Six ways to get a good night’s sleep

Research unswervingly shows that some serious shuteye is essential for your health and wellbeing, with lack of sleep associated with everything from weight gain to cancer, research has also proven that there’s a link between inadequate sleep and signs of ageing, with lack of sleep doubling the signs of skin ageing, including fine lines.

One study, conducted by University Hospital Case Medical Centre in Ohio and commissioned by Estée Lauder, investigated the process of catabolysis in skin and cellular synchronisation and purification, and their connection to sleep. Catabolysis is a natural purification process that helps skin cells eliminate internal debris that can cause cellular damage.

Getting older, coupled with environmental factors, generates internal debris within cells which can cause cellular damage and prevent cells from functioning efficiently. Skin cells have a natural 24-hour rhythm, repairing themselves at night and protecting themselves in the day. Catabolysis is at its peak at night in line with the circadian rhythm of your body. With age the process becomes less efficient and desynchronised, contributing to the appearance of aged and dehydrated skin.

The researchers found that poor quality sleepers lost 30 percent more water 72 hours after a skin barrier disruption, such as exposure to UV light, than those who regularly have good quality sleep. The poor sleepers also showed twice the amount of intrinsic signs of ageing such as fine lines, reduced elasticity and uneven pigmentation.

If you’re tormented by hours spent staring at the ceiling while the rest of the world slumbers (or so you imagine), take heed of these sleep-inducing tips.

1. Have a warm bath before bedtime

Normal body temperatures play off your body’s circadian rhythm. Temperatures are low during sleep and at their highest point during the day. A drop in body temperature can be a trigger for drowsiness, and the cooling down that occurs after a warm bath facilitates feelings of sleepiness.

2. Avoid caffeine and alcohol

Caffeine products such as coffee, tea, colas and chocolate are stimulants. They usually remain in your body from three to five hours but some of us can still feel their effects up to 12 hours later. It’s best to avoid caffeine within six to eight hours of going to bed. And, dare we say it, but a glass or two of alcohol as a nightcap can make for a very restless night, not to mention a pesky hangover the morning after. Alcohol can also restrict airflow into the lungs which reduces oxygen in your blood and can lead to snoring (and no one likes a snorer).

3. Get active

We’re not going to be the thousandth person in your lifetime to tell you to get more exercise – but we are going to warn you about achieving balance. We all know that over-resting leaves us sluggish and lethargic, but if you over-exercise it could cause muscle strain and burnout, too. Eight hours staring at a computer screen is standard these days, and it can wear out your brain. Just like your brain shutting down when it needs to, exercise makes sure your bod winds down when the moment it needs to arrives. Exercise also triggers those much-heralded endorphins. Produced by the brain, they bolster your mood and aid the production of the hormones that help you fall asleep.

4. Choose the right foods

All those old wives’ tales about eating before bed are on the mark, but less important than you’d like to think. Eating at the right time, your ‘metabolic window’, conditions your body’s metabolism to wake up and wind down. Within this timeframe you can give your body an important message: in your world there is an adequate supply of food, so it can sit back and relax into sleep mode when it feels the need. Different types of food can affect how you sleep. Meals rich in carbohydrates set off a chain reaction which makes you sleepy. Carbs trigger the release of insulin, which increases the level of the chemical tryptophan in the brain. From there, it’s turned into serotonin, and serotonin is a sleep inducer. Eating proteins has the opposite effect to carbohydrates and can make us feel more alert. A lunch rich in protein may well prevent the 3pm slump, while eating carbohydrates at dinner should help you to sleep.

5. Chill out

Take some time out to unwind. Reading a book, meditating or simply focusing on your breathing should do the trick. Creating a calm bedroom environment is also a must. Televisions are a definite no-no and put your phone down already – your bedroom is for sleep, it’s not an entertainment centre. Fragrance the air with a botanical room spray, light a candle or practise the gentle art of aromatherapy. Herbs such as lavender can help you get a full 40 winks. Humans are hunter-gatherers and instinctively need to feel safe before nodding off. We all have our own little sleep aids, whether this be an open window, heating, a fan, white noise or a sleeping mask. Make sure you have a good set of blinds and earplugs handy if you need them. We use these aids to reduce distractions and tell our brains it’s safe to chill out.

6. Go to bed at the same time (and don’t hit the snooze button in the am!)

Creating a habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time each day works to anchor your body clock and helps your body balance both sleep time and wake time. Some experts recommend that you sleep for between seven and nine hours every night, while others say the amount of sleep you require is what you need to not be sleepy in the daytime.