Experts say we spend on average 26 years of our life sleeping. And we spend
another seven years trying to fall asleep. Considering that’s a third of our life
spent in bed, it makes sense to try and find tips for faster, better sleep.
But just like we approach our self-care with intention, we take our sleep very
seriously - we’re a natural bedding company, after all. Instead of quick fixes and
trendy tricks, we uncovered some holistic secrets to building long term, low tox
practices that will bolster your sleep for years to come.
Better sleep for your body
The first thing to factor into a more consistent sleep routine is the physical body.
How can you help your body unwind and relax, while creating an optimal
environment for rest?
Sleep deficiency isn’t just about feeling tired, it can create health issues like
heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. But by learning how to
prepare your physical body for sleep, it’ll ensure your sleep quality goes up and
your health risks go down.
Consistency is essential for both falling asleep and staying asleep. Matthew
Walker’s book, Why We Sleep, says if you can only stick to one physical secret,
it’s to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day - and yes, that means
Setting an alarm for your bedtime as well as your waking time
creates an internal rhythm for the body that makes sleep come more naturally.
Of course, we all know the secret that darkness helps regulate the circadian rhythm,
and that light from our screens disrupts this, but the second melatonin secret
that’s less talked about is temperature.
Your nocturnal melatonin levels that help you fall and stay asleep are also
influenced by the temperature dropping when the sun sets. The body seeks
out a lower core temperature in order to find restful sleep, so will find ways
to dump heat via extremities - just like when you unconsciously stick your
hands and feet outside of the covers.
While exercise is a proven way to enhance your body’s health and sleep
preparation, doing so too close to your bedtime is not advised
because - you guessed it - it raises your core body temperature.
Aerobic exercise also releases endorphins through the body, and these
chemicals can create activity in the brain that keeps us awake. After many
studies, Walker advises to avoid exercise in the three hours before sleep,
and caffeine and alcohol from early afternoon.
Another secret to lower your body temperature for easier sleep is to take a hot
bath or shower. Walker says, “When you get out of the bath, those dilated blood
vessels on the surface quickly help radiate out inner heat, and your core body
temperature plummets. Consequently, you fall asleep more quickly because
your core is colder. Hot baths prior to bed can also induce 10-15% more deep
sleep in healthy adults.”
Medical director of Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep, Charlene Gamaldo, adds
that while evidence shows “exercise does, in fact, help you fall asleep more
quickly and improves sleep quality”, it’s moderate aerobic exercise that works
best. This level of activity has been shown to increase the amount of slow wave
sleep you get, AKA deep sleep, where the brain and body can rejuvenate.
With your body rested, limber and regulated, there’s a few extra secrets for
supporting your body during sleep. These include finding a soothing sleeping
position that aids the body’s breathing and recovery, while using the optimum
low tox bedding accessories to encourage restful sleep.
This means opting for a natural fibre mattress made from low tox materials like
latex or wool and switching to an organic latex pillow that is designed to
support your natural postural alignment. These fibres are also hypoallergenic
and mould resistant, factors that impede on the quality of your sleep. But you
won’t want to stop there - instead, look at what your bedding is made of, and
swap synthetic materials for more natural fibres like linen, which use minimal
chemicals and are lightweight and breathable.
Better sleep for your mind
The mind is the second, arguably bigger, beast to tame when it comes to
restful, quality sleep. Sleep is important for a number of key brain functions, and
not getting enough can start a cycle of disrupted mood and energy, low self
esteem and stress. Because of the strong influence your mental health has over
your sleep, it’s impossible to achieve quality rest without also nourishing your mind.
We already know exercise helps the physical body unwind, but Dr Gamaldo
confirmed that consistent exercise also decompresses the mind and mood in
“a cognitive process that is important for naturally transitioning to sleep”.
Aerobic exercises like jogging or swimming are proven to reduce depression
and anxiety. The increase in blood circulation to the brain influences the
hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which communicates with several
systems to control mood and motivation, decrease your fear response to stress;
and support memory formation. And a huge side effect of these improvements?
Better, easier sleep.
A highly recommended exercise for your mind is yoga, and its companions of
breathwork and meditation. The crossover between these three is mindfulness -
allowing your racing mind to slow down and release worrying, nagging
thoughts. Harvard Medical School sleep specialist, Rebecca Robbins, says,
“Consciously focusing on the breath can help you separate yourself from the
darting thoughts that fly through your brain”.
By changing the rhythm of your breath, you slow your heart rate, reduce your
blood pressure, and engage the parasympathetic nervous system - your ‘rest
and digest’ - which helps ditch stress and anxiety.
promises to make you fall asleep within two minutes. Here’s how to do it.
- Relax your muscles, particularly the tongue, jaw and muscles around the eyes.
- Soften your shoulders, upper and lower arms, before moving down to your legs, using exhalations to aid the relaxing.
- Spend 10 seconds trying to clear the mind, before engaging with one of the following:
- Imagine you’re lying in a canoe on a calm lake, with a clear blue sky above you
- Imagine you’re lying in a black velvet hammock in a pitch-dark room
- Repeat “don’t think, don’t think, don’t think” to yourself over and over for about 10 seconds
With six weeks of repeated practice, this technique is said to work for 96% of
people, helping not only fall asleep faster, but remain in a peaceful slumber. This
of course leads to more REM sleep, which recent studies claim offers “a form of
overnight therapy”, taking the painful edge off our memories so our brains can
process emotional information.
Experts recommend boosting REM by building familiar rituals around bedtime.
Think soothing activities like reading, a warm bath, meditation, and gratitude
journaling. And if you’re a natural worrier, researchers also swear by a worry
journal, where you write down your most intrusive worries, tasks, and emotions
before bed, helping to mentally set those thoughts aside until morning.
Robbins says, “If your body knows what comes after the end of these activities
is sleep, then you start to condition yourself, and after a bit of time, your mind
will more easily slip into a state of relaxation, which increases your chances of sleep."
Finding a balance
By working with both the body and the mind, we recognise that good sleep is a
product of both. When our physical bodies are stretched and regulated, and our
minds are trained to release worries, sleep becomes deeper and more
accessible. But ultimately, it’s consistency that’s the tried and tested key.
Choose your sleep support tools, form a routine, and allow better sleep and
improved health to breathe new energy into your life.