World Sleep Day 2021
Today is World Sleep Day: an annual event designed to highlight the importance of sleep and to share ideas and tips to improve the quality of our sleep. The slogan for this year is ‘Regular Sleep, Healthy Future’ and reflects the influence that good quality sleep has on our health. See more about World Sleep Day.
We all know that we feel better when we get enough sleep (and the reverse is true: lack of sleep can make us irritable, less able to concentrate, and more prone to making mistakes). This is because sleep is vital to many physiological functions including hormone regulation, memory consolidation, cardiovascular regulation, and even control of inflammation. Lack of sleep is linked to poor cognitive and executive function, as well as impaired mental health.
Given the year that we have all endured, it’s no wonder that lack of sleep is affecting people more than ever.
Who is not sleeping?
The statistics are quite staggering: according to a survey done by Aviva, 31% of adults suffer from insomnia, 67% have disrupted sleep, and 23% get no more than 5 hours asleep. While improving sleep is the biggest health ambition for 26% of adults, 51% don’t take any measures to help them achieve that.
Worryingly, 13% take sleeping tablets and the same percentage drink alcohol to help them sleep.
This survey was actually conducted pre-covid so the chances are, the picture could be even worse than this now.
How can we get better sleep?
Everyone, even people who don’t think they have an issue with sleep, can benefit from better quality sleep. But how can we do this in a natural, healthy way?
Here are some tips for helping you get longer and better periods of sleep:
- Stick to a regular bedtime and awakening time. This helps regulate your circadian rhythm – the internal clock that controls the 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. This works most effectively if you stick to this even on a weekend/when not working.
- Create a bedtime routine. Stop looking at screens at least an hour before bed. This includes phones, laptops, and even TV screens. Get changed into nightwear and perhaps drink something that will help you relax such as warm milk or camomile tea. Listening to some relaxing music can help or read a book – but nothing too ‘thrilling’ or a page turner that will prevent you from wanting to put it down. It can be useful to have something gentle and familiar to read just before sleep such as a book of poems or an old favourite.
- Alcohol actually impairs the quality of your sleep so avoid drinking it at least 4 hours before you go to bed. The same goes for caffeine, heavy, spicy, or sugary foods, and do not smoke.
- Block out as much light as possible. Light can also affect circadian rhythm as it tells our brains that daylight means we should be awake. Using blackout blinds/curtains or eye masks, especially during the spring and summer, will help tell your brain that’s it’s night and you should be asleep
- If you must nap during the day, limit this to a maximum of 45 minutes.
- Meditation techniques before bed can be useful for clearing your mind and easing you into sleep.
- Keep the bedroom a comfortable temperature. An electric banket in the winter can be helpful (because it will remain a constant temperature) and opening a window for good ventilation is a good idea in spring and summer.
- Create the right conditions for all your senses: block out light and sound, use comfortable bedding, and use aromatherapy principles to allow scent to help you sleep
Scent to help you sleep
I’m no expert, and I have had my own issues with sleep, but one thing I do know about is scent. Fragrance can have a very powerful influence on mood, on focus, and, specifically, helping you sleep. I’ve written about this on the blog before (see here). Scents such as lavender, sandalwood, jasmine, sage, and rose can all help to relax you and induce sleep. In fact, Scentsy created a collection of wax bars designed to promote sleep (appropriately called Catching Zzzs) just last month. Such was the demand for this that it sold out within minutes and is no longer available.
You may not be able to buy the Catching Zzzs collection any longer, but we still have plenty of other fragrances that have similar scent notes and will have a positive influence on sleep. Fragrances that contain lavender include French Lavender, Lavender Cotton, and Shaka (which also contains sandalwood). For jasmine, choose Jade & Jasmine, Pima Cotton, or Newborn Nursery. For rose, consider Cloudberry Dreams, Strawberry Rose, or Bloomin’ Beach (where you will also find jasmine). To search for all products with specific scents included, just type it into the search bar at the top and everything containing it will come up.
To fill your room with fragrance, put your warmer on at least an hour before bed (build this into your bedtime routine). If your warmer is one that lights up, you should turn it off before you go to sleep in order to keep the bedroom dark, but the fragrance will continue to linger long enough to get to sleep. Alternatively, place a scent circle under your pillow, use a non-illuminated warmer, or an unplugged item like a fragrance flower. To help a child sleep (or even an adult that likes something to cuddle!), a Scentsy Buddy is a lovely thing to have.
Hopefully, a few of these strategies, plus increased positivity over restrictions slowly ending as well as spring coming will all help us sleep better. Perhaps today, on World Sleep Day, we should all make getting better quality sleep a goal?