Did you know that there are a few 'normal' things in your day to day life that are actually monsters in disguise? These bad guys might just be responsible for scuppering your sleep. Try doing the following to improve your chances of getting to sleep easily and staying asleep all night.
the news at bedtime as it can be full of doom and gloom and not ideal to have on your mind. Instead watch it when you wake up.
screens well before your bedtime curfew. The blue light emitted from mobiles, TVs and computers (tablets too) tricks your brain into thinking its daytime by stopping the release of melatonin. If you just can’t do this try using blue light reducing glasses and software for all your gadgets. You could also set your iphone to Night Shift so that it automatically adjusts the display to give off warmer, less blue light at night.
phone out of the bedroom. Incoming messages will disturb you and there is a risk of becoming hypervigilant which comes from the need to keep checking for messages.
Sleep like a baby
One of the top tips I give to clients that are struggling with sleep is to set up an enjoyable bedtime routine. This should be a simple ritual and include at least thirty minutes of downtime before their head hits the pillow.
So what does this downtime actually look like? The easiest way to imagine it is to recreate a baby bedtime routine. A nice relaxing bath followed by a warm drink and story in hushed tones in a dark, calm and quiet room with gentle music playing in the background.
In all seriousness, this isn’t actually far from the mark. Having a gentle routine like the one above provides your brain with the time it needs to switch over from waking to sleeping. If time is an issue, you don’t have to do all of the above but you could take one or two of the following tips to create your routine.
Have a shower or bath using essential oils
Read a book or work on a paper based puzzle
Dim your lights to release the sleep hormone melatonin
Once you’re in bed try tensing and then relaxing each of your muscles in turn. This helps to relax your whole body
Write down concerns/job lists to get them off of your mind
Keep a gratitude diary. List three things you’re grateful for every night before you go to sleep. This will encourage good dreams
Keep the same bedtime/waking hours every day
Try taking a warm milk drink up to bed (has a sedative effect)
Implementing a bedtime routine doesn’t have to be difficult, try making little switches over time and see how much of a difference they make to your quality of sleep. Wishing you sweet dreams.
The 5 Pillars of Sleep
As a reflexologist I see plenty of clients who struggle with their sleep either all the time or intermittently. It's an incredibly common problem to have within this modern day lifestyle we all tend to lead. As well as working on feet to pinpoint issues, lifestyle is often discussed during treatments, and this can lead to practical suggestions being implemented to break the pattern of sleep disturbance.
If you're looking for ways to improve your sleep there's plenty you can do. According to Sleep Scientist Matthew Walker of International Bestseller ‘Why We Sleep’ there are five pillars to achieving good sleep. Here's a synopsis of what he said during a recent Facebook discussion, with a few extra supportive links from me...
It's a good idea to go to bed at the same time and wake at the same time even if you’ve had a bad night of sleep or if it’s the weekend. This means that your circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle) is maintained.
Control your home temperature well. The optimum sleep temperature for your bedroom is 18.5°C. Your body actually needs to feel cooler to be able to initiate sleep. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, a hot bath can help you to feel sleepy as it draws the heat out of your body and cools you down quickly as soon as you get out of the water.
Your melatonin hormone needs to rise to make you feel sleepy. For this to happen you need to be in a darker environment. It’s advisable to dim your house lights earlier in the evening and ensure that any screens (including phones) are switched off at least one hour before bedtime. Do this and you'll be surprised how sleepy you start to feel. Try a Lumie Body Clock for sunset and sunrise features.
4) Middle of the night waking
If you wake up during the early hours, don't stay in bed. Your brain will very quickly start to think that this is normal behaviour so you need to break the association. If after twenty minutes of waking you're still wide awake, get out of bed and read in another room in dim light. Only go back to bed when you're very tired. If you absolutely cannot get out of bed, try meditation. An app such as Headspace or Calm will help get you started.
5) Alcohol and caffeine
Your depth of sleep won't be as good after drinking either of these. Caffeine is a stimulant so avoid drinking after midday as it takes over 12 hours to leave the brain. Alcohol is actually a sedative, which blocks REM (dream) sleep meaning you wake several times during the night. Switch to decaffeinated tea and coffee alternatives and herbal teas.
These may seem like small things but little changes can make a huge difference. You really do have the power to improve your wellbeing. For more in depth details about these pillars of sleep, pick up a copy of Matthew's book Why We Sleep.
How Much Sleep do i need?
According to Ana Noia, a senior clinical physiologist in neurophysiology and sleep, how much sleep someone needs can vary according to the individual, and will change with age as follows:
- Newborns: 16-18 hours
- Two years: 11-13 hours
- Five+ years: 10-12 hours
- Teenagers: 8-10 hours
- Twenty+ years: 7-9 hours
- Sixty five+years: 5-7 hours