Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Benefits of Sleep (and how to get a good nights)

It's amazing the amount of people I speak to who get by on 6 hours sleep a night. Some people can survive on this with no problems, but if you are feeling tired during the day, your immune system is low  or you notice you are feeling mentally foggy, then you may need more. Most people need an average of 8 hours a night to function properly.

When we sleep, our body performs a series of tasks that it cannot do as effectively during the day - tissue and muscle repair, the release of hormones that regulate growth and appetite control and memory consolidation to name a few. If we cut our sleep short, we are definitely cutting ourselves short in the health department.

So how to get a good nights sleep?

Watch what you eat...

Truffle Gnocchi with Mushroom Ragu
Image via Simply Delicious

Foods contain all the chemical compounds our bodies need to function effectively. Eating a varied and balanced diet is essential to ensuring we provide ourselves with an array of nutrients to get the best from our health. Both carbohydrates and protein are essential in providing the amino acid tryptophan which is essential for sleep, and so ensuring you get some of each throughout the afternoon and evening is a great start. Forget the "no carbs in the evening or i'll get fat" mantra - its simply not true if you stick to sensible portions and include loads of veg. Every naturally occurring food group has a place in our diet. Think eggs on toast with wilted spinach or fish, rice and steamed veg. 

We all know this one, but i'll say it again - avoid caffeine in the afternoon and sugar before bed. We all have different tolerances, if I have a coffee after lunchtime I don't sleep properly, so if you are having any trouble with your sleep quality, you may want to look at removing or reducing the stimulants.

Set the scene...

Image via Naima Barcelona
My mother-in-law always says that you can skimp on some things, but sheets are not one of them. Several sets of high quality, high thread count, cotton sheet set christmas presents later, I totally agree with her (I love you M.I.L). 

Getting a good nights sleep is about being in an environment that encourages relaxation. So before the sheets should really come the mattress. 

I bought a new Sleepmaker mattress  just after Stella was born (if I wasn't going to be getting much sleep, I was going to make damn sure that the sleep I did get was quality!) - two years later I still crawl into bed every night and breath a sigh of contentment - it feels like I'm sleeping on clouds.  The recommendation is that you get a new mattress every 10 years. 

A calming colour scheme will also help the body to relax - think greens, blues and whites. Its also a good idea to de-clutter your bedroom - keep a basket that you can throw clothes into and make your bed in the morning. Coming into a fresh and lovely sanctuary after the madness of a toy-strewn lounge room is quite literally bliss - and its your space. 

Beating the mind chatter...

The Benefits of Sleep (and how to get a good night's)
Image by Chamomile and Peppermint

Carried out all of the above to find you have turned out the lights but are contending with your brain telling you of the myriad of things you have to get done tomorrow, or about the bills that need to be paid, or about that dirty-rat boyfriend who stayed out all night and didn't ring to let you know where he was? Mind chatter is a sleep killer and sometimes we need a little help. 

There are some beautifully gentle and relaxing herbs that can help you out. Valerian, passionflower, hops, oat straw and chamomile are all known to help with sleep and can be sourced from your health food shop. Just have a chat to the staff first so they can ask you a few questions. If you are really having trouble with sleep, go and see your naturopath so that they can work out a diet and lifestyle plan and prescribe you with the herbs that are best suited to your situation. 

Sweet dreams!

   Emma xxx

This post was sponsored by Sleepmaker. All information in this post is true and from my honest opinions.