There is nothing like a good nights sleep.
A consensus statement from the Journal of Sleep Medicine states that seven or more hours of sleep is required for optimal health. While it may not be surprising that sleep is necessary for proper brain function, sleep also plays a role in hormonal balance, cardiovascular health, and even whether you feel full from eating at the proper time!
Most things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep can be done before your head even hits the pillow for the night. Here are some helpful hints for promoting restful sleep:
During the Day:
* Try to wake up at a consistent time every morning. The more you can introduce routine to your body, the more your circadian rhythms (cycles of sleep and wake) will normalize. Getting some exposure to outdoor light during morning hours will help the process of normalization.
* It’s even better if you can get some exercise during this time. Just 20 minutes of exercise daily can help you sleep better at night. Complete all strenuous exercise before about four hours before bed. (Light exercise like yoga or stretching may be okay after this point.)
* Making your bed every morning gives you an inviting place to sleep in the evening. It may sound old-school, but give it a try.
* Avoid all caffeine after noon.
* Eat no later than three hours before bed. This gives the food plenty of time to leave your stomach.
* Avoid alcohol before bed. This may seem counterintuitive as alcohol may make you drowsy. However, your body will rest less soundly when it is processing the alcohol, and you may wake in the middle of the night as it leaves your system, unable to fall back asleep. In addition alcohol is a diuretic, meaning you will be more likely need to wake to urinate as well.
* Avoid nicotine products especially in the evening, as it is a stimulating substance.
* If you have acid reflux, avoid aggravating foods for your evening meal. (If you simply must eat them, try and fit these foods in closer to lunchtime.)
* Chamomile tea is a wonderful choice to promote relaxation before bed. Brew a strong cup- two teabags or two tablespoons of dried herb.
Two hours before bed: Mind the Light
* Blue light is similar to dawn light—the type your brain responds to by waking the body up in the morning. Unfortunately, modern screens tend to emit these blue spectrum waves lengths. This includes televisions, computers and handheld mobile devices. Using these devices before going to sleep keeps you in “awake mode.”
There are applications that allow blue light reduction on our screens (such as F.Lux) that you might find helpful if you must be on these devices. It gradually reduces the amount of blue light on your screen throughout the evening.
However, it is still best to avoid these sources all together immediately before bed if possible, as they tend to be stimulating in other ways too.
One hour before bed: Preparing for sleep
- Try using a sleep journal—Get your worrying done before bed. Write down all your worries, thoughts and to-dos. By consistently giving your thoughts designated space, you will spend less time dwelling on them when you’d rather be sleeping
* Do meditation, breathing exercises, stretches or yoga during this time. You can also try a recording of relaxing music. Some, but not all, people find reading a book before bed relaxing. * Try taking an aromatherapy bath. Mix a cup of epsom salt with 5-7 drops of Lavender oil and pour into a your bath. The epsom salt relaxes sore muscles and the lavender is a soothing anti- anxiety herb.
* Try not to get into bed until you are at least a little tired.
* It is an excellent practice for better sleep (and stress reduction in general) to leave your phone to charge outside the bedroom for the night. Do you really want your phone to be the last thing you see at night and the first thing you see in the morning? Having your phone nearby reminds you of all the things you have to do, and may trigger the to-do list to start running in your head. The EMF emitted by our phones also can act as a sleep disruptor in sensitive individuals.
* Complete darkness and quiet are best for restful sleep. If this isn’t possible, use an eye mask and earplugs.
1) Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature or on the cool side.
2) Use your bed for sleep (or sex) only.
3)There are herbal remedies available that may aid in restful sleep. Ask your natural health practitioner for recommendations.
4) If you find you can’t sleep, try getting out of bed and reading on the sofa (no devices!) for a little while until you are sleepy again. Staying in bed while tossing and turning will only make you frustrated.
5) Go to bed by 10pm as often as possible. If we are asleep by that time, we are more likely to go in to REM or a deeper, more restorative sleep.
Our sleep rhythms habituate rather slowly. Give two weeks for these changes to show their full impact.
In summary, avoid stimulating substances during the second half of the day. Establish a routine: wake up and go to bed as close to the same time every day as possible. Within an hour of going to bed start to wind down— Read, stretch, take a bath, journal or meditate. Retire to a cool, dark bedroom only when you are ready for sleep.
by Beth Bloomfield, L.Ac., MS