Do you dream of waking refreshed and ready to greet the day? Here’s how to get the best sleep of your life…
Sleep rebuilds and keeps us young. High-quality sleep fortifies our immune system, balances hormones, boosts metabolism and physical energy, and improves brain function. But sleep patterns change as you age.
“Sleep is an emotional issue,” claims sleep behaviour expert James Wilson, “and, while you often become more sensitive to the effects of caffeine and alcohol as you age, you’ve also weathered the worst of the yo-yo hormonal issues around chaotic sleep, life is stable, and you have a consistent bedtime routine, so sleep may improve.”
If you’re one of the 30 to 40% of adults with some level of insomnia though, you can learn to sleep better.
“Even poor sleepers can improve by getting into the right routine, eating well, doing mild exercise, and having a relaxing pre-bed routine,” says James.
And that means one that is tailored for you. “I find that couples are often attracted to their opposite sleep type, so my advice is not to fight your owl or lark tendencies, but to find a rhythm that works for you.”
He also advises not getting anxious on nights when sleep isn’t forthcoming. “Get out of bed and start your relaxing routine again – you’ll eventually get drowsy.”
The science of sleep
In neuroscientist Matthew Walker’s book Why We Sleep, he says that we should aim for eight hours’ quality sleep each night.
We sleep in cycles of roughly 90 minutes, during which the brain flushes out metabolic by-products, including a protein called beta-amyloid, which is thought to be a major factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
The sleepless epidemic
Matthew believes that the west is experiencing an “epidemic of sleeplessness”, caused by work patterns, drinking too much caffeine and alcohol, and our fondness for gadgets – known to interfere with the production of sleep hormone melatonin. Turn off your tech one hour prior to getting into bed, to allow the body to restore and relax.
You are what you eat
Most South Africans are early risers, and sleep best on Wednesday nights, according to a recent global survey.
There’s no doubt that a balanced diet helps us fight stress and our bodies to relax. Omega-3 fatty acids, tryptophan, and some carbohydrates reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, therefore helping our bodies prepare for a good night’s sleep.
The sleep diet
Add these foods to your menu:
- Oily fish: For vital omega-3 fatty acids
- Lean meat: A source of B12 and B6
- Dairy: Rich in calcium and B12
- Eggs: A source of tryptophan and B12
- Nuts, seeds and legumes: Provide tryptophan, B6, and magnesium
- Green leafy vegetables: Contain folate and magnesium
- Wholegrains: Full of complex carbs and magnesium
- Fermented foods like yoghurt, kimchi and kombucha: Promote growth of healthy gut bacteria
By Jane Druker