Could the root of a good night’s sleep start with how you begin your day?
Sleep is more than just a time for your body and mind to rest. During the night, your body rebuilds muscles you’ve worn down during the day and, according to a study by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, during deep sleep the brain’s glymphatic system cleans itself of toxins that accumulate while you’re awake. Sleep also plays a part in keeping your memories intact and regulating your emotions, not to mention the immune system and metabolism.
Generally, good quality sleep happens when our behaviours align with our circadian rhythm – our 24-hour body clock that causes us to get sleepy at night and alert during the day. With that in mind, a great night’s sleep could begin with a simple set of morning rituals to create a better environment for sleep. So, where should we start?
1. Decide on a fixed wake-up time
It’s tricky for your body to get used to a healthy sleep routine if you constantly wake up at different times. So, decide on a wake-up time and stick with it, even at weekends when you could be tempted to sleep in.
A study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) shows that the minimum recommended sleep for healthy adults is seven hours a night. Decide on your ideal wake-up time, 7AM, for example, and figure out what time you should be aiming to be in bed. You can also try tracking your body’s natural rhythm, to see how much sleep you need to wake feeling rested.
2. Expose yourself to light
Circadian rhythms are affected primarily by light and darkness, and are controlled by a small area in the middle of the brain. Well-managed light exposure can boost performance, as well as improve memory, energy levels, and mood.
Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to wake up your brain and maximise your energy is to get 20 minutes of sunlight first thing in the morning every day, to help promote wakefulness and suppress melatonin or sleepiness. If there is no sun available to you, or no natural light, get 20 minutes of artificial light – there are apps you can download that mimic sunlight, and digital alarm clocks that are designed to replicate a sunrise.
3. Rehydrate yourself
Most of us lose a whole litre overnight, so this is the next essential ritual to adopt. Drink your water soon after getting up to counteract dehydration from sleep. Dehydration can affect how you perform mentally and physically throughout the day, but also how well you sleep. And, even in its mildest form, dehydration can cause your sleep to become disrupted. So, drink up!
4. Delay your first caffeinated drink
Many of us believe that our day just has to begin with tea or coffee. We rely on our morning caffeine to wake up our bodies and prepare our minds. But would you believe me if I told you that you’d get more of an energy boost if you delayed that first caffeine hit for at least 90 minutes after waking?
If you drink caffeine while your cortisol (your body’s primary stress hormone, a bit like nature’s built-in alarm system) levels are still elevated, you’re introducing caffeine into your body when you could actually do without it, which can result in disrupting your cortisol’s natural flow. But if you delay for 90 minutes, the caffeine will kick in as your cortisol levels begin to reduce, just when you could use it the most.
5. Make your bed
Yes, making your bed really does promote better rest and sleep at night. A study by the National Sleep Foundation found a 19% difference in consistently getting a good night’s sleep between those who rarely or never make their bed, and those who make their bed every morning.
Remember your daily behaviours affect your sleep at night, so think of these rituals as a way to bulletproof your sleep and energy. Consider taking 20 minutes to start your day with more intention; which rituals will you choose to test to gradually build your new routine?