Ahh, Sleep! It isn’t a secret I’m obsessed with getting a great night’s rest. When I was young, I slept like a log, but during my burnout period, I’d crash to sleep at 8 o’clock on the couch. Then I’d crawl to bed, wake up at 2 am spend hours tossing and turning before getting to sleep at 5 am. I was only getting a few hours of rest. No wonder I felt EXHAUSTED. Eventually, my health came crashing down as my blood pressure soared.
90% of people will have sleep disturbance at some point in their life.
Now in my mindfulness practice, I see a familiar pattern in stressed people. They don’t prioritise sleep. Health surveys around the world have shown that 50% of those surveyed reported having trouble sleeping. Research tells us that sleep disturbances are common in people of all ages. It’s one of the three pillars of health, but we don’t manage it in the way we do our diet or exercise regimes. Issues don’t just cause next-day lousy mood they can have far-reaching consequences. Sleep is VITAL for our long-term health and well-being. During sleep our bodies are fast at work repairing our tissues, helping our brains to grow and build new interconnection as well as strengthening our immune system.
We should be aiming for between 7-9 hours of UNINTERRUPTED sleep per night. Getting a quality night’s, i.e. deep, restful time is key to achieving some ‘breathing space’ time in our daily lives. But with our busy modern lives, it’s no wonder, so many of us have issues with sleep and fatigue. Our quality of sleep is under threat by longer working hours, more screen time and pressing day-to-day stress. Lifestyle factors like alcohol and caffeine consumption, smoking, being overweight as well a lack of exercise impact our ability to get a good night’s rest. Exercising 30 minutes a day leads to a measurable improvement but best to do this a few hours before bedtime or better still in the morning. Exercising outdoors in natural light also helps to boost melatonin production which is vital for a good night’s rest.
What can you do about it? Below are my top tips for managing your best sleep ever. Stick to these, and you will be sleeping like a babe in no time. Take it from the someone who made the change and now has 8 hours uninterrupted a night.
Stick to Your Routine
Don’t chop and change. It’s essential to have a good routine of going to bed and getting up at the same time – even on weekends. It helps to settle your sleep patterns. There is no magic number when it comes to duration, but most women should aim for 7-9 hours a night. Try keeping a diary or try tracking your hours with an app.
You can’t catch up on sleep. So, don’t try by putting yourself to bed early. Your brilliant brain is wired to seek quality over quantity, so if you are wanted to catch up, you end up by sleeping deeper rather than longer.
Manage the Light.
Melatonin is our sleep hormone. In cave man times, when the sun went down, our melatonin levels would rise, telling our bodies it was time for sleep. We would wake with the sun, which would decrease our melatonin levels. Melatonin matters when it comes to, and we need to manage our light.
Unfortunately, in our modern world, we are disassociated with natural cycles of light because of indoor lighting and our reliance on gadgets. Most screens project blue light, and smaller screens especially so. Researchers at Harvard University found that blue light is particularly bad for blocking the melatonin, affecting sleeping patterns.
And that’s why it’s essential to dim the lights an hour before bedtime. Sorry, but Yes to get a great night’s sleep means you need to put away your smartphone, your kindle and your laptop. All that backlight messes with our melatonin.
Instead, we should try to mimic the passage of the day by changing our indoor lights in the following ways:
Stop Blowing Hot and Cold
Many people keep their bedrooms too warm, and this can lead to restless sleep. Scientists believe that a cooler room is more conducive as it works with body’s natural temperature drop at night. Aim for around 18 degrees in the bedroom. Keep the place cool and cover yourself with a warm duvet.
Pop on socks if your feet get cold at night. Wearing socks reduces night waking. Make sure they don’t have a tight band.
I am a fan of baths before bed! Not only are they relaxing, helping you to wind down and get into a relaxed state before dozing off. But the drop-in body temperature when you hop out of a hot bath (or shower) signals to your body that it is sleep time.
One of the reasons we have problems with our sleep is that we’re stressed, our bodies are still tense, and that makes harder for our minds to relax. Practising relaxation just before or in bed helps with restlessness and facilitates sleep.
Some people find listening to gentle sounds of nature helps them get to sleep.
If your mind is still racing, then journaling just before bedtime can help to get all those thoughts out of the mind and down onto paper.
Practising gentle body based meditations help the body to let go of tension and tightness aid restful sleep. I’m a huge supporter of using Yoga Nidra meditation to bring on a profoundly relaxing night. I started using a yoga Nidra meditation a few years ago and to support me to fall back to sleep if I woke up during the night. Yoga Nidra is such a powerful technique. It very quickly stopped the waking up thing! I felt so refreshed in the morning. Now I make sure it’s part of my night routine. I have put a link to my favourite meditation here http://bit.ly/2ggn3Fz. Give it a try.
Cut the Caffeine, Alcohol and Snacks
If you have more caffeine, you tend to sleep poorly. And people that have insomnia, often consume more caffeine. Help stop the cycle by being aware of your caffeine intake. Why not try a relaxing herbal tea near bedtime? A small study found that 10 minutes of active exercise was more energising than caffeine. So next time you’re craving that mid-afternoon coffee, go for a quick power-walk instead.
Although alcohol can make you feel sleepy, the effect is short-lived. And can make you wake-up after a few hours unable to get back to sleep. Alcohol also prevents the body from entering the deeper stages of sleep where the body does most of its healing. Growth hormone is the body’s primary repair hormone, and alcohol inhibits 75% of the hormones release. Also, drinking also interferes with melatonin release.
Are you prone to snacking instead of eating proper meals? Eating irregularly, especially eating high-fat snacks, is associated with shorter and poorer sleep. So tonight, try to make sure you have a nutritious sit-down dinner, at least two hours before bedtime. Foods like rice, oily fish like tuna or salmon, kale and chickpeas are all healthy foods that can help to improve sleep.
Eating late at night, especially a heavy meal, can adversely affect your sleep. If you feel the urge to snack, there are some food that helps to induce sleep because they contain amino acids or minerals that trigger our bodies to make sleep-inducing melatonin. Believe it or not, Grandma was right when she wanted you to have a milky drink before bedtime. If that’s not your thing, a handful of almonds or walnuts or a banana can also do the trick. Also, they can prevent your blood sugar levels from dropping too low which can cause you to wake up and find it hard to get back to sleep.
TRY ONE OR TWO OF THESE TIPS STARTING TONIGHT AND NOTICE IF YOUR SLEEP IMPROVES?
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