Feeling safe and relaxed before bed is the fundamental component to a good night’s sleep, and hugging yourself for at least one minute while in bed is the trick to feeling settled, according to Silentnight’s sleep consultant, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan.
She explains: “Hugging another person helps us to produce feel-good hormones such as oxytocin and serotonin that enable us to have faith and trust in life, which, ultimately, makes us feel safe and secure.
“The same applies when we hug ourselves. Simply place your right hand under your left armpit, and place your left arm over your right arm, with your left hand gently but firmly resting on your right shoulder. Focus on breathing deeply, relax and you’ll be asleep within the minute.”
Dr Nerina believes sleep struggles start when we feel unsettled and on-edge. She says: “It is impossible to sleep when we feel like this, as our bodies enter survival mode. Don’t think about the sleep you need to get, as this can heighten the feeling of anxiety – too many of us are fixated on the holy grail of eight hours. Instead, consider techniques such as the ‘hugging’ pose, which can help us to drift off easily.”
Here are Dr Nerina’s five non-negotiables for a great night’s sleep.
1 Don’t commute on an empty stomach
So many of us end up having a ‘deskfast’ because it’s convenient and easy to grab something after we’ve got off the train or driven into work. However, if you put your body through the stress of a commute on an empty stomach, you could seriously impact the sleep you have that night. This is because the body ends up running on ‘adrenaline energy’ on your way to work which is one of the main factors causing shallow, ‘muddy’ sleep. To achieve deep, restorative sleep, eat breakfast every day and within 30 minutes of rising.
2 Drink alkaline water
If you’re already drinking the recommended two litres of water a day and you want to take it to the next level, try adding a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of sea salt to alkalise the water. The body functions optimally at an alkaline PH of 7.35, so hydrating with alkaline water helps our body to work properly; transmitting messages and enabling our physiological processes, including getting a really good night’s sleep.
3 Think about the half life of caffeine
We all know that cutting down on caffeine will help with sleep issues but very few of us think about the half life of the coffee or tea we’re drinking. The half life of caffeine is five hours which means if you have a drink at 5pm you will still have half that amount in your blood supply by 10pm. You probably won’t feel energised by 10pm but the caffeine is still in your system and it’s enough to stop you sleeping well.
4 Stop aimlessly looking at your phone
When we get an alert on our phone the brain mentally responds, so even if the message is nothing significant we end up continuing to look at our phones, mindlessly following links on the internet and waking our brain up even more. It might be a tough habit to break but if you’re serious about sleeping better you need to stop looking at your phone at least an hour before you go to sleep.
5 Have four early nights a week
The hours before midnight are a really important part of sleeping well; they are the hours that are deeply restorative, that heal the body and provide sought after anti-ageing benefits. Even if you get a good amount of sleep, going to bed late is likely to leave a large amount of your sleep being highly inefficient. Try to get to bed around 10.30pm four nights a week to allow your body to access that vital 90 minute phase of sleep before midnight.