How To Achieve Clean Sleep in 2021 & Beyond
9 min read
Last Modified 2 June 2021 First Added 10 December 2020
The ‘clean sleeping’ trend, branded by Gwyneth Paltrow as one of the biggest health trends of recent years, is all about fine-tuning your approach to sleep. Just like ‘clean eating’ it centres around changing your habits to improve your health. A study by Kings College London showed that half the population had disturbed sleep in 2020 and 39% were getting less sleep than normal. Clean sleep could be the answer, perhaps as one of your New Year’s resolutions. Here, we discuss clean sleep in-depth and how you can incorporate it into your life for better sleep in 2021.
Paltrow wrote an article for the Daily Mail outlining the idea of clean sleeping. She explains that she has a team of experts who are available to support her and give the best guidance. Her nutritionist Dr. Frank Lipman told her ‘poor-quality sleep can be unsettling for the metabolism and hormones, which can lead to weight gain, bad moods, impaired memory and brain fog, as well as serious health concerns such as inflammation and reduced immunity.’ The idea of clean sleeping is to achieve good quality sleep so you wake up feeling fully rested. The key is not to let the stress of the day affect your sleep.
Read more: 2021 Sleep Goals for a Post Lockdown World
Some of her suggestions, like ideally sleeping for 10 hours and giving yourself a daily massage, aren’t achievable for most. However, there are some really useful points we can take from clean sleeping.
Clean sleeping all boils down to getting a better quality sleep. Part of this is increasing how much sleep you’re getting if you don’t get the recommended 7-8 hours per night. Some of the benefits of getting more high-quality sleep are:
Although some of the clean sleeping ideas may be time-consuming and expensive, you can definitely learn from their objectives. Here are some approachable ways to use clean sleeping in your own life:
In her article, Paltrow recommends ‘Yoga Nidra’ or psychic sleeping. This is a form of meditation that mimics the qualities of sleep while the body is still awake. The point of this meditation is to focus on each body part separately, in a circular motion. For example, focusing on your fingers, palm, wrist, forearm etc. all the way around the head, other arm and legs. This type of meditation is supposed to put your brain in a state of near-sleep. Once mastered, this can be extremely relaxing, but you will need to practise to feel the full effects.
For an easy meditation trick to do before bed, use mindful meditation. It works in a similar way to Yoga Nidra, focusing on how the body and mind feel at that precise moment. The important thing is not to dwell on thoughts. If a problem or worry comes into your head, acknowledge it and let it go. Breathe deeply and focus on your body, allowing yourself to become fully relaxed.
Dreams’ sleep expert Dr Pixie McKenna recommends having a strict sleep routine to improve your sleep in the new year. Meditation would fit perfectly into this wind-down routine. She says:
“As part of your routine, and especially on weekdays, try to plan an hour of relaxation before bed each night. Avoid screen time, as this keeps your brain active when you are trying to send it to sleep. Why not take a bath, read a book, meditate, or spend time catching up with family. This will help your body wind down ahead of hitting the pillow.”
This is a good rule to stick to if you want to improve your sleep. Detox expert, Dr. Alejandro Junger advises you should keep a 12-hour fasting window at night. So, if you usually wake up at 7.30am, don’t eat after 7.30pm the night before. He says, ‘This is because your body won’t slip into deep detox mode until about eight hours after your last meal and then it needs about four more hours of undisturbed sleep to do its job properly.’
A study by the American Journal of Gastroenterology also found a significant link between late-night eating and acid reflux symptoms. So, it could not only harm your sleep but also make you ill in the long run.
Dr Pixie McKenna also suggests eating and drinking healthily as one of the best ways to improve your sleep. She says:
“Dry January and diets are of course some of the most common New Year’s resolutions. Sleep and diet have a symbiotic relationship. If you’re eating lots of unhealthy food, you’re likely to be getting poor quality sleep, and vice versa. Aim to eat a healthy, balanced diet of seasonal fruit and veg, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and oily fish to aid sleep.
