7 Ways to Sleep like a Baby and The Best Sleep Supplements UK

Posted by Sanna Atherton Registered Nutritional Therapist, MBA, mBANT, CNHC on

A good night’s sleep is as important to health as eating the right things and exercise. Your physical and emotional wellbeing depend on getting enough. Yet we’re living in sleep-deprived times. Some people are even competitive about how little sleep they’re getting, like dragging yourself through the day on four hours’ rest is a badge of honour.

A 2022 Nuffield Health ‘Healthier Nation Index’ survey of 8,000 UK adults revealed that 1 in 10 people are only getting between 2 - 4 hours of sleep a night.  Nearly three quarters of the survey participants experienced poorer sleep compared with 2021 and 1 in 4 people reported suffering from insomnia.

The longer term health effects of lack of sleep can be devastating. Hand in hand with lack of sleep come an increased risk of health problems such as anxiety and depression, Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, immune system imbalances, gut issues and several more.

A study carried out by the Neuroscience team at the University of Berkeley showed that from 1 night with just 4 hours sleep, there was a 70% drop in natural killer cell activity. Natural Killer cells are our second line of defence against pathogens such as viruses.

The harsh effects of lack of sleep are perfectly summed up by neuroscientist Matthew Walker in his brilliant best-selling book, Why We Sleep. He writes, the elastic band of sleep deprivation can only stretch so far before it snaps.

Getting a good nights sleep is essential for your mental and physical health and quality of life. Sleep plays an important role in memory, hormone balancing, productivity, emotional stability, immune function, our body’s ability to repair and weight management. 

Here are my top 7 tips to help you get a better nights sleep: 

  1. Tune into your Chronobiology
  • One way to do this is to wake up and go to bed at the same time each day. This helps you to regulate your body clock (i.e. your circadian rhythm), to fall asleep more easily and to have better quality sleep.
  • Your body clock regulates essential functions ranging from hormone release to body temperature, sleep, and metabolism.
  • The body’s inner clocks are exquisitely tuned to environmental cues and optimised for the natural world. That also means they can be thrown off track by life in the modern world.
  1. Control your light exposure
  • Go outside first thing in the morning to expose yourself to sunlight and spend as much time as possible outside during the day or near to natural light. Examples include: taking breaks outside or moving your desk closer to a window or exercising outside. 
  • Avoid bright screens 1-2 hours before bed – this includes phones, tablets, computers, backlit devices and television. This is because your body produces the hormone melatonin when it is dark, which makes you sleepy. Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland in response to darkness.  However production is suppressed by light (natural and artificial) and therefore keeps you more alert.  Dim the lights in the evenings. 
  1. Be careful about what you eat and drink
  • Avoid eating large, rich meals for at least two hours before bedtime to help your digestion system rest.
  • Eat foods rich in tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that converts into serotonin in our brain. Serotonin is thought to help promote sleep.  Tryptophan is found in: turkey, chicken, eggs (particularly the yolk), tofu, salmon, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts and beans. 
  • Limit your caffeine during the day and avoid it close to bedtime. Research has shown that caffeine can still effect you up to 12 hours later so it is best to have decaffeinated tea and coffee or herbal teas in the afternoon and evening. 
  • Alcohol is also shown to disrupt sleep so should be avoided before bed.
  1. Take ‘Nature’s Tranquilliser’
  • Magnesium is an NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartic acid) receptor antagonist and a GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) agonist.  In simple terms this means magnesium has an overall calming and relaxing effect on the nervous system – hence why it is often nicknamed ‘nature’s tranquilliser’.
  • GABA is a calming neurotransmitter that helps to promote sleep. The therapeutic aim of many prescription sleeping tablets is to increase levels of GABA. Magnesium may help to support GABA naturally but without unwanted side effects.
  • Magnesium glycinate is one of the most absorbable forms of magnesium supplements you can take. It’s a combination of both magnesium and the amino acid glycine. Since the body can easily transport glycine across the intestinal wall, magnesium glycinate doesn’t usually cause loose stools, which some supplements can.
  • It is also beneficial for muscle aches and chronic pain relief.
  • It is the better form of magnesium to use long-term because it is mild and well absorbed.
  1. Exercise

People who exercise tend to sleep better at night and spend more time in the deep, restorative stage of sleep. However, don’t do vigorous exercise too close to bedtime as this may have a stimulatory effect! 

  1. Improve your sleep environment
  • You want your bedroom to be welcoming, dark, cool and quiet.
  • Make your room as dark as possible – this could be through blackout blinds or curtains or an eye mask.
  • The optimal room temperature for sleep is thought to be between 16-18°C.  
  • If noise keeps you awake try using a white noise machine or ear plugs.
  • Keep technology out of your bedroom.
  • Keep your room as tidy and clutter free as possible.
  1. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine

Spend the last hour before bed helping your body wind down. These could include some of the following: 

  • Read a book or magazine in soft light.
  • Take a warm bath. Try adding some Epsom salts – they contain magnesium, which promotes relaxation. 
  • Listen to soft music or an audio book
  • Try some relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation – this involves tensing one muscle group at a time, for 5-10 seconds, then releasing it. Relax for a few seconds before moving on to the next muscle group. Start by your feet and gradually work your way up your body.
  • Try a few drops of lavender or geranium oil in your bath or in a diffuser. They are both naturally calming. (Not recommended in pregnancy or in children’s rooms) 


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