It’s a fact, getting a good night’s sleep is the elixir of good health. After refreshing, deep sleep, you are ready to bounce out of bed for a day full of vitality, feeling emotionally charged, as well as physically. If you are not getting the quantity (or quality) of sleep that you need, you will feel run down, de-energised and emotionally imbalanced. Let’s have a closer look.
Make your bedroom your haven
There are many reasons why you may not be getting the sleep you need. The first thing to do is to make your bedroom sleep friendly!
Use soothing lighting and ensure the room is quiet. If barking dogs or noisy street sounds keep you awake, get some quality ear plugs or use a white noise generator, which aids sleep whilst blocking out other noises.
Get a decent pillow! This might seem obvious, yet many people do not have one. An ergonomic pillow can make all the difference.
Take all electrical goods away from the bedroom. T.Vs, mobile phones, clock radios, can all disturb your sleep further due to the electro-magnetic radiation they emit.
Foods to help you sleep
- Avoid sugary foods and refined carbohydrates. These will result in a sugar low during the night, contributing to (and sometimes the cause of) insomnia. Instead eat a whole food diet packed with healthy, slow-release carbohydrates such as vegetables, beans, lentil and brown rice, for steady blood sugar balance. Quality carbohydrates cause a serotonin boost.
- Eat foods that promote serotonin production for a restful sleep. Bananas, cashews, turkey are rich in tryptophan which, when combined with quality carbohydrates like like rye bread or oats, will aid sleep.
- Eat a light dinner before 8pm to encourage effective digestion before bed.
- Cut out the coffee. If you still wish to drink a cup a day, have it in the morning. Afternoon caffeine hits will not help you if you have restless nights.
- Drink relaxing herbal teas before bed. Try chamomile, passionflower or Yogi blend “sleep teas”.
Wind yourself down
Start relaxing a couple of hours before bed to “wind down” the system. Avoid stimulating movies, crime novels and loud music. Television stimulates the mind, not relaxes it.
Soak in a warm bath with essential oil of lavender to aid restful sleep and to relax the muscles.
Listen to relaxing music.
Check your stress
Keep your stress in check. If you often lay in bed at night worrying about stresses and strains of the day, you may wish to consider some stress management therapy. This could take the form of counseling or life coaching for example, or learning techniques to help you deal with your stresses such as breathing exercises, yoga, meditation or relaxation techniques.
Learn effective time-management skills to avoid late night “mind racing”, which often occurs when you simply have too much to do.
Encourage proper relaxation
Exercise each day, even if it’s just a brisk walk, a light swim, or extra activities such as housework or gardening. Exercise promotes better sleep, but be sure not to do your exercise in the evening as this will not get you relaxed and ready for bed. In the evening gentle exercise such as yoga may be beneficial to aid relaxation and to calm a busy mind.
Visualisation for restful sleep can be an effective tool in the fight against insomnia. Yogis use a technique of consciously relaxing each body part, starting at the toes and working up through the body. The technique involves tensing each area and then consciously relaxing it.
Nature knows best
Once you have begun to avoid anything that stifles good sleep and to introduce healthy habits that promote sleep, start observing the rhythms of nature. Establishing a regular, consistent sleep pattern will help to get the body’s natural wake-sleep rhythm back into balance. The circadian rhythm of our bodies follows that of nature – when it gets dark, we sleep, when the sun rises, we wake. Getting to bed before midnight, preferably between 10 and 11pm, can help. If that’s not possible in your lifestyle, try to maintain regularity of sleeping and waking.
In general, most people need 8 hours sleep per night, however no one glove fits all, so finding out what works for you is crucial. Be patient with yourself and know that when a problem arises in your life and something feels out of balance, it’s an opportunity for personal growth and improvement. Your body is constantly communicating with you. Stop and listen to its messages. Relax, take stock, breathe and enjoy the process.
Article by Jo Rowkins dipNT MBANT, nutritionist and founder of awakening health.