Struggle to get a full eight-hours of sleep every night? You’re not alone. We’re a nation of walking zombies, with over one-third of the population not getting enough slumber, according to a 2016 study.
With long working hours and increased stress levels, it’s no surprise that our quality of shut eye isn’t great.
Step up: ‘clean sleeping.’ Called out by Gwyneth Paltrow as the ‘biggest trend of 2017’ in her latest book Goop Clean Beauty, it’s arguably one of the most important things you can do to give your life more energy, vitality and feel-good vibes.
Clean sleeping is essentially getting at least eight-hours of good quality sleep. No disturbances in the night, just pure, unbroken snoozing. “Sleep plays such a powerful role in determining your appetite and energy levels that I believe it should be your first priority — even before you think about your diet,” Gwyneth writes in her book.
While ‘clean sleeping’ might just sound like another health buzzphrase, there is truth behind it. Poor quality sleep can lead to increased stress, weight gain and an unsettled metabolism. Unsurprisingly, lack of sleep isn’t great for your beauty regime either.
There are no good things about getting a bad night’s sleep,” says sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley. “You will crave more sugary and fatty foods. You will have more arguments with your partner and conflict with your work colleagues. You’re at higher risk of road traffic accidents. That’s just after one night’s poor sleep.”
Long term effects of poor sleep include increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, depression and obesity.
“People think about nutrition, take multivitamins, exercise, buy face creams. They spend a lot of time and money on these things, but they don’t see sleep as important. Sleep is something we do after we have done everything else,” notes Stanley.
So what are Stanley’s top tips for preparing yourself for a ‘clean’ night’s sleep? Firstly, you’ve got to see sleep as a priority. “Sleep need is individual. The eight hours everyone goes on about is merely an average. Anywhere between four and 11 hours sleep would be considered normal.”
As to the best way to find out how much sleep is optimum for you? “It’s the amount of sleep that allows you to feel awake and focused during the day. If you feel sleepy at work, you haven’t had enough sleep.” You also need to get the same amount of sleep every single night. “You can’t cheat sleep. You need to make time for it – there’s no way around that.”
Secondly, you need a bedroom that is conducive to sleep. “It should be dark, quiet, cool and comfortable,” recommends Stanley. No television, mobile phones or tablets at least 45-minutes before bed.
Finally, the most important, yet elusive, ingredient for a good night’s sleep is a quiet mind. It might sound obvious, but you won’t be able to sleep if you are stressed or worried. Stanley suggests making time to wind down before bed. “I read every night before I go to sleep,” he says.
“If you want to drink camomile tea, do yoga, meditate, doodle in an adult colouring-in book or play Pink Floyd, go for it. It doesn’t matter what you do, you just need to do it and enjoy it.”
Easier said than done, right? “Everybody thinks that sleep is difficult, but it’s not,” says Stanley. “Winding down should be a pleasurable end to the day, not a chore. I’m not suggesting that you change your diet or you run five miles, I’m just suggesting you be nice to yourself.”
He makes a good point. Once you’ve had a good solid night’s sleep, everything feels better. You are more awake and focused. You don’t feel so sluggish on that morning run. It’s so much easier to steer clear of the chocolate aisle in the supermarket.
Clean sleeping might just be exactly what we need. As Stanley says, “every night we have the opportunity to take an eight-hour holiday. It costs nothing and it makes us feel great, yet we don’t do it because there’s more exciting things to do.”
“If you want to live a happy, healthy life, sleep should be the first thing you sort out – not the last.”