Many of us have faced a new reality over the last few months, working a lot more from home. Whilst this has allowed many of us to potentially spend more time in bed (no commuting and getting up early), other factors have compounded blocks to getting the sleep we need. First there is worry; worry over our futures and what the so-called “new normal” will entail, and whether this new normal has taken account of us and our lives. Secondly, the lure of films, media and screens tempt us from turning in early, and the blue light from the screens shutting down our ability to switch off.
The following three tips are courtesy of Marcus de Guingand, whose company “Third Pillar of Health” can identify Sleep issues within companies (firstname.lastname@example.org and www.thirdpillarofhealth.com)
1. Keep your levels of magnesium topped up
One of the most common UK deficiencies, magnesium is a key mineral, including optimising bone, nerve and energy creation in the body. It serves as a relaxant. Try taking 400 mg of magnesium 30 minutes before bed (I like the brand Magnesium 365 – I have nothing to do with the company!) Try taking a warm bath before bed with Epsom salts (magnesium is absorbed effectively through the skin).
It’s super obvious but really limit your coffee (and tea) intake – caffeine has a half life of at least 8 hours, and the addictive dose of caffeine is surprisingly low. One strong commercial coffee is likely to be way over the dose. Even if you think you are immune to the effects of caffeine, your brainwaves would beg to differ!
3. Eat real food – balance blood sugar
Avoid foods that are processed, and are: Sweet, fluffy (think white bread, or pop- corn) and white (processed). Balancing a key hormone, insulin means that stress hormones are likely to be more effectively under-control, and for some people a stable blood sugar can mean waking in the night is a thing of the past!
4. Sleep loves a routine
Disturbed routines are one of the main reasons we’ve seen a worldwide spikein sleeping problems in recent months, along with anxiety. Whilst a lack of commute means we potentially have more time to sleep we’re more likely to alter our daily routine. Whether staying up later, perhaps binging on a box set, or sleeping in later if we don’t have a Zoom call. The thing is sleep loves a routine. Try to come up with a routine to suit your new ‘normal’. Maintaining the same sleep and wake times every day can really help with improving sleep.
5. Measure your alcohol intake
It’s been well documented that alcohol sales have risen significantly during lockdown. It’s perhaps no surprise. Even in better times many people reach for a ‘nightcap’ to help them sleep. Whilst alcohol can help us fall asleep faster the quality of sleep after alcohol tends to be less restful and less recuperative. We won’t tell you to not have a drink, but just be mindful when you need to be happy, alert or productive the next day. The body processes 1 unit of alcohol an hour. So try to go to bed ‘alcohol free’.
6. Ditch the sleep tracker (perhaps)
New gadgets encourage us to track just about every aspect of our health and fitness. Personally, I find some of it very useful. I quite often take a look at my daily step count to see how I’ve faired over a week or month. However, when it comes to sleep they can create more problems than they solve. If you are one of the people that looks at what percentage of your sleep is spent in each stage – especially deep sleep – turn it off! There is a new phenomenon called ‘orthosomnia’ where we actually create anxiety about our sleep through endless tracking and attempts to optimise it. If you feel rested and fully functioning you are probably sleeping well enough. Their accuracy is also open to question – especially on details of different sleep stages.