Sleep is more important than most people care to admit. Not only does it give our brains and bodies an opportunity to recover from the day but allows for a period of ‘system shutdown’ to repair and restore. You cells replicate, muscles grow and the brain’s energy is restored. Sleep also affects your hormone levels and immunity quite significantly.

Without sufficient sleep, we’re moody, have slower reaction times and are more susceptible to disease. Sleep deprivation can reduce your glucose tolerance which makes you more likely to develop diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the long term. Your risk of obesity also goes up the less you sleep.

Sleep also affects your hormones. Less sleep means less leptin (the appetite suppressing hormone) and more ghrelin (the hunger hormone) causing us to reach for the sugar and carbs. A poor sleep regime can cause you to have higher cortisol (the stress hormone) which not only makes it harder to sleep – talk about chicken and egg! – but once again increases your risk for diabetes, heart disease and obesity. If you’re a man, a lack of sleep can decrease your testosterone levels causing lower energy and sex drive.

So how can you ensure you get your much needed zzzzzzz? Here are six tips to help you fall and stay asleep for your coveted 8 hours.

  1. Create a routine around sleep. A sleep ritual teaches your body to wind down before bed. Try to do the same things at the same time each evening to create a pattern your body recognises. That pattern could include a cup of tea, prayer, a shower, a few yoga poses or some meditation. Do the same things, in the same room, in the same order every night.
  2. Use essential oils.These concentrated liquids have the power to penetrate your cell membranes in just twenty minutes. Oils like lavender and chamomile can be diffused in your bedroom, placed on your skin or dropped on your linen to help you drift off to sleep.
  3. Try some tea. Teas are another powerful natural sleep aid. Chamomile or Tulsi calm the nervous system and regulate your hormones to prepare you to sleep. Remember not to add any sugar to your tea though.

Practise mindfulness. Yoga and meditation lower your cortisol to facilitate better sleep and lower stress levels. Even five minutes of breathing can significantly enhance your sleep.

  1. If you have significant trouble sleeping it may be a lack of zinc and magnesium. It’s best to get your levels professionally checked before supplementing but try increasing your intake of these minerals naturally by eating foods like eggs, pumpkin seeds, almonds and spinach.
  2. Beware the blue light. Electronic revises like cell phones have been clinically proven to significantly disrupt sleep patterns and have a lasting effect on the brain. Try to limit your screen time from at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

Remember that, like all new habits, practice makes perfect. Creating your sleep routine will take time and repetition. Try not to give up too easily.

Alexa is a wellness blogger and holistic lifestyle educator. Read more Ally Cat Wellness tips here.