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Getting restful sleep – which offers many health and fitness benefits – is more than just switching off your room light at 11pm and hitting the pillow. If you don’t want to be counting sheep at 3am, here is a bedtime prep list that will put you to sleep.
1. Tune Your Blood Sugar
The glucose sweetening your veins needs to be finely balanced prior to your turning in, says sleep scientist Dr Neil Stanley. “If sugar levels get too low, the body releases cortisol into the blood to stimulate glucose release, a side effect of which will be an increased heart rate and awakening,” he says.
2. Boost Your Melatonin
This hormone, which sets our sleep-wake cycle, is known as the “vampire hormone” because it’s inhibited by light and only rises after nightfall. University of Michigan research in the US showed that when it’s stimulated in a gradual manner, rather than via a supplement, it optimises the natural production of the hormone throughout the night. Research done in 2006 has shown that eating two kiwifruits – natural melatonin boosters – an hour before bed can improve the quality of your sleep by up to 40 per cent. (Try Zespri kiwifruits, $3.10 for a pack of four, available at Fairprice.)
3. Lower Your Heart Rate
“There is a strong link between heart rate and poor sleep,” says Dr Guy Meadows of the London Insomnia Clinic. Your heart rate drops with the onset of sleep, and anything you can do to put the brakes on your ticker’s activity will help. Exercising early in the evening does the trick, as it raises your heart rate before it falls naturally before you go to bed.
4. Reduce Your Body Heat
You need to lose heat in the evening in order to drop off quickly. Your body temperature peaks from 6pm to 8pm, says sleep disorder expert Michael Gradisar. “The rate of drop off is crucial; you need some anaerobic exercise or other activity early, so that a significant cool down prepares the body for bed,” he says.
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