Sweet Slumber

white bed sheets

Sleep can be elusive for some of us, especially with little people in the mix! This week’s journal notes offers a number of tips and tricks to help soothe you to sleep and assist in achieving a quality nights rest. Whether you are not able to fall asleep, wake often, don’t feel well-rested when you wake up in the morning, or simply want to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep. Try as many of the following techniques as you need.

In the hours before preparing for sleep –
1. Put your work away at least one hour before bed. This will give your mind a chance to unwind so you can go to sleep feeling calm and relaxed, not over stimulated or anxious about the following days events.

2. Meal times. Try to keep a few hours between your last meal and your bed time. Also try and keep the last meal of the day smallish. Try to avoid heavy proteins (such as a lot red meat, which can take hours to digest) and instead choose light proteins (such as eggs, fish, chicken or plant-based proteins such beans and legumes), Avoid simple carbohydrates and opt for complex carbohydrates which will be gradually released maintaining even and balanced blood sugars.

3. Add a little heat. Take a hot bath, shower or sauna before bed. When body temperature is raised in the late evening, it will fall at bedtime, facilitating sleep.

4. Create a relaxing a routine. This could include meditation, deep breathing, a warm bath using aromatherapy essential oils such as lavender, listing to relaxing music, practicing yoga or receiving in a massage from your partner. It is important to find something that makes you feel relaxed, then repeat it each night to help you release the day’s tensions.

5. Pre-bed snacks. If you need to eat something before bed eat a high-protein snack. This can provide the L-tryptophan need to produce melatonin and serotonin. Protein snacks to consider include yoghurt, hummos, turkey or eggs. Also eat a small piece of fruit. This can help the tryptophan cross the blood-brain barrier.

6. Go to the bathroom right before bed. This will reduce the chances that you’ll wake up to go in the middle of the night.

7. Listen to white noise or relaxation CDs. Some people find the sound of white noise or nature sounds, such as the ocean or forest, to be soothing for sleep.

8. Read something relaxing or spiritual. This will help you to unwind. Don’t read anything stimulating or suspenseful as this may have the opposite effect.

9. Journaling. If you often lay in bed with your mind racing, it might be helpful keep a note book and write down your thoughts before bed.

10. Gratitude. This is is also a lovely time to practice daily gratitude, generating this before bed sets your mood, emotions and hormones up for a relaxed and restful sleep.

Create a sleep ritual or routine –
1. Get to bed as early as possible. Our systems, particularly the adrenals, do a majority of their recharging or recovering during the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. In addition, your liver is processing the day’s toxins around this time. If you are awake, the toxins back up causing additional health issues. As with most animals we evolved to go to bed shortly after sun set, the widespread use of electricity has extended our wakeful hours, but to the detriment of our bodily processes of maintenance and regeneration.

2. Join the Dark side. Sleep in complete darkness or as close as possible. Day or night, a dark room is the best way to go if you want to induce sleep. If there is even the tiniest bit of light in the room it can disrupt your circadian rhythm and your pineal gland’s production of melatonin and seratonin. There also should be minimal light in the bathroom as possible. If you get up in the middle of the night keep the light off. Any light will immediately cease all production of the sleep hormone melatonin.

3. If you don’t fall asleep in 15 minutes don’t get up. People that usually have a good sleep take 10 to 15 minutes to fall asleep. Falling asleep in less then 5 minutes means that your body suffers from sleep deprivation. Take another 15 minutes and if in half an hour you’re still awake, then get up and do something relaxing for a while, like reading a book.

4. Keep your bed for sleeping. Avoid watching, completing work, using a computer or smart phones in your bed. Your goal it to associate your bed with the practice of sleep only, so your brain will automatically assume you want to sleep when you enter that room and lie down.

5. Create a sleep conducive environment. Keep the room dark, clean and free of clutter, well ventilated with fresh air and at a comfortable 21 degrees C.

6. Set a sleep routine. Pick an hour to get to sleep every day. Try and maintain a schedule when it comes to your bedtime hour. Your body needs to get used to a sleep schedule. Pick an hour that allows you to get enough sleep to feel rested in the morning and stick with it even on the weekends.

7. Keep your body warm. Maintain warmth overnight, use a blanket and also wear socks to bed, due to the fact that they have the poorest circulation, the feet often feel cold before the rest of the body causing night wakings.

8. Wear an eye mask to block out light. It is very important to sleep in as close to complete darkness as possible. That said, it’s not always easy to block out every stream of light using curtains, blinds or drapes, particularly if you live in an urban area. In these cases, an eye mask can help to block out the remaining light.

9. Remove the clock from view. It will only add to your worry when constantly staring at it… 2 a.m. …3 a.m. … 4:30 a.m. …

Practices best avoided in the hours before bed –
1. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon. In some people caffeine is not metabolized efficiently and therefore remain in their system long after consuming it. Try limit caffeinate beverages to the morning. Also avoid chocolate, cola drinks or non-herbal tea at night as things also may prevent some people from falling asleep.

2. Avoid simple carbohydrates before bed. Eating processed grains and sugars will initially raise blood sugar, later, when blood sugar dips too low (hypoglycemia), you might wake up and not be able to fall back to sleep.

3. Avoid alcohol before bed. Although Alcohol may get you to sleep faster, the effect is short lived and people will often wake up several hours later, unable to fall back asleep. Alcohol can sometimes provoke nightmares and will also keep you from falling into REM sleep, where the body does most of its healing.

4. Avoid TV right before bed. It can be too stimulating to the brain and it will take longer to fall asleep. The light emitted from the TV can also be disruptive to the pineal gland thus disrupting sleep.

5. Don’t drink any fluids within 2 hours of going to bed. This will reduce the likelihood of needing to get up and go to the bathroom or at least minimize the frequency.

Health issues which can contribute to insomnia –
1. Lack of exercise. Regular exercise, for at least 30 minutes every day makes you more likely to fall sleep without problems. However, don’t exercise too close to bedtime or it may keep you awake.

2. Adrenal fatigue can contribute to insomnia. If you think this may be affecting you have your adrenal function checked by your GP or Naturopath.

3. Menopause and the hormonal changes occurring at this time can cause insomnia, check with your GP or Naturopath to assist with addressing these issues properly

4. Extra weight and the associated liver, cardiovascular and hormonal issues can contribute to insomnia, as too the increase likelihood of sleep apnea which will prevent a restful night.

5. Food allergies can contribute to insomnia. It is best to avoid foods that you may be sensitive to. Particularly dairy and wheat products as they are linked to causing apnea, excess congestion, gastrointestinal upset, and gas and such like.

Please feel free to add any other recommendations in the comments section if you think they may help others.