Daily undulating periodised workout program? Check. Nutrition plan with a macro breakdown and carb backloading? Check. Supplement stack optimised for maximum fat loss and muscle gain? Check. Mineralised water in a glass bottle and BPA-free plastic lunch box packed with organic chicken and spinach? Check.
When it comes to modern health regimes, it seems almost no stone has gone unturned; we've covered every base and then some. In some ways, health has become another in a long line of issues in which we have learned more and more, about less and less until, at this stage, many of us are guilty of overlooking the most fundamental of health factors. Despite decades of research and lifelong, inescapable and inherent knowledge of its importance, when it comes to the hierarchy of health, sleep is often the forgotten factor.
Of course, it will come as no surprise to anyone that lack of sleep can dampen our mood and emotions, ask any new parent, but research is now uncovering how deeply sleep deprivation cuts into the fabric of our health, affecting our lives in a myriad of ways, including how we cope with stress, how we manage blood sugar levels, our chances of losing body fat or becoming obese or diabetic, how aggressively we react in certain situations and even our ability to remember where we put those pesky car keys.
With so many aspects of our health being reliant on sound sleep, it makes perfect sense to work on our sleeping habits to work on our exercise and nutrition habits. All of our healthy practices are far more effective when our nightly trips to the Land of Nod are peaceful, regular and undisturbed. So here are six tips to help improve your sleep and get the most from beddy-bys time.
1. Make your room cool
For most people, the ideal temperature for sleep is somewhere between 15 and 20 degrees C. You'll have to experiment to find what feels good, but the first stage for a good nights sleep is a chilly bed. If you shiver when you get underneath the sheets, you're good to go. The best way to get the room chilled is to leave a window open, provide fresh air, or use a quiet fan directed at the bed.
2. Make your room as quiet as possible
White noise like a fan can help with sleep, but exposure to traffic noise, for example, has been shown to decrease overall sleep quality. It's hard to drift off when people are arguing and blaring their horns outside your place. Remember that phones left in the bedroom will have alerts and buzzes sounding throughout the night, which can be loud enough to disturb your sleep.
3. Make your room as dark as possible
Even a tiny amount of light can interfere with melatonin production and impair your sleep. Turn off any electronic devices with LED's or cover the lights with a small piece of electrical tape. Hang a blanket or towel over your bedroom window if light creeps in; even better, buy blackout curtains.
4. Ditch the mobile phone
Radiation emitted from mobile phones can increase the amount of time required to reach deep sleep cycles and decrease the time spent in those cycles. If you're using your phone as an alarm clock, stop! Replace it with a regular battery-powered clock and turn your phone off or plug it in somewhere outside of your bedroom to charge overnight.
5. Stick to a schedule
This one can take some discipline, but it's worth it: Wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Your body can't establish an effective rhythm if you don't allow it to normalise to a pattern. If you stay up late, don't oversleep. Instead, plan on going to bed a little earlier the next night. The sleep you get before midnight will be more valuable than the sleep you get after midnight, so always think in terms of making up for lost sleep by going to bed early the next night rather than sleeping in the next morning. Pick a time to go to bed and wake up. Stick to it for at least two weeks before altering.
6. Get a good bed
A quality bed is one of the best investments you'll ever make. And it doesn't have to be ludicrously expensive to work. High-end mattresses like Harrison or Posturepedic are fantastic, but you don't have to spend a fortune. It's perhaps more important to have a new mattress that suits your "firmness" preference, replacing an old mattress that has lost its spring and support. Whatever you do, don't put up with a low-quality mattress or a futon. If you already have a good mattress, you're all set. If you're sleeping on something that's thin, lumpy, or too small, take a look at your finances and see if you can set aside £50 – £100 per month to buy a new one. It's well worth it.