Quality sound good sleep is so important, especially now as the days shorten and we approach winter. Sufficient sleep helps our body to recover from the day and leads to improved brain function and memory. But good sleep doesn’t always come easily. For many people sound sleep is extremely elusive.
Every day in my clinic I advise people how to get better quality sleep. But today I’m suffering the effects of a wakeful night after not ‘walking my talk’. Last night I sat up on the computer until the early hours and then woke repeatedly throughout the night. This morning I felt dreadful!
Something I always stress for good sleep is to keep off electronic devices before going to bed. But it’s just one of a number of lifestyle practices you can adopt to improve your life by changing your sleep patterns.
Here are some simple ways to help you get a great night’s sleep.
Create A Calm Sleep Friendly Space
Is your bedroom a soothing sanctuary or is it also a place where you work?
It’s essential you establish and maintain a boundary between work and rest. Your bedroom needs to be a place where you unwind and take ‘me-time’. When the boundaries are unclear you never get a break from the pressure and stress of work.
Keep your bed for sleeping or other fun bedtime activities. This helps your brain come to associate bed with these activities rather than work, which makes it easier for you to nod off.
Clear away the clutter and mess. Open the windows to refresh the energy. Add fresh flowers, beautiful and meaningful ornaments, a candle or Himalayan Salt Lamp. Create a sanctuary you love to come back to.
You’re more likely to get good sleep in sleep friendly surroundings.
Create an EMF-Free Zone
If you’re surrounded by electronic devices while you sleep your brain waves are affected throughout the night. Quite simply, you will never get good sleep.
There’s some concern that the pulsed frequencies of electronic devices interfere with the body’s own signals, Also their electromagnetic fields (EMF’s) negatively affect emotions, organs, hormone production and the immune system. Consequently, this can lead to poor sleep as well as many other problems.
There are many studies that show exposure to electronic devices and even electric lights before going to bed interferes with sleep patterns. Far from allowing you to wind-down in the evening, electronic devices actually increase your alertness and interfere with REM sleep
Light, from any source including the low levels of light emitted by electronic devices, disrupts circadian rhythms and causes poor sleep.
There have also been studies into how electromagnetic fields (EMF’s) around electronic devices affect the release of melatonin, the sleep inducing hormone. In 2007 this study showed melatonin production, and therefore sleep quality, may be affected in some people.
For good sleep switch off your smartphone, ipad, laptop, TV, and other devices at the source. If you need an alarm to wake find an alternative to your phone. Sleeping close to an active smartphone is absolutely NOT WORTH the wide-reaching adverse effects it has on you.
If you do need to leave any devices switched on, make sure they are well away from your body, at least 2 metres. Even better if they are right across the room or in the en suite.
Check your bedroom for electro-magnetic fields and
remove the devices responsible.
If you need entertainment before sleep place some books or magazines in your room, or perhaps your journal. Not only does journalling help empty your mind of those annoying thoughts that keep you awake, it also has many health benefits. Research shows it even eases arthritis.
Use your journal to establish gratitude practices to build your Happiness Bank.
Check the temperature. A moderate temperature, about 20 or 21 degrees Celsius, not warmer, supports undisturbed sleep.
Darkness helps you sleep and even small amounts of light interrupt the production of sound sleep neurotransmitters. Use block-out curtains if there are lights outside your window. Don’t suddenly turn on lights during the night as they disrupt production of the sleep-inducing hormones melatonin and serotonin.. Don’t use white light as a night light. The soft pink glow of a Himalayan Salt Lamp solves this problem if you must have light in the bedroom. If you can’t block out light wear an eye mask.
Music is a wonderful aid to help you relax. Gentle music, white noise or relaxation recordings all help you unwind.
No TV right before bed! Stop watching about thirty minutes before retiring and definitely don’t watch it in bed.
Transform your bedroom a space you look forward to spending time in.
