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The 3 Anchors Of Quality Sleep, According To An Expert

It’s no secret that quality sleep is linked to improved health and increased longevity, but unfortunately knowing this doesn’t help us to sleep any better. In fact, many of us are getting less sleep than ever, with recent research finding that approximately eight per cent of adults worldwide – the equivalent of 41.6 million people – suffer from chronic insomnia. Experts agree that a good night’s shut-eye starts with a balanced lifestyle, and according to London Sleep Centre sleep coach, Hayley Pedrick, there are three important “anchors” that we should consider when looking to make positive changes to our sleep routines.

1. Light

“Light is the most powerful commander of the circadian rhythm,” says Pedrick. “And the circadian rhythm is also known as the sleep-wake cycle.” To ensure you fall asleep quickly and remain asleep throughout the night, try to take in sunlight in the morning within 30 and 60 minutes of waking. Sunlight is best, but if it’s dark when you wake up, try spending 15 minutes in front of a SAD lamp to recreate the effects of the sun. Pedrick also recommends reducing your exposure to light around two hours before bed to smooth the transition to restful sleep – that means dimming the lights (or using lamps and candles), and limiting blue light exposure by cutting down on screen time.

2. Diet

It isn’t just what we eat that impacts our sleep, it’s when we eat it. “You should aim to eat breakfast within an hour of waking – those who don’t sleep well shouldn’t attempt to fast intermittently as it throws the circadian rhythm off,” says Pedrick. “Finish eating two to three hours before bed to allow your body to digest the food, and incorporate protein and healthy fat into each meal.” If you do have to eat closer to bedtime, eat a carbohydrate-rich meal to support melatonin production – protein is harder on your digestive system, so try to avoid. She also recommends antioxidant-rich herbal teas (think lemon balm, valerian and chamomile), to calm body and mind.

3. Exercise

“Exercise has been demonstrated to have a similar effect on sleep to sleeping pills,” says Pedrick. When we exercise, the body increases its production of a compound called adenosine triphosphate (or ATP). As it builds up, it inhibits neural activity and causes drowsiness. High and moderate intensity exercise has been shown to improve slow wave sleep (or deep sleep, when the body goes into repair and restore mode), and is best taken in the morning, before midday, and no later than two hours before bed.

This article was originally published on Vogue UK.

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