How to get good quality sleep

Nov 10, 2021

When I stopped drinking alcohol, just over three years ago, one of the first things I noticed was a change in my sleeping habits. Suddenly, after years of sleep disruption, I was sleeping soundly and waking up feeling well rested. It was such a revelation.
A woman laying in bed hiding half of her face

I now know that even in small amounts, alcohol can wreak havoc with your sleep. I wanted to find out more good quality sleep, so I spoke to certified sleep science coach and CEO of SleepingOcean Alex Savy. 

Does Alcohol help you sleep?

Alex tells me that alcohol typically has a sedative effect that causes the feelings of drowsiness and relaxation. This happens because alcohol acts as a central nervous system depressant,” he says.

However, while alcohol may help you fall asleep alcohol can dramatically reduce sleep quality. “Studies show that alcohol consumption can reduce REM sleep, the last sleep stage that is often considered the most restorative,” explains Alex.

Additionally, this can result in an imbalance between the stages of sleep (non-REM and REM). And since sleep stages go in cycles during the night, an imbalance can mean increased nighttime disruptions,” he adds.

Another common reason for sleep disruption is stress. “When the body is under a lot of stress (either chronic or immense amounts of it), it increases the production of cortisol, the notoriously known stress hormone. Cortisol can suppress melatonin production (the sleep hormone), as their relationship is bidirectional - when cortisol is high, melatonin should be low,” Alex tells me.

What is sleep hygiene?

Sleep hygiene essentially means a set of habits that help you to have a good night's sleep and Alex notes that poor sleep hygiene is another common factor when it comes to sleep disruption. “We live in a world full of distractions. Naturally, they make it easier for us to adopt poor sleep habits. They include inconsistent sleep schedule, using devices in bed, nightcap, and so on,” he explains.

A woman asleep in bed holding reading glasses

On top of this, the global pandemic and subsequent lockdowns mean that many of us have been blurring the lines between home and work. “People often overwork, when working from home, and then consume too much caffeine. All of these habits can harm one’s sleep quality.

How to get a good night’s sleep?

Alex tells me that one of the best methods to get a good night's sleep to establish a consistent sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up at consistent hours every day (including weekends) may seem challenging at first, but it can also do a lot of good for one’s sleep quality,” he says.

Research shows that sticking to a sleep and wake schedule can help the body maintain its internal natural clock. And when the body clock runs smoothly, it’s easier for us to fall asleep, have nighttime rest without disruptions, and wake up naturally,” he adds.

Alex notes that there are many other factors that can impact sleep such as regular exercise, controlled caffeine consumption, and avoiding heavy meals before bed. However, he notes that in particular, light exposure can be beneficial. He recommends that we take on sunlight as close to the waking time as possible. This will help set the biological clock right and can also be beneficial for cortisol/melatonin regulation. Experts recommend going outside, but if not possible,you could try to spend more time next to a window.

What is cognitive Shuffling?

If you do find yourself lying awake in the middle of the night, then cognitive shuffling might help you get back to sleep.

Cognitive shuffling is a kind of exercise when people focus on random images or words that don’t have logical connections between them and are non-threatening,” Alex explains.

A woman stretching in bed

Cognitive shuffling was was created by cognitive scientist Luc Beaudoin of Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, Canada). The way this method works is rather simple. When the brain transitions to sleep, it stops forming coherent sentences or logical imagery. In other words, the brain stops making sense.

So, according to Luc Beaudoin, by imagining random images or focusing on random words, we can force the brain into that “no-sense” stage associated with sleep, helping it drift off more easily,” Alex explains.

He continues, “for example, sleepers can picture a meaningless sequence of images and focus on each for a few seconds (a monkey, a microphone, a shovel, a piece of cake, and so on). The same rule applies to words: they don’t have to be connected. For example, sleepers can pick the word “evening” and then come up with words that begin with each of its letters: e - eagle, v - vinyl, e - earring, n - napkin, and so on.

Alex notes that if you are experiencing chronic sleep issues then it’s a good idea to consult a professional.  

Three non-alcoholic drinks with sleep benefits

Wild Life Botanicals Sparkling Blush

 

The blurb: Billed as 'bubbles with benefits, this non alcoholic sparkling wine is packed with plant powered health properties. 

The taste: With a rounded, mineral palate and aromas of juicy strawberry this sparkling wine features flavours of rosehip tea, strawberries as well as Cornish orchard fruits; crab apple and red apple.

How it impacts sleep: Contains Ashwagandha, known to balance blood sugar levels, lower stress hormones, encourage better quality sleep and lift energy and mood. 

What customers are saying: "Felt like we were drinking champagne as it had a crisp initial burst on the tip of the tongue followed by an understated blush of rosey sweetness at the back of the tongue. All four of us gave it a big thumbs up at lunch time." 

Ms Sans Twist & Shout Citrus (Gin Substitute)

The blurb: Made in Australia, Ms Sans Twist & Shout is an alcohol-free alternative to a classic citrus style gin. It's low in sugar and calories.

The taste: It features traditional juniper notes with a blend of aromatic citrus from orange, lemon and grapefruit. 

What customers are saying: "As a regular Gin consumer I was impressed from the first sip, Ms Sans Twist and Shout delivers. A fragrant and tangy drink that I couldn't believe was NA. This goes into my regular stock for a cheeky mid week drink. Delicious!"

Eisberg Alcohol-Free Cabernet Sauvignon

 

The blurb: Made in Germany, Eisberg alcohol free wine is the UK’s most popular non-alcoholic wine brand. 

The taste: Featuring flavours of ripe cassis and berry, this well-balanced alcohol-free Cabernet Sauvignon is fresh and fruity. 

How it impacts sleep: Research published in the journal Nutrition and Food Sciences found that red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon contains high levels of melatonin. 

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