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  • Writer's pictureHelen

Tips for Better Sleep

Its World Sleep Day on 18th March and the theme is sleep is essential for health. Just like eating well and exercising, sleep is a behaviour that is foundational to your physical, mental, and social well-being.

Sleep has a major impact on how we are feeling. If you have a bad nights sleep you can feel groggy, out of sorts and have low energy. Sleep loss can also disturb hormonal regulation of energy homeostasis leading to eating more. I tend to crave carbohydrate-rich food if I’ve had a bad night’s sleep. Apparently this is due to a decrease in circulating leptin levels ( leptin is a hormone secreted from fat cells that helps to regulate body weight) and an increase in ghrelin levels (ghrelin is a hormone that increases appetite).

Sleep problems affect 1 in 3 of us at any one time, and about 10% of the population on a chronic basis. Problems getting to sleep will be familiar to most of us at one point or another; lying there, staring at the ceiling, just willing your eyes to shut whilst the clock counts round. For most people this is associated with a period of stress or excitement.

For women, fluctuating hormones can disrupt sleep. Just before a period, a woman’s progesterone levels dip dramatically, which is why some women can find it really difficult to get quality sleep when they are suffering from PMS. Progesterone levels will rise after a period so will then be able to get a better night’s sleep. Oestrogen levels also skyrocket in the first trimester of pregnancy: A woman produces more oestrogen during one pregnancy than throughout the entire rest of her life. This may be the reason women report feeling drowsy and take more naps in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

As a woman nears menopause, her hormone levels fluctuate dramatically, causing night sweats and hot flashes, which can wake the brain during sleep. In addition, lower levels of progesterone make some women irritable and less able to relax.

Sufficient sleep, especially REM sleep, facilitates the brain’s processing of emotional information. During sleep, the brain works to evaluate and remember thoughts and memories, and it appears that a lack of sleep is especially harmful to the consolidation of positive emotional content. This can influence mood and emotional reactivity. Sleep specialists agree the range of 6.68-10 hours of sleep per night is the optimum amount.

Tips to help with a better night’s sleep:

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule. Get up at the same time each day, even at weekends.

  • Take some form of exercise, even walking is good. Exercise is an effective measure to improve sleep.

  • Drink caffeinated drinks before lunchtime. Caffeine stays in your system for a long time so can disrupt sleep.

  • Switch off devices (mobile, iPad, laptop) an hour before you go to bed.

  • Have a wind-down routine before bed. Pick out activities that you enjoy, and that are relaxing, for example reading, going for a short walk, taking a bath or listening to music. Avoid activities that are likely to leave you pumped up like strenuous exercise or watching a scary film.

  • Turn mobile to airplane mode before sleep.

  • Keep the bedroom temperature cool at night.



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