Top Tips for Improving Sleep

Words accredited to Kim Murray/Happy Heads

Are you somebody who suffers from a lack of sleep? According to sleep expert and neuroscientist Matthew Walker, we should ideally be getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night, but a recent study shows that one in two people get less than six hours.

We are a sleep deprived society because we live in a digital world where we never switch off. Brain scans carried out by Walker revealed a 60% amplification in the reactivity of the amygdala – a key spot for triggering anger and rage, in those who are sleep-deprived.

Sleep is essential for a healthy and functioning brain and body. It’s during sleep that a sewage system kicks into gear and cleanses the brain of all the metabolic toxins that have built up during the day. Sleep really is important!

It’s also incredibly hard to self-regulate emotions when feeling exhausted – often, people revert directly to negative thoughts and that can be projected onto others. So, what can we do to increase our quality of sleep?

Get off your phone earlier

Stop looking at your phone (and laptop) at least an hour before bed. As an organism our brains are always looking for new information, which is why our phones can be so addictive. Instead of scrolling through social media and getting sucked down an Instagram hole, give your brain the space it needs before bedtime.

Process the day

A lot can happen in a day and if we’ve had a particularly stressful one, it can be hard to nod off. A simple way to process the day before you get into bed is to sit in a chair, with your feet flat on the floor, then take a few deep breaths. With your eyes shut, go back through your day from the moment you woke up as if you’re re-running it like a film in your head.

Notice any parts of the day that were maybe more difficult than others but with a light curiosity. Don’t stay on any one point, simply run the day over in your head from start to finish. When we give our minds a chance to process the day it’s much less likely you’ll wake in the middle of the night in a panic.

Calm your breath and body

Your breath is like a controller for your entire body; calm this down and the whole nervous system will follow. A simple way to deepen your breathing when you’re trying to sleep is to put both hands on your belly. Then begin to take a few deep breaths (in through nose, out through mouth) and after about eight breaths bring your breath to a gentle rise and fall.

Now imagine your favourite colour is slowly beginning to enter your body from the top of your head and as it does it soothes and relaxes every particle in your body. Scan down your body as slowly as you possibly can. The brain loves it when we focus on the present moment and it’s the perfect way to still a busy mind.

Create a sleep ritual

In the same way, it’s important to set your mind up right – it’s invaluable to wind it down right. Brains like regular cycles so try to go to bed at the same time each night and set yourself an alarm to do so. Create a ritual that signals to your brain it’s going to sleep. It

could be meditating, having a warm bath, reading a book, writing a few things down – whatever it is that relaxes your unique mind and enables your brain to know that it’s time to start switching off.

Stretching and Recovery Made Simple

We all know that stretching is an important part of keeping healthy and improving recovery. But not everyone knows the right way to go about it, when to do it or even how the body needs different stretches to improve or help with different issues.

Flexology Studio, London’s leading premium assisted stretching studio and lifestyle brand, have offered their thoughts on the best way to go about stretching and recovery. So, limber up and take note – there’s always room for improvement, even with the basics…

Prevention means less recovery!

Active stretching to warm up the muscles is great before a workout in order to loosen and lengthen the fibres and help you avoid injury.

Assess what type of stretch you need

Whilst you may choose active stretching before a workout, passive stretching is perfect for after exercise, activity, or prolonged periods of sitting as it will help relax the muscles that have been used. You should also choose your stretches based on your needs; you don’t need to do a full-body stretch every day – target the areas that feel tension or pain and the surrounding / connecting areas.

Hold your stretches for at least 30 seconds

This allows your muscles to lengthen and your range to increase. Ensure that you are not holding your breath.

Check your posture

Try to avoid looking down too much as this causes tension in the back of the neck, chest and shoulders. Check the alignment of your hips with your knees and your knees above your ankles when sitting to create a stronger and more balanced seated posture.