Your Best Night’s Sleep
Not getting enough shut-eye can place a strain on your belt as well as on your frayed nerves. Here’s how to get some quality nap-time

June 27, 2012

Not getting enough shut-eye can place a strain on your belt as well as on your frayed nerves. Here’s how to get some quality nap-time

Two hours before bed (two hours after dinner) chow down, Three Bears-style. “Carb-rich foods like porridge speed the flow of sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan to your brain,” says dietician Cath Collins. “Eat any later and your digestive process will inhibit your sleep.”

22.00 CLEAN UP
Tidying up before hitting the sack cuts your time to deep sleep by 60 percent. “Leaving clutter around raises your levels of the stress hormone cortisol,” says sleep expert Dr Beata O’Donoghue. “So it hinders your natural winding down process.”

Vitamin B5 is one of the most effective antidotes to cortisol. Wash yours down with some Horlicks: Lyon University found men who drank a high-carb milk drink 45 minutes before bed enjoyed a sleep-inducing cortisol slump just as their heads hit the pillow. Don’t drink it before your drive home in the evening.

To fall asleep, your core body temperature has to drop by two degrees. “A hot power shower before sleep speeds this process, as you’ll cool down immediately afterwards,” says O’Donoghue. And wear your socks in bed: “warm feet help draw heat away from your core”.

“You need darkness for the brain to secrete melatonin, the hormone that regulates your biological clock,” says Jim Horne of Loughborough University’s Sleep Research Centre. So opt for blackout blinds so you can control exactly when you sleep best.

23.00 AND… RELAX
“Around 11pm your cortisol levels are rock-bottom and your body produces melatonin,” says Horne. Seal the deal by picturing a mountain. Oxford University researchers found it helped insomniacs fall asleep. Just don’t picture an avalanche on the mountain.

Turn and lie on your right side. “Your gullet joins your stomach on the left of your body, so this will aid digestion,” says Horne. And, put your arms straight out. “This position is optimal for air passage, so your brain gets the oxygen it needs to regenerate during sleep,” says Horne. It helps you get more duvet, too.

03.30-04.30 STAY DOWN, PUNK
“You’ll be reaching the end of your second sleep cycle and can easily wake,” says O’Donoghue. So have an evening jog. “Early-evening cardio stabilises blood sugar and cortisol for 10 hours, so you’ll have less chance of disrupted sleep,” she says. And more chance of some horizontal jogging in the morning.

Regularly getting less than seven hours shut-eye increases heart disease risk by 20 percent. Count the hours you need, and give yourself a nightly shut-eye deadline.