Shut eye is one of the critical and undeniable foundations on which all health, mental health, long term wellness and optimal functioning stands. And we all need a lot more of it right now. Our immune systems rely on a steady supply, our brains need it, and as Matthew Walker says bluntly in his brilliant book Why We Sleep: The New Science behind sleep and dreams "the shorter you sleep the shorter you live".
Asleep on our feet
I'm really bad at getting enough sleep, at sticking to a bedtime, and not putting it bottom of the list after the rest of life. And I know I'd benefit from upping my time in bed.
The latest Ipsos MORI survey with King's College published last week showed that 6 out of 10 of us are finding sleep harder to come by since lockdown began. We are more anxious and are feeling less rested after the same amount of sleep.
Prof Walker spent 20 years looking into the science behind sleep and the health implications are astounding and all-encompassing.
Just a single bad night reduces our resilience drastically - one night of 4-5 hours sleep sees the number of our natural killer cells (used to protect us against cancer for example) fall by 70%. The links between sleep deprivation and long term illness, dementia, strokes, diabetes and obesity are undeniable.
EATING OUR TIREDNESS
Whilst exercise and diet are the primary tenets of wellness which we focus on, they both require adequate and restorative sleep to be effective. The hunger hormone ghrelin increases with less sleep, and the satiety hormone that tells us we've had enough is depleted. A night of disrupted sleep lead to participants in a study eating an average of 300 more calories a day, with a greater percentage of that being sugar and fat.
HOW TO UP YOUR SLEEP
I've spent a couple of years looking into this, as I researched for my natural remedies, and Be Sleepy is what I created when I couldn't find anything to give my children to get them to sleep faster and for longer.
Whilst there are a few things we know about that definitely don't help out here, caffeine, sugar, alcohol, screens - the usual suspects - I always find it more enticing to know what we can DO not what we can't.
Here are some ways we've collated to help you and your children get more, and better, sleep when we need it most. From things that have helped me, to ideas I've researched that I'll be trying and sensible switches that the experts say are infallible.
They work, and I'm going in hard to get a better level of shut eye in this house.
........like a baby
- MAKE YOUR BED TO LIE IN IT
Sounds borderline basic, but making your bed a lovely place is the start for me. Crisp sheets and plumped up pillows to get excited about over a crumpled heap to crawl into. I think it all really begins here, and with your attitude towards it.
And changing those sheets once a week, easy to forget days right now, but make it happen, those clean sheets are prized and I'm sure I sleep better that first night.
2. SANCTIFY YOUR SPACE
Try not to work in bed. Especially now, when space is precious, rooms are merging into one, try to make a stand to keep your bed a space for rest and relaxation only. Another part of the mental space it holds for you. Keeping work tension, resentment of partners working all bode ill for your night of rest.
3. LIGHTS AND ACTION
Our circadian rhythms rule our sleep hormones and ultimately wake us up and shut us down accordingly. The earlier we spend some time in natural light, the more we boost our serotonin, dopamine and keep our brain on track to be ready for sleep at bedtime. And by shutting off bright lights, dimming our lights and turning off blue-lit screens before bedtime the wind down process is improved.
A walk or run in the morning ticks all the boxes - it is what we aim for - doesn't happen always - physical activity, even a small amount has been shown to speed up time to get to sleep.
4. ROCK SOLID ROUTINE
“Routine is the guardian of good sleep. It protects our sleep.” - Kevin Morgan, Professor of Psychology, Loughborough University.
We set alarms to get up, and according to the Professor, we should have an alarm to remind us it's time to wind down. And make the 8 hour window of possible time to sleep, non-negotiable.
By going to bed and getting up at the same time, regardless of days of the week, we can make the biggest difference to our long term sleep patterns and ultimately health.
Montmorency Cherry is a natural source of melatonin
5. RAMP UP THE RELAXATION
The issue of sleep was what sent me looking into natural ways to help get a better night, and ultimately create my natural remedies, Lizzie Loves.
BE SLEEPY was created with natural and effective ingredients, with natural melatonin, magnesium, and L-Theanine to relax, unwind and encourage a better night's sleep for everyone.
The response has been incredible and we've had feedback from so many saying you're buying a lifetime supply after getting much improved sleep and as nothing else has worked quite like it.
"It's a miracle drink. All of them slept through" Becki, mother of 3 (incl 18 month old twins)
Thank you and it's my favourite thing to hear that more people are getting more rest, and less children are exhausted, so keep letting us know, we couldn't tire of it.
I'm partial to napping in the bath - not recommended and definitely proof I need tons more sleep - but an evening bath is one of my hard and fast rituals that I have been stuck on for as long as I can remember. Soothing, calming and a chance to be alone (for once) a warm bath can be a sanctuary and a great way of gearing up for a good night.
Reading instead of watching, and Epsom salts with delicious lavender oils all help.
But the science is clear, a recent study showed that a warm bath an hour/hour and half before bed does improve your ability to fall asleep by lowering your core temperature.
Batch #001 make the most heavenly soaks of salt and oils combined, using organic ingredients, LIZZIE15 should give you a 15% discount
7. SWEET DREAMS
Once you're in bed, the whirl you can't shake off can be what keeps us awake.
A notepad and pen within arms reach, by your bed, is a way of offloading anything as soon as it enters your head. To be shrugged off and dealt with in the morning.
This grown-up supplement system, called a nutraceutical made with high performance ingredients to optimise how we feel and look, has made a huge impact on my sleep, and mood. Designed to optimise our brain function, alertness and focus as well as immune and beauty focus, having not remembered a dream for years I am having the most beautiful and uplifting displays of dreams. The latest formulation has an added dose of Saffron extract to alleviate mood and enhance resilience. I'm on week 3 and they say it makes a cumulative difference, you notice so many improvements gradually creeping up on you, until you can't live without it.
Lyma the most beautiful pharmacy-nutrition
These two from Balance Me have been fabulous. The mist, which you spray over your décolletage, rather than wasting on your pillow, seeps into your skin to hydrate that zone as well as emanate sleepiness.
And the CBD concentrate is a highly charged oil to roll over your wrists and pulse points to get to work fast. CBD is not to be ignored if you're looking at ways to lessen anxiety and improve sleep.
Try out all or any of the above and let me know how you get on, we all need to prioritise our shut eye and talking about it may even make me be better at going to bed.
And as a lovely midwife said to me at my most bleary-eyed newborn exhaustion stage, "Sleep breeds sleep", so if we start getting more, we'll only get better at it.
Good luck, sweet dreams and Sleep Well.
How much do we need?
✦Newborns (0-3 months) need 14-17 hours sleep.
✦Infants (4-11 months) need 12-15 hours sleep.
✦Toddlers (1-2 years) need 11-14 hours sleep.
✦Preschoolers (3-5 years) need 10-13 hours of sleep.
✦School-age children (6-13 years) need 9-11 hours sleep.
✦Teenagers (14-17 years old) need 8-10 hours sleep.
✦Adults need 7-9 hours sleep.