Man sleeping on a banana illustration (Dale Edwin Murray)Man sleeping on a banana illustration (Dale Edwin Murray) © Copyright

How to sleep

As you know, sleep is one of the most important aspects of your active lifestyle – it can affect everything from your goals in the gym to your mental health.

Sleep expert Professor Paul Gringras gives us the low down on how to combat a dysfunctional sleep pattern, and what it takes to get a good night’s kip.

WORK IT OUT

Exercise can improve sleep quantity, sleep quality, mood, and general wellness, and is one of the best ‘sleep medicines’ around. But like all medicines, there is a right and wrong way to use it.

The timing of exercise can make a big difference. Exercise in the morning is unlikely to help you fall asleep at night, and exercise too close to bedtime is likely to cause problems in falling asleep. Keep your exercise specific to you – what may work for some may not work for you, but as a rough guide, try taking 20 to 30 minutes of exercise that is moderate for you between 4pm and 7pm.

THROW SHADES

Blackout blinds or good curtains with a decent lining will prevent you from being woken up too early in summer months. Light can often come in round the edges of the blinds, so make sure they are well fitted, or experiment with simple black sheeting down the sides.

FRUITFUL REST

Melatonin is also known as the ‘hormone of darkness’, and can help open the gates for sleep in the evening. But rather than taking melatonin supplements, enjoy a few pieces of tropical fruit in the evening to increase levels of this natural hormone. Pineapples, bananas, oranges and cherries are a good starting point.

SWITCH OFF

Whenever you can, expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. It’s important to spend time outside during daylight and try to let as much natural light into your home or workspace as possible. Indoor lights do not have the same benefits on your body clock, alertness and wellbeing.

The bright screens of TVs, tablets and phones are not conducive to a good night’s sleep. These bright and often blue light sources switch off your brain’s production of melatonin, and mean it’ll take you longer to fall asleep. If you can, leave electronics outside of the bedroom, or turn them off at least an hour before your bedtime.

If you can’t bear to be away from your device, then turn it on to night mode to reduce the intensity and therefore impact this light will have on you. If your device does not have such a mode, try an app such as blue light or flux – they carefully alter the colours emitted by your devices in the evenings to protect that all-important melatonin.

BEDDING DOWN

A good mattress is important to ensure good quality sleep. The sleep experts at Leesa recommend changing your mattress when it’s no longer providing you with comfort. The lifecycle of a mattress will vary from person to person, and in short, if your mattress is causing you discomfort, replace it.

Back and other joint pain can affect your sleep, and a new mattress could be a solution. Be careful about rushing out to choose a really firm orthopaedic style mattress, though. While these were initially thought to be the best for back pain, a study proved that medium-firm was better than firm.

Leesa mattresses are built from three unique layers of foam for a universal adaptive feel – this means it adapts to the sleeper’s body in order to provide the right support.

BE A CAVE MAN

The ‘cave’ principle is to keep the bedroom cool, quiet and dark, and it holds a lot of truth – try to aim for a thermally neutral room, so that your body doesn’t have to shiver or sweat to keep warm or cool down: 18.5°C to 20°C is ideal.

NOISY NIGHTS

Noise at night is a good thing. Really. We did not evolve to need absolute quiet. A background noise that we feel is ‘safe’ is great at masking other noises (such as creaky floorboards and heating), and helps the positive sleep habits we need to build up to associate our bed with sleep. Listen to anything that is calming, predictable and monotonous.

Check out Cristiano Ronaldo's sleep regime for inspiration

Man sleeping on a banana illustration (Dale Edwin Murray)

 

Illustration: Dale Edwin Murray

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