We’ve all been there: tossing and turning, unable to get to sleep, unable to stay asleep once we have fallen asleep. Sleepless nights affect up to 16 million adults in the UK, with 31% of them having been diagnosed with insomnia. 67% of UK adults say they wish they could sleep better and almost a quarter manage no more than five hours a night.
Establishing a bedtime routine can be an effective way to keep troubled sleep at bay. If you want to sleep better or cure insomnia, you need to unwind and relax fully before you head to bed. You might also want to try your hand at sleep meditation or incorporate sleep supplements such as ashwagandha into your routine.
Read on for our top tips on how to establish a bedtime routine to quieten your mind and help you to switch off before bed:
Wrap up your day
Once you’ve finished work for the day, you need to start transitioning into sleep mode. Make a pact with yourself not to check your email out of hours as the process of logging in, scrolling and replying all raise cortisol levels, making it more difficult to sleep later on. The same goes for social media - try to avoid these dopamine-inducing activities later in the day.
Try to have a transition activity that you know gets you into ‘home’ mode that you do every day after work. This could be walking the dog, taking a bath, listening to music, or even getting changed into something more comfortable. Anything that helps signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down and relax.
Finish up eating
Aim to finish eating at least two hours (more if you can manage it) before you go to bed. Digestion can interrupt both falling asleep and staying asleep. Foods to focus on include serotonin-boosting and tryptophan-rich foods such as lean turkey, salmon, tofu, nuts and seeds, cottage cheese and eggs. Pair these with complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes or brown rice, and have a magnesium and potassium-rich banana paired with a chamomile tea for dessert. Chamomile tea contains an antioxidant called apigenin which is known for its calming and, some say tranquilising, effects.
You should aim to eat light where possible and shift to making lunch your main meal if this is not already the case. However, you don’t want to go to bed too hungry as a rumbly tummy and low blood sugar can also disturb sleep. Use your judgement and if you need a small snack try to stick to nibbling around 200 calories and a balance of high quality fat, protein and complex carbohydrates. Peanut butter on oatcakes is a great option, as is a low fat yoghurt topped with banana and a handful of pumpkin seeds.
Try to avoid liquids for an hour or two before bed to avoid having to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages completely as they can really mess with your sleep cycle.
Take the right supplements
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine to promote better sleep and improved wellbeing . It is a member of the species somnifera which, in Latin, means ‘sleep-inducing’.
Specifically, Ashwagandha KSM-66®, as formulated at 600mg in LYMA, has been clinically proven to enhance sleep quality and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. The leaves of the ashwagandha plant contain a substance called ‘triethylene glycol’; this is the compound responsible for transmitting sleep signals around the body.
Furthermore, root-extracted Ashwagandha KSM-66® has been proven to reduce stress levels and lower anxiety in people who supplement daily. Stress and anxiety have been reported as being leading causes of insomnia.
Set the scene
You need to create a haven in your sleep area. No phones should be allowed in the bedroom, nor should any laptops, computers or tablets. Your bedroom should be a tech-free zone.
Keep your bedroom clean and tidy. There is nothing like a pile of dirty laundry to bring down the zen energy of the room and keep you awake mentally plotting out tomorrow’s to-do list. Prioritise cool, calming colours, and spritz your pillow with relaxing lavender which has been proven to help lull you to sleep.
It’s important that your bedroom be the right temperature too. Experts suggest that setting your thermostat to between 15°C and 19°C (60°F- 67°F) created the optimal temperature environment for sleep.
Your bedroom should not be used for anything other than sleep or, ahem, other bedroom activities. So if you’re working from home, try to work in the kitchen or living room. This helps your brain to maintain an association between being in your bedroom and falling asleep. It is for this reason that experts recommend that people who wake up in the night get up, leave their bedroom, and only return once they are confident they will fall back asleep; a measure that is thought to prevent the brain from equating being in bed and staring at the ceiling with a struggle to fall asleep.
Sleep is one of three fundamental pillars that underpin health, along with exercise and nutrition. Trouble sleeping should never be glossed over - the detrimental effects of under-sleeping are well-documented and potentially fatal. If you are struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep then try to make these tweaks to your evening routine, and for an extra dose of support try LYMA: the ultimate sleep supplement . LYMA contains the perfect balance of patented ingredients at proven levels to help you to feel your best day and night.
Originally published Oct 22, 2020.