A sleep therapist weighs in
Let’s face it: nothing beats a solid nap session where you wake up feeling more refreshed than ever and ready to get on with the rest of your day. Or perhaps you’re the kind of person who ensures she gets a solid seven, eight or even nine hours of shut-eye every single night.
Whatever your snooze style, it’s important to keep in mind that quality is definitely more important than quantity. However, it’s not always possible or easy to achieve the perfect sleep each night.
“The most common causes of insomnia are environmental change (such as sleeping at a hotel, [in] a new bed or [with a] new bed partner), emotional arousal (caused from strong feelings such as anger, sadness or excitement, like an argument with one’s partner prior to bed), fear of insomnia (often a few nights of troubled sleep can cause fear of insomnia, which may preempt sleep, causing anxiety that prevents onset of sleep), disruptive environment (like noise from loud neighbours, a crying baby or restless child, clutter, light, deviations in temperature) and late night screen time (blue light inhibits the production of the sleep hormone melatonin),” says sleep therapist, naturopath and nutritionist Tristian Kelly.
We caught up with Kelly ahead of her Sleep Awakening workshop at the COMO Shambhala Estate in Bali (running between May 17th to 22nd 2018), to find out her top tips for improving sleep.
Wake up at the same time each day
Having a routine is important when it comes to waking up feeling energised. “Sleep is reliant on circadian rhythms (cycles that repeat once a day, regulating the functions of your body and brain such as liver function, body temperature, hormone release and your sleep-wake cycle),” explains Kelly. “Having a regular wake-up time means we regulate our body clock. Sleep is also reliant on what we call the homeostasis, which is to do with how much time we stay awake and how much time asleep, so waking the same time each day ensures enough sleep pressure will build during the day, usually peaking at about 16 hours after waking up.”
Get exposure to early morning sunlight
Want to make the most of your day? Set your alarm for an early morning start. “Natural light keeps your internal clock on a healthy sleep-wake cycle,” says Kelly. “Light inhibits melatonin and allows for our wakeful state. By helping regulate the sleep-wake cycle, it in turn ensures that we will feel sleepy at the appropriate time at night.”
Avoid blue light from your computer or phone
We get it - it’s so tempting to scroll through Instagram and Facebook right before you hit the hay. However, Kelly warns against this practice: “melatonin, one of the major sleep hormones promoting sleepiness, is inhibited by light, in particular blue light from electronic devices. Although I recommend turning off your computers and phones as early as you can, and many people say a good hour before bed (I say a few hours before bed!), you can change the colour of your screen to a red hue, which won’t have as much of an effect on your melatonin levels. You can install Flux, or smartphones have a night shift [setting] that changes the colour temperature on your iPhone or iPad. I take this a step further and wear blue light blocking glasses when working on a computer or watching TV at night. I was offered this when I recently upgraded my prescription lenses however I also have a pair I bought for ten dollars at a local store. They are also readily available online.”
Eat a light and easily digestible meal in the evening
Did you know that your diet can affect the way you sleep at night? “Digesting food takes a lot of energy and can increase your body temperature,” explains Kelly. “The process of digesting food can keep you awake, not to mention your body has a better chance of sleep when body temperature drops. Heavy meals put the digestive system into overdrive, with different hormones and neurotransmitters being released. It also leads to a spike in blood sugar levels and a flood of amino acids crashing through the body. All of these mean that the body is too active to allow the brain to shut it down.”
Turn your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary
We’ll take any excuse to stock up on luxurious bed sheets, cosy pillows and silk eye masks. “As well as ensuring your room is kept dark, quiet and a comfortable temperature, you need to think about how it makes you feel emotionally,” finishes Kelly. “It needs to be a comforting, nurturing space where you just can’t wait to lay down and curl up and relax and fall to sleep. Make sure you surround yourself with items you love such as a nice photo of a loved one, a favourite piece of art or a gorgeous quilt cover and natural fibre bedding. And make sure to take away any electronic devices especially ones that light up your room, like an alarm clock.”
Iantha is BEAUTYcrew's Beauty Editor, and has been part of the team since the site launched in 2016. Besides pinot noir, she has a healthy obsession with fake tan smell, wispy false lashes and CND Shellac in the shade Romantique. Her words and styling can also be found in Virgin Australia Voyeur, Women's Health, and previously in SHOP Til You Drop and Cosmopolitan.