You probably already know that drinking coffee in the evening isn’t the best way to get a good night’s shut-eye, right? If you’ve already reduced your caffeine intake but still have trouble getting to sleep at night, try some of these tips to help you slip off into slumberland:
1) Spend some time outdoors in natural light each day if possible – this helps to regulate your circadian clock (your internal day/night rhythm).
2) Make your bedroom as dark as possible – light can suppress the production of melatonin, which is needed to signal to your body that it is time to sleep.
3) Avoid sources of “blue” (short-wave) light for an hour before bed (this includes TV, computer screens and mobile phones!) – research has shown that blue light is the most melatonin suppressive. If you really can’t avoid using your laptop or smartphone before bed, you can download the f.lux app which gradually reduces the amount of blue light emitted by your screen throughout the day.
4) Exercise! The oft-quoted advice is to avoid exercising in the evening if you want a restful night’s sleep. However, exercise in the evening is likely to be better than no exercise at all. Yoga, pilates or a gentle walk would be ideal exercise before bed.
5) Address the stress in your life – constant worrying will keep the production of stress hormones, such as cortisol, high. Cortisol blocks the production of melatonin. Talk to someone, practice saying no, learn mindfulness or meditation, delegate some tasks – whatever works for you to bring your stress levels down.
6) Have a bath before bed – preferably with a cupful of Epsom Salts. Epsom Salts contain magnesium, which is well absorbed transdermally (through the skin). Magnesium acts as a relaxant, not just for your muscles, but for your nervous system too!
7) Balance your blood sugar throughout the day – this means minimising your intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar. A blood sugar high is usually swiftly followed by a low, and this triggers your adrenal glands to produce adrenaline which will make you feel jittery and set your mind racing.
8) Have a cup of calming herbal tea in the evening – chamomile, lemon balm, valerian, passion flower and lavender are all good choices. Pop the saucer over the top of your cup while your tea is cooling down to prevent those precious essential oils escaping in the steam.
9) Eat plenty of foods rich in tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which the body converts first to serotonin (which gives you a feeling of wellbeing), and then to melatonin. Good sources of tryptophan include turkey, chicken, brown rice, nuts, fish, milk, eggs, cheese and pumpkin seeds.
10) Drink your melatonin. Monterey cherry juice is naturally rich in melatonin and participants in a 2012 study given cherry juice concentrate slept better and for longer. Monterey cherry juice concentrate is available in health food shops.
Please do let me know what works for you!