We have all heard the saying after a good night sleep you will feel better, or how children need their sleep. But too many of us get less than the recommended 7 – 8 hours of sleep a night. Some people even boast on how they can survive on 4 hours or less! Poor or inadequate sleep has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, poor immunity, heart disease, anxiety and depression. Sleep is vital for maintenance of your health, i.e. good quality sleep!! Broken sleep due to shift work, snoring partners, children or pets waking you during the night just doesn’t cut it. Our body needs this restful time to revitalize and restore its ability to function the next day.
There are many research articles out there linking poor or insufficient sleep to increased risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and obesity. It also has an impact on our ability to work effectively. Those who have had children know all to well the effects of those sleepless nights with a newborn baby and how even the smallest task can seem like a huge effort, not to mention the poor concentration and memory that leaves you putting the milk in the oven or some other random place. We have all seen those signs on the side of the highway “Tired Drivers Kill – pull over and take a break”. It would seem that our modern day living has a lot to answer for regarding the decreased amount of sleep we are getting collectively. With more and more people working online or being on call, late night conference calls or waking up during the night to take calls has become more normal. In other cases people have trouble going to sleep or they may wake up several times during the night never feeling rested in the morning even though they go to bed early and want that good sleep.
Some simple tips to help encourage a restful sleep:
- Rather than saying or thinking “I need to go to sleep” rephrase this to “I am allowing sleep to come”. This tricks the mind into relaxing and therefore allows sleep to come.
- For those who have a busy mind, keep a journal or pad beside the bed to write down everything that’s on your mind so that you no longer need to keep track of all of those details as they are already written down.
- Avoid screens for 2 hours before bed. The blue light interferes with our body’s ability to produce melatonin which is one of the hormones required for the sleep-wake cycle. Also, watching movies or TV shows can increase stress hormones especially if they are horror movies or thrillers!
- Switch off that phone or put it on flight mode if you are using it as an alarm so that you don’t get any email or social media alerts during the night.
- Have a cup of relaxing tea of Passionflower, Valerian and Chamomile around 8pm. While making the tea tell yourself that this is your signal to start unwinding for bed and sleep. After some time of doing this you may find your body already starts to relax automatically when preparing the tea.
- Try not to eat too late in the evening to prevent digestion interfering with sleep.
- Avoid doing any work or exercise after 8pm. While exercise is extremely beneficial, not only for the body but also for the mind, it can increase cortisol levels, a hormone which is involved in the flight or fight response, thus not being conducive to winding down before sleep.
- Don’t have caffeinated drinks after 3pm. This includes soft drinks, especially energy drinks, and for some sensitive individuals it may also include chocolate!!
- Have a warm bath with Epsom salt and/or relaxing essential oils such as Lavender (only 1-2 drops as any more can be stimulating) Chamomile, and Neroli.
- Ensure your bedroom is dark as light of any kind can interfere with the body’s ability to produce sufficient melatonin.
- Once in bed, the temperature should be comfortable. Not too hot or too cold.
- Meditation or restful music can help to get you off to sleep.
- Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time even on the weekends. This helps the body to establish a good sleep routine. While the odd late night or sleep-in for most isn’t going to be a problem, for some it can set off the insomnia pattern.
- It goes without saying that stress or anxiety can be a major contributor to insomnia. Where possible use relaxation techniques or herbal remedies to help reduce stress or anxiety levels. Often there is more than just one cause for insomnia and a combination of factors may be responsible. It is important to find the underlying root of the problem and work on that.
- Getting a good night’s sleep could be as simple as following the sleep hygiene practices mentioned above. For some it may take longer or require some herbal and supplementation support to break the cycle. If you do require assistance solving your sleep problems book an appointment today!