Jan 03

Spruce up your Sleep Routine

Today is the Festival of Sleep Day.  Not heard of that one?  Neither had I.  Apparently it’s a day when we’re encouraged to get some extra sleep in order to recover fully from the festivities before the year really gets going.

To get you started, here are some things you might like to know about sleep:

  • Sleeping on a cloud

    How many of these fun facts about sleep do you know?

    It should take 10-15 minutes to fall asleep at night.  If you are falling asleep faster than this you may be sleep deprived.

  • Higher earners (over £65,000p/a) get the best sleep.

  • Pain tolerance is decreased when you don’t get enough sleep.

  • The longest recorded time for going without sleep and living to tell the tale is 11 days.  Some people who’ve attempted this have died trying; in the short term going without sleep may be even more dangerous than going without food.

  • Having trouble getting up in the morning?  You’re suffering from dysnia.  It may indicate a nutritional deficiency, or a hormonal or mental health issue.

  • Gaining weight on a healthy diet?  Take a look at your sleep.  Lack of sleep can cause levels of the appetite-regulating hormone Leptin to fall, making you hungrier.

  • Regular exercise can help regulate your sleep, but exercising sporadically or working out shortly before bed can disrupt it.

  • Stress

    What issues in your life might hinder your sleep?

    Stress, illness, living arrangements, family history, shift work, diet and exercise patterns can all contribute to insomnia, which is not lack of hours slept, but the symptoms it causes, such as headaches, irritability and difficulty concentrating.  Did you know that 16 hours without sleep has the same negative effect on your concentration as a blood alcohol level of 0.05%?  The legal limit is 0.08%.

Everyone knows that good-quality sleep is an essential element of healthy living, but what can you do if you have difficulty sleeping?  Here are some tips for improving your sleep routine, so that you can get better-quality shuteye and have more energy, concentration and productivity throughout the day.

  1. Food sources of tryptophan

    Tryptophan with your evening meal can help promote quality sleep

    For your evening meal, make sure you include turkey, chicken, soya eggs or fish, as these contain tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid (building block for protein), which is used to make 5HTP, which converts to serotonin, which in turn is used to make melatonin, the chemical your body makes to promote sleep. Tryptophan is more available to your brain in the presence of carbohydrate (Shabbir et al, 2013), so ensure that you also include a little carbohydrate (e.g. one small potato, or a spoonful of rice).  Fill the rest of your plate with colourful vegetables.  Avoid sugar and alcohol.

  1. Do not drink any caffeinated or sugary drinks. Instead choose water or herbal tea.  Some people find chamomile soothing, but be careful with it if you’re taking antidepressants, as it could strengthen their effect (Natural Medicines Database, 2017).  Some people also report good results with viridian tea.  Try and finish all fluids at least an hour before bed to reduce the chances of having to wake up to wee in the middle of the night.

  1. Aim to do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days. Physical activity may be associated with better sleep quality, and also with feeling more satisfied about your overall health, particularly in young adults (Chang et al, 2016).  But stop exercising at least 4 hours before bed.

  1. Avoid all electronic devices 2 hours before bed. Turn them off, and put your phone on airline mode.  Instead, listen to an audio book, read a physical book, take a bath (anecdotally, an Epsom salt bath may be helpful for relaxation, especially if you suffer from restless legs or muscle cramps), or talk to a friend or family member.

  1. Aim to go to bed at a similar time each night, so that you accustom yourself to a specific

    Factors affecting sleep

    Which of these factors influence your sleep?

    time being the time to sleep. Having a regular sleep time may be helpful as part of a sleep routine (Kaczor & Skalski, 2016).

  2. Do a ‘brain dump’ before you go to bed; write down everything that’s in your mind so that it’s out on paper and not racing around in your mind.  Then make a list of what you will action the next day.  Taking a few moments to plan can make all the difference.  If you don’t like that way of getting rid of your worries, the South Americans have a tradition of telling their problems to tiny ‘worry dolls’, which they then put under their pillow before they go to sleep.  This is supposed to make the worries go away.  Obviously it’s just a superstition, but getting worries out of your head in whichever way works for you does seem to have an effect.

  3. Play sleep sounds, or relaxing music before you go to bed, and use low-level lighting in your room to help you transition to a sleep state.  You can also use a hypnosis recording designed specially for those who have difficulty sleeping. Ensure that your room is suitably dark, and you are neither too hot nor too cold at night.

  4. If you are bothered by a partner’s snoring try going to bed earlier than they do, so that you fall asleep first and aren’t kept awake by the sound.  If it’s serious and persistent your partner should have a chat with their doctor, as it could be an indicator of sleep apnoea, which is potentially serious.

Do you have any top tips for perfect sleep?  I’d love you to share them in the comments below.

Sweet dreams!



Chang, S.P., Shih, K.S., Chi, C.P., Chang, C.M., Hwang, K.L., & Chen, Y.H., (2016).  Association between exercise participation and quality of sleep and life among university students in Taiwan.  Asia-Pacific Journal of Public Health, 28(4), 356-367.

Kaczor, M., & Skalski, M., (2016).  Treatment of behavioural sleep problems in children and adolescents – literature review.  Psychiatria Polska, 50(3), 571-584.

Shabbir, F., Patel, A., Mattison, C., Bose, S., Krishnamohan, R., Sweeney, E., Sandhu, S., et al, (2013).  Effects of diet on serotonergic neurotransmission in depression.  Neurochemistry International, 62(3), 324-329.


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