“Junk food and produce high in saturated fat are more likely to lead to poor quality sleep. Likewise, when it comes to drinking, try and cut down on caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee, which stimulate your brain and make you feel wide awake. Limiting alcohol, which is a notorious sleep disruptor, will also help your sleep quality.”
A Dreams survey found that the top new year’s resolutions revolve around food and drink. 27% of participants said they’ll aim to eat healthily and 15% said they want to consume less alcohol.
Paltrow recommends pressure point head rubs and foot massages before bed. You may think this is unattainable to keep up every night. If you don’t want to do this as part of your daily routine, you could always introduce it to your night-time routine on a once-weekly basis.
Give yourself a gentle head massage stimulating pressure points on the back of your head. These are located about five fingers from the back of your ear at the base of your skull. You will feel a dip and a tender point in the right spot. Massaging these in a circular motion can relieve headaches, tension and can stimulate circulation.
Alternatively, a relaxing foot massage will help ground and relax you. Practice mindfulness during this and focus on the act and how it makes you feel. Or, you could ask your partner to do it for you and give them a massage in return.
Setting yourself a sleep schedule is a great way to regulate your sleeping pattern and train your body to know when it’s bedtime. The NHS advises us to ‘keep regular sleeping hours. This programmes the brain and internal body clock to get used to a set routine. Most adults need between six and nine hours of sleep every night. By working out what time you need to wake up, you can set a regular bedtime schedule.’
Additionally, devising your own bedtime routine will aid the natural progression into sleep. It’s important to choose a routine that will suit you- there’s no point doing yoga stretches or meditating if you aren’t really into it. Find what calms you down and do that. It’s often a good idea to have a warm bath, clear your mind and read a book instead of watching TV or using your smartphone.
Part of your new year plans may already be to improve your health. Whilst your motive may be to lose weight for aesthetic purposes, another huge benefit of getting fit is that it can help your sleep cycle dramatically. What you eat can be the deciding factor on sleeping well or not. As a rule of thumb, it’s good to avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugar and to eat a well balanced healthy diet throughout the day.
But can some foods promote good sleep? Sleep Council’s Yinka Thomas MSc states:
‘There are three substances that are key to understanding how nutrition can affect the brain chemistry that promotes good sleep: Tryptophan, Serotonin and Melatonin.’.
This is because, in layman’s terms, when tryptophan reaches the brain, it becomes serotonin, which then transforms to melatonin – the chemical that makes you sleep. She goes on to discuss that the best sleep-promoting food combination is protein-carbohydrate. A good example would be pumpkin or sunflower seeds with yoghurt.
Exercise is also a key component for a clean sleep. Thomas also states,
‘Sometimes sleeplessness can be caused simply because we have not been active enough during the day’.
So as well as all of the known health benefits of exercising, it can also aid a proper, well deserved rest at the end of the day. It’s important not to overdo it though as this can be counterproductive and cause restlessness.
Sleeping well is not just enhanced by what you do but also by your environment. It may seem obvious, but having a calm, inviting space to rest is a key element of clean sleep. It’s a good idea to keep the room a neutral temperature so that you are comfortable and open a window to let air ventilate around the room (providing it is not too cold). You should limit the amount of time you spend in your bedroom other than for resting, as this way your body will recognise that this is a space for sleep. After all, there’s nothing like your own bed.
Another key component is to keep your room as dark as possible. Your body only produces melatonin most effectively in complete darkness so any light can hinder your sleeping experience. Cover up small lights on TVs and leave hall lights off to ensure a restful night.
The main point to take from clean sleeping is that it promotes good sleep hygiene. This is about having a sleep routine that enables you to have good quality sleep. As they say, quality is better than quantity! When it comes to making your new year’s resolution this year, why not consider clean sleeping to improve your lifestyle? For more information, read this article on how to reset your sleep hygiene.
Do you practice clean sleeping? Let us know your tips in the comments!