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5 easy steps to a great night’s sleep

Posted by Nic Florido on 5th Aug 2021

Elina Winnel

Elina has received global recognition for redefining how sleep-related issues are perceived, treated and resolved. Her revolutionary approach, which evolved as a result of her own healing journey, brings new hope for countless sufferers of chronic insomnia.

Is the horizontal tango the best thing to do before bed? It’s certainly a fun way to get tired out and ready to sleep, but if you’re not partnered up, there’s no need to worry. The five top tips I’m about to share with you are just as fun and effective to do solo as they are to try as a couple — and no batteries are required!

In all seriousness, adult fun with the one you love is awesome for sleep — but that’s the hero of another story. For now, why not channel all that frisky energy into learning about PG-rated but totally satisfying steps you can take to make the most of your bed routine? Then, when evening rolls around, you’ll know exactly how to sail away like Enya to the land of dreams, spoiling yourself with the sleep and self-care you need.

If you try these hacks for yourself, in the morning you’re more likely to stop snoozing your alarm in a droopy-eyed haze of ‘why did I do this to myself?’ and instead, leap into your day — full of energy and raring to go.

Keep your eyes open for sleep saboteurs

There’s a lot you can do to head off problems with your slumber before they wriggle their way into your life like the creepy nasties they are.

Use devices for relaxation and take care to reduce your exposure to the ‘cold daylight’ (aka blue light) end of the colour spectrum in the evening. Many smartphones and laptops promise to look after you with ‘night mode’, but cutting-edge research suggests this is not the best approach. While minimising blue light in the lead-up to bed is important, it is equally important to only use devices for things that relax you, not make you more alert. Or, go old-school and read a book or use a non-illuminated device for your wind-down routine at the end of the day.

Balance your nervous system with activities that encourage the parasympathetic branch of your autonomic nervous system. Which is the science-y term for the part that’s responsible for resting, digestion and recovery. (Its counterpart is the sympathetic nervous system, which is all about ‘fight or flight’ mode.)

Subtract those substances like caffeine, alcohol and artificial sugars. You don’t have to go extreme and never touch a latte or a beer, but just don’t overdo it. Especially not late in the day. Alcohol is a depressant, you say? Yes, it is, and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of finely crafted plonk with your dinner. The key here is to not go overboard; depressants and stimulants alike can mess with the fine balancing act of your hormones and throw your natural sleep ability out of whack.

What you eat plays a major role in helping you sleep better

By the same token, many people are discovering the benefits of shifting the dietary slider in the healthy direction with a sugar free diet that is rich in natural proteins and healthy oils, such as those found in salmon, avocado and macadamia. Being mindful to include probiotics on your shopping list is an easy and delicious way to support healthy gut flora – and as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, a happy tummy is closely linked to happy sleep.

And now, those 5 top tips to help you sleep:

Now for the fun part!

Hack 1: look at the big picture

You often hear people talking about how important sleep hygiene is for getting a good night’s rest, or sometimes people might say meditation is the be-all and end-all. I hate to break it to you, but chronic insomnia is very rarely caused by just one thing – it’s a complex combination of factors.

You can’t just slap on a Band-Aid and hope for the best – you need to unravel the threads and get to the bottom of all the myriad ways sleep has run away from you. It can be an interplay of lifestyle choices, using devices, how you nourish yourself, exercise or lack thereof, even your brainwaves (see below)… believe me, there is a LOT to it. So take your time and do what’s right by you: be patient and get to the root cause of the problem.

Hack 2: go outside and have fun in the sun

Sleep and mental health share an intimate connection. When you’re feeling good, laughing and producing the happy hormone serotonin, you’re actually setting the stage for a great night’s rest. The colours of sunlight also stimulate your body’s circadian rhythm, which is like your inner clock, helping you stay alert and wakeful during the day. In the evening, when you start winding down, your body uses serotonin like Lego to create melatonin, the hormone that makes you feel cozy and sleepy.

Hack 3: think about what you’re putting in your body

I know I just talked about healthy eating, but I’m going to thrash the subject here again because it really is that important! Probiotic drinks are such an easy and refreshing way to practice self-care; I highly recommend Nexba Mixed Berry Kombucha, it’s simply the best! Another variety I find super light and lovely is Nexba Watermelon & Raspberry ACV Soda; I guarantee it’s like nothing you’ve tasted before. Probiotic drinks are such an easy hack for getting more probiotics into your diet. Nexba Cherry Cola Probiotic Soda has 1 BILLION probiotics in each can and tastes just like a normal soft drink… just way better for you!

But don’t take my word for it; the proof is in the pudding. I love Nexba myself and find their probiotic range a really convenient and tasty way of looking after my body and mind. You don’t even have to glaze over reading all the research exploring the link between sleep and gut health; just try them for yourself, you’ll soon get why I’m so enthusiastic about this. All it will take is one sweet night of dreamboat slumber to get you hooked.

Hack 4: balance your brain

It’s not just Eleven from Stranger Things who outputs crazy patterns when their scalp is hooked up to scary-looking machines. Your brain has its own legit electrical activity, which is faint, but can be measured using sensors positioned at key locations on your head. This is called an EEG, or electroencephalogram, which is science-speak for checking your brainwaves.

That’s right, the patterns of electrical activity in your brain do actually group themselves into wave formations, and that’s the wavy trace you see on the paper coming out of the machine. When you’re awake, subtle pulses of electricity travel through your brain at a frequency of about 13-35Hz, meaning 13-35 waves per second.

Neuroscientists have labeled this characteristic set of frequencies ‘beta waves’ – nothing to do with beta testing, except for the word. It’s just a label for that group of brainwaves. When you close your eyes, the electrical pulses slow down to about 8-12Hz, and this mode is called ‘alpha’.

When you are in the deepest stage of sleep, your brain’s electrical activity slows to just 1-4Hz, a bandwidth our Greek-loving geeks have named ‘delta’. You can actually practice becoming better at shifting from one frequency of brainwaves to another. And once you’ve learned to tune across from channel to channel with a minimum of effort, it becomes much easier for your brain to shift into the delta mode associated with deep sleep.

Hack 5: mind how you go

As real time imaging enables neuroscientists to literally see what’s on your mind, we are learning more and more about how thoughts and emotions interact with changes in our body chemistry. There is an increasing volume of evidence pointing to the value of mindfulness for sleep, so embrace your inner Jedi and try a simple meditation exercise!

It can be as easy as closing your eyes, focusing on your breath and reaching out around you with your other senses. (Moving rocks using your mind and adorable baby Yoda optional!)