Get ready to have the best night’s sleep of your life...
You’ve heard of clean eating, but have you heard of clean sleeping? Nicole Scherzinger recently credited her slim figure with getting plenty of zzzzs, while Gwyneth Paltrow says that when it comes to looking good, she prioritises sleep over what she eats – getting 10 hours a night when she can.
But with 50% of over 59s suffering from chronic sleep problems, we asked sleep experts the best way to prepare for bed, if we plan to nod off at 11pm...
Reset your body clock
? Waking up too early or not being able to drop off are both signs that your circadian rhythm (or body clock) is out of balance.
? Your body clock takes signals from daylight and darkness, and a recent study showed that light therapy was effective in resetting the circadian rhythms for 57% of insomniacs. All you have to do is sit next to a lightbox, such as the Innolux Rondo Lamp (£79 from Amazon), for 30 minutes a day. If you wake too early, use the lamp in the evening. For late sleepers, 30 minutes in the morning should retrain your body clock.
8pm: Three hours to go
Avoid heavy meals too close to bedtime
Aim to eat dinner at least three hours before you turn in, and try to have your biggest meal for lunch.
"Keep evening meals light and not too spicy," says sleep consultant Maryanne Taylor. "If you do get hungry, you could have a light snack later in the evening – such as a piece of fruit – or a non-caffeinated drink."
Our bodies digest food best when sitting upright or standing. Lying down after a big meal means you’re more likely to suffer from acid reflux, causing heartburn, indigestion and asthma.
While you’re asleep, your body recovers from the damage of the day – if you’ve eaten a big meal, your body will have to exert energy on digestion, rather than making these vital repairs.
10pm: One hour to go
Have a little snack that could help you sleep. Bananas are a good before bedtime snack.
"The potassium in bananas has been shown to aid sleep, so they’re a great late-night nibble," says Maryanne. Walnuts are also a good choice, because they contain their own source of sleep hormone melatonin, which may help you nod off faster.
10:15pm: 45 minutes to go
Now’s the time to stop looking at your phone or tablet – you’ve probably heard about the dazzling blue light emitted by these devices.
"The sleep hormone called melatonin is naturally produced at around the time we’re going to bed," says Maryanne.
"Put simply, blue light inhibits the production of melatonin – meaning it’s harder to get to sleep. Plus, seeing a frustrating work email or an annoying Facebook post is a surefire way to wake you up."
Invest in an old-fashioned alarm clock so you don’t need to be reaching for your phone last thing at night.
Tip: Some phones have an option to turn off the blue light, so it's worth checking your settings. On iPhones, go to Settings, then Display & Brightness and turn on Night Shift.
10:45pm: 15 minutes to go
Reading before bed can help you get to sleep
Studies have shown that reading for 15 minutes before you sleep can help your mind separate sleep from the stresses of the day.
"If you’re not a big reader, audiobooks are a brilliant alternative," says Lisa Artis from The Sleep Council.
Make sure your bed is comfy, and remember that one pillow is better than two for your posture. Gwyneth Paltrow’s top tip for a great night’s sleep that will also have you looking extra swish the next day is to use pillows infused with strands of copper (£40 from currentbody.com), which can help prevent the formation of wrinkles by boosting elastin and collagen.
Make sure you're comfortable
Before you fall asleep, your body drops in temperature slightly, signalling the release of sleep hormones.
"Being an ambient temperature is essential to dropping off," says Lisa.
"Some people like to sleep under a heavy duvet and wear light PJs or nothing at all, whereas others prefer thick bedwear and thinner covers – the important thing is to make sure you aren’t too hot because this will affect the quality of your sleep."
Some women feel more comfortable sleeping in a bra. You may have heard horror stories that doing so could lead to breast cancer, but the latest studies suggest it’s perfectly safe to wear an underwire in bed.
Avoid drinking before bed
If you lie awake for ages, thinking of tasks for the next day, try writing a to-do list to keep track of everything. For worriers, Maryanne recommends jotting down all the things that are upsetting you, and then throwing away the piece of paper.
"The act of writing them down clears your mind, and throwing it away is powerful and therapeutic."
Waking up early and can’t get back to sleep? Try reducing your alcohol intake.
"It might help you drop off, but it can impact on the quality of the sleep, and can be a big cause of waking up early," says Lisa.