In last week’s blog, we established that a good night’s sleep is an all-round good thing, but in our crazy modern life it is often traded for more exciting things such as socialising or even fitting in yet more work!!! By neglecting one of Nature’s healing gifts, we undermine our health and ironically when we do realise our folly and try to undo bad habits, we find sleep can be a tad elusive!!
So what can you do? Below are a few tips to improve the quality of your sleep.
Setting the environment
- Ideally you want to create a calm, relaxing and nurturing space which helps lull you gently into the land of nod.
- Ensure your bedroom is as dark as possible. Melatonin, the hormone which plays a key role in the sleep-wake cycle, is sensitive to light. Increased melatonin is released when it’s dark, and the slightest hint of light can make levels drop. (This is why when getting up in the middle of the night to go to the loo, it is best not to turn on lights, but do take care if you stay in the dark!)
- Some peeps are more sensitive than others. If you find sleep evading you, consider thicker curtains to cut out light, or wearing a sleep mask. Also, something as simple as covering up the light on your clock radio can make all the difference. Better still, use an old-fashioned alarm clock.
- Blue light emitted from screens such as PCs, phones and TVs suppress melatonin levels, making it more difficult to fall asleep, so it’s advisable to avoid looking at these a good hour or so before bedtime.
- Make your bedroom an EMF-free zone. EMFs (Electromagnetic frequencies) include phones, TVs, laptops, PCs and electric blankets! EMFs frazzle your cells at the best of times, but when you are trying to nod off, this is one energy that you can do without. If you have WIFI at home, you’ll be sleeping in a smog of EMFs, so it’s a good idea to switch to a wired internet connection (do this anyway for your health’s sake, not just for your sleep!) and/or switch completely off at night.
- Avoid stuffy rooms. Being hermetically sealed in a heated room doesn’t promote quality sleep. Think fresh air. Turn the heating off, and open a window.
- Are you comfortable? Lumpy mattresses or fabrics which cause allergic responses are hardly conducive to a good night’s sleep. Invest in a comfortable mattress, pillow and quilt. (I use the Nikken sleep system which, using nature energy technologies and natural fibres, creates a more natural sleep environment and thus promotes plenty of good quality zzzzzz’s. If you want to know more, contact me.)
Re-prioritising rest time
- Reframe your thoughts on sleep. It’s not a luxury; it’s one of life’s essentials. Make sleep a priority. Literally make time for it!!!
- Stop cramming your life with SO much. Allow a bit of space in the day so that you get into a rhythm of doing, then just being, doing and so on. Your cells need regular pauses in the day. Think of sleep as just an extended pause.
- Gradually wind down. Don’t just stop “doing” and then expect magically to be transported into the land of nod when you hit the sack.
- Make a habit of going to bed well before 11pm each night. Earlier if possible.
- Keep to a regular sleep schedule. Your body responds to light. Levels of melatonin begin to increase at dusk, as sunlight decreases, then rises steadily for hours, peaking at approximately 2am. It then declines as morning approaches. By adopting a regular bedtime, you can synchronise with nature, tapping into her natural dimmer switch, and thus take advantage of peak melatonin secretion. Put simply, your body responds to nature’s rhythms, i.e. sleep when it’s dark, activity during the light hours.
- Perhaps enjoy a bedtime ritual of sipping a relaxing tea, a warm bath, and a spot of light reading (not studying). Even better than a plain old warm bath, enjoy a magnesium-rich Epsom Salts bath (see below for why this is so good for you)
Diet to help improve the quality of your sleep
- Eat your evening meal as early as possible (6-7pm is ideal) and make sure that it isn’t too heavy (otherwise your body will be exerting all its energy on digestion rather than doing essential detox work overnight).
- Don’t go to bed hungry either. A growling stomach tends to demand attention!! If you feel the need, have a small snack, but nothing too heavy.
- Cut the caffeine – not just after midday but altogether. For a lot of people caffeine stays in the system for hours and even an early morning coffee can affect your sleeping several hours later!
- Alcohol may seem like a good idea as it might knock you out initially, but many people find that they then wake up during the night. Alcohol prevents you falling into the deeper stages of sleep, where the body does most of its healing.
- Avoid any foods that you are sensitive to (such as wheat or dairy) as they may cause congestion, digestive upset or sleep apnoea (breathing problems).
- Magnesium is nature’s relaxer. It helps with anxiety (a big one for keeping us awake at night) as well as tension in the body. Try eating Magnesium-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, brown rice, nuts, seeds and pulses as well as bananas. (This is why Epsom Salts baths are so good – see above)
- Certain foods contain melatonin so can be helpful. Top candidates are tart cherries, almonds, raspberries and goji berries, with smaller amounts in walnuts, linseeds and tomatoes. In studies, bananas, pineapples and oranges not only contained melatonin but also boosted the body’s innate production.
- Calming herbal teas are a good tipple to have in the evening. Try teas containing e.g. camomile, lemon balm, lime flowers (linden), wild oats, passion flower or valerian (warning: for most people valerian is sleep-inducing, but for a small number of peeps, it has the opposite effect!)
- Having to go to the loo in the middle of the night is very common and can disrupt sleep patterns, so it is best to avoid drinking lots of fluids too close to bedtime. Experiment to see what works for you.
- Basically a good healthy diet helps the body function optimally, and this includes the ability to enjoy a good night’s sleep, so if insomnia becomes chronic, it may be a clue that your diet is not as good as it could be, and perhaps take some time to review it.
Lifestyle and other tips to help improve the quality of your sleep
- Fresh air and exercise – spending time in nature, getting some sun (hopefully) and fresh air with a good leg stretch can make all the difference. I notice when I’ve spent all day indoors, my sleep that night is poorer.
- Try to avoid sleep medication. It may get you off to sleep but impairs the quality of sleep.
- Lavender and Hop pillows can help, but ensure they are organic, otherwise you are breathing in more toxins!
- Avoid all stimulants. I’ve mentioned caffeine and alcohol above, but also consider cigarettes.
- Stress and worry really affect sleep. More often than not they can prevent you from dropping off in the first place, but even when you do, it’s common to wake up at all hours, usually with a head full of concerns. It’s well worth looking into ways of de-stressing and dissolving worry. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your life (is killing yourself off at work really worth it?). Taking a slightly less drastic step, natural therapies such as Bach Flower Essences and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can be useful, as can talking out your worries with a friend or counsellor. Yoga, Tai Chi and meditation are also good ways to learn how to relax.
- And lastly, try not to fret about not getting your full quota of sleep. This only adds to your insomnia!!!
Sweet dreams 🙂 🙂
If you would like to review your diet, do get in touch. You can find my contact details here