Adequate sleep is essential for both physical and mental well-being. Not only does good sleep improve your focus and concentration, it also promotes healing and reduces your risk for a plethora of health conditions.

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A recent survey has revealed that during the coronavirus lockdown, almost 50 per cent of us are experiencing more sleep disruption than usual.

The term ‘sleep hygiene’ refers to the habits and practices conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis. One of the key principles of sleep hygiene is simply achieving an appropriate amount of sleep for your person. Both too much and too little sleep can negatively affect your health, with researchers agreeing between 7-9 hours is the optimal length of shut eye required for the average adult.

As with many things, the key to improving your sleep is to experiment and discover the strategies that provide you with deep, restorative sleep every night. Take a look at our top ten suggestions below and find what works for you.

Woman struggling to sleep

1. Establish a routine

Your body works on a sleep/wake cycle known as the circadian rhythm. This cycle loves the consistency of a routine as it can be quite sensitive to change. By adopting a regular nightly routine, you are clearly indicating to your body when it is time for bed, allowing it to prepare for a restful night of sleep. Establishing a set bed and wake time, as well as incorporating wind down rituals such as putting on your pyjamas, making a cup of herbal tea, taking a bath or even just brushing your teeth are great ways to prime your body for a restful night.

2. Reduce your caffeine consumption

Studies suggest that consumption of stimulants such as caffeine can cause sleep issues for several hours after consumption. If you’re struggling to sleep, reducing or eliminating your caffeine intake by midday can be a great first step. Consider switching to decaf or herbal teas after 12pm.

3. Keep an eye on your sugar intake

When we are tired, we naturally have more sugar cravings, which are actually the body’s way of saying it needs more energy. However a 2022 study found that poor sleep quality was significantly related to higher added sugar intake. Adding more protein and good fats to your will help reduce the sugar cravings, by filling you up for longer, and if you are craving a sweet treat, opt for something wholesome like a piece of fruit or try one of our lower sugar recipes.

3. Go easy on the bedtime snacks

Eating large quantities of food before bed can really throw off your sleep. If you think about it, the primary function of food is to create energy, so if you’re eating a lot before bed, you’re stimulating your digestion, leading to sleep disruption for some. Ideally, your last meal should be at least 2-3 hours before bed to allow sufficient time for digestion. With that said, you don’t want to go to sleep hungry either, so if you do require a light snack, choose something with some protein and carbohydrate which support the creation of your sleep hormone melatonin.

Why not be inspired by some of our healthy snack recipes?

4. Get out in the natural daylight

Light is a huge factor when it comes to supporting or inhibiting the production of your sleep hormone melatonin, as well as influencing our body temperature and metabolism. To support a better sleep/wake cycle, it’s important to try and get at least 30 minutes of natural daylight each day as this can actually help you sleep better at night by helping to regulate your circadian rhythm.

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5. Invest in blackout curtains

Just as we need more daylight during the day, we also need darkness at night to help the body truly switch off and sleep. Your room should be as dark as possible, without the glow of alarm clocks or mobile devices. Using tools such as blackout curtains and eye masks can be really useful here to ensure that your sleep is as undisturbed as possible.

Woman using phone in bed

6. Stop using devices at least 30 minutes before bed

Devices such as laptops and tablets emit blue light which can disrupt melatonin creation and when we have low melatonin, it can cause insomnia. Instead, if you must use your device late in the evening, consider downloading a light-changing app which can switch your screen backlight from blue to red which is less disruptive or invest in a pair of blue-light blocking glasses.

7. Eat magnesium-rich foods

Magnesium is known as the body’s natural relaxer, but stress, caffeine, sugar and exercise can all use up our magnesium stores during the day so that by the time we go to bed, we can feel restless and unable to settle. Adding more magnesium-rich foods to your diet can help you have relaxed more of an evening and fall asleep quicker. Foods such as dark chocolate, nuts and seeds, oily fish and leafy greens are all great sources of magnesium.

8. Add more fibre to your diet

Fibre, found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, has been linked with deeper and more restorative sleep. Researchers found that fibre-rich diets can help us to spend more time in slow-wave sleep, which is the restorative phase, rather than in the light phase. Slow-wave sleep is the deepest part of your sleep cycle where your brain 'quietens down' and both your heart rate and breathing slows. This is also when your body goes about its healing and regenerative processes that helps strengthen your immune system, supports your mental health and can improve your memory.

Find some fibre inspiration in our high-fibre recipe collection.

9. Add more vitamin B6 food to your diet

Vitamin B6 plays an important role in our sleep as it helps in the synthesis of important neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which converts to melatonin, and GABA, our calming hormone. Adding more B6-rich foods to your diet, including fish, organ meats such as liver, and potatoes, may help your body to create these all-important brain chemicals that we need for a good night’s sleep.

10. Take time to unwind at the end of the day

Taking time to relax of an evening, without distractions from the TV, latest boxset or emails, can help the body and the brain to calm down, helping you to drift into a better night’s sleep. You could try having an epsom salt bath. Epsom salts contain magnesium, and when added to a warm bath help promote relaxation by absorbing the magnesium through the skin, as well as the act of relaxing in a bath. Alternatively, practising meditation or breathwork before bed helps to calm down the body’s nervous system by relieving stress and reducing anxiety.

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Do you have trouble sleeping? What helps you nod off? Let us know below...


This article was published on 16 December 2022.

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All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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