Plenty of us planned to make lifestyle changes when we rang in the new year – but how many have resolved to sleep better this year? Yet slumber is a part of your life that experts agree needs protecting.
Gwyneth Paltrow, goddess of left-field health advice, is a vocal proponent of "clean sleeping", a trend that has swept across the world in the last couple of years.
Riffing on the idea of "clean eating", this movement has a simple premise, with potentially complex implementation.
In effect, it says you should make it your mission to get at least seven or eight hours of good quality sleep every night.
Just why is sleep so important?
Explaining her theories on sleep, Paltrow claimed that experts from her lifestyle blog Goop found "poor-quality sleep can be unsettling for the metabolism and hormones, which can lead to weight gain, bad moods, impaired memory and brain fog".
All of which sounds fairly worrying, especially as many of us operate on less sleep than we biologically need. The Sleep Council’s 2017 report found 74% of Brits sleep less than seven hours per night, while 30% of men and 20% of women are even turning to booze to help them nod off – hardly a healthy trend.
It doesn't look like we're doing much better as Ireland is the second-most sleep-deprived country after the UK, according to a 2017 survey by Aviva.
By contrast, a healthy sleep regime can positively affect your entire day-to-day life, shoring up your energy levels, improving your mood and helping your confidence.
Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan, a sleep expert from Silentnight, says that after clean sleep "we wake up feeling refreshed, invigorated and looking forward to the day ahead".
Paltrow is clearly on to something this time, and the spread of clean sleeping shows that people agree with her.
But what does clean sleeping really mean?
In practice, it means getting yourself into a set of healthy, or at least regular habits, like clockwork.
The body’s circadian rhythms love nothing more than consistency. So, even if 10pm is too ambitious a bedtime for you, making sure you hit the mattress at roughly the same time every night will make a difference. Once you’ve got that bedrock, you can start to build healthy habits.
Goop’s own recommendations range from the achievable to the more challenging. You could try meditating before bed, calming yourself to sleep, while massages can also help – though this might be easier for couples.
It can also be useful to refrain from eating before bed, which means no more late-night, guilty-pleasure chocolates.
Ideally, Goop recommend that you try to leave a full 12 hours between the last food of the day and the first bite of the morning – so if you eat dinner at 7.30pm, don’t eat anything else until 7.30am. If you’d like to join them in calling it a "fasting window", so be it, but you could also think of it as just a schedule.
More extravagant tips include investing in a copper-threaded pillow to combat wrinkles and ageing: "When your face is in contact with the pillowcase, copper ions are supposedly transferred into the upper layers of your skin, where they help support cell renewal," Paltrow has said.
Some people find the pillowcases effective but Lisa Artis, from The Sleep Council, is more dubious, suggesting "the reality is they often have more of a placebo effect than anything else".
How can you get started?
There are some easy and practical steps you can take to get you started on the path to better sleep. A common tactic in the modern age is to cut down on screen use in the evenings, and in particular in the hour before bed.
Dr. Ramlakhan advises: "If you’re serious about getting clean sleep, you need to stop looking at your phone an hour before you go to sleep. That may even mean banning your phone completely from the bedroom and investing in a good old-fashioned alarm clock."
Another point to bear in mind is that the number of hours you sleep is devalued if you’re doing it in discomfort, so do ensure your bed and bedding are in good condition, cosy and comfortable.