Create A Scent-sual Space
Our sense of smell plays an important role in mood, memory and emotions. It is linked to the limbic system, considered the old primitive part of the brain. As well as promoting relaxation, research shows that certain bedtime scents can even influence the type of dreams people have.
There are a number of essential oils that induce relaxation and are powerful sleep aids.
Lavender stimulates the release of feel-good hormones and is a well known relaxant to help insomnia. Sprinkle a few drops of lavender essential oil on a cotton ball beside your pillow or in your room.
Vanilla, rose, chamomile, sandalwood and surprisingly, coffee are some others that can also help insomnia by calming you. (Although homeopathic Coffea is known to have excellent calming properties, and so maybe it’s not such a surprise!)
Create A Healthy Eating Plan
Shunning caffeine should be a no-brainer. Drinking coffee, tea or hot chocolate keeps some people awake. But other foods such as soft drinks, processed foods and even medications often contain caffeine and you need to be wary of those.
Some foods like dairy and wheat can cause gastric disturbances that may keep you awake. Avoid them altogether or at least in the later part of the day.
L-tryptophan found in protein foods promotes the production of melatonin and serotonin to aid sleep. A small protein-rich snack such as nuts in the evening may help you sleep better.
Avoid sugar and processed grain snacks before bed to avoid the rapid spikes and drops in blood sugars that interrupt sleep.
Alcohol is a ‘no-no’ for sound sleep. Although it produces sleepiness and initially sends you to sleep, it prevents you entering the deeper sleep cycles. Also, alcohol’s effect is short-lived. After a few hours you are likely to wake up, completely unable to return to sleep.
Chamomile tea before bed is an excellent for promoting good sleep. It has a slight homeopathic effect to relieve anxiety and promote relaxation.
Support your body with nurturing foods to create balance
Create A Sleep-Ready Body
Exercise daily for at least thirty minutes to help you fall asleep, but be sure not to do it too close to bedtime. Because exercise stimulates the release of metabolising hormones that keep you awake.
Create A Night-Time Ritual
Setting a bed-time ritual sends cues to your brain that it is time to prepare to sleep. Just as you might read a bed-time story to a child before they sleep, setting routines also reminds your mind it’s time to relax and sleep.
Develop a night time routine. It may include a warm bath, yoga, reading, listening to music, writing your journal, in fact anything that soothes and relaxes you. Repeat this every evening in the thirty minutes before bed so your brain and body associate this activity with sleep.
Write down your list of what needs to be done in the morning earlier in the evening before. Then the ideas are not running around your head while you’re trying to drop off to sleep. The same goes for any plans, worries or other thoughts that might keep you awake into the early hours of the morning.
Going to bed at the same time each night, and rising at the same time each day allows your body clock to synchronise with these times, making both sleep and waking easier.
A hot shower or bath before bed increases your body temperature. As it falls again you relax and fall asleep.
If you have cold feet warm them with socks to promote sleep.
If noise wakes you or keeps you awake wear ear plugs.
Take time to reflect on the day passed as well as the brand new day ahead, so you can leave stress behind and start the new day afresh.
If you can’t sleep get up and address the cause or do some quiet activity until you feel calm and ready to return to bed.
Don’t watch the clock! If you are still not sleeping put the clock away,
watching the hours tick away will only stress you.
Sleep Problems of Menopause
For some women passing through menopause insomnia becomes a real issue. Hormonal changes causing hot flushes palpitations or night sweats can interrupt sleep and cause havoc. Before taking Hormonal replacement Therapy (HRT) have a talk to a Natural Health Practitioner about the natural options available to balance hormones and reduce these debilitating symptoms.
Creating an environment that nurtures and supports you allows your body
to release your busy life with all its stresses and relax into sleep at night.
What are your favourite ways to ensure you get good sleep?
All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only. They are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation with your health care provider. Do not use this article to diagnose a health condition. Speak to your doctor if you think your condition may be serious or before discontinuing any prescribed medication. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue.