an association between bed and sleeplessness. You can choose a relaxing activity in low light. For me this would be colouring or listening to music or an audiobook. It's best to avoid stimulation such as your phone.

What do you think? Have you any other tips to share? And remember, massage is proven to help improve sleep, so get yours booked in!

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