Top Tips For A Good Nights Sleep

Sleep can be an issue for many people - either struggling to switch off and fall asleep or else waking in the night.  This lack of restorative sleep can easily start to take over your life and affect your job performance, relationships, emotions, hormones and so much more. 

Below you'll find some to help you get settled into Z-land - some of which you may already know. They are all very simple to follow. But sometimes it takes incorporating them all together to make a difference.

A Bedtime Ritual

First of all, ensure you have a bed time ritual.

 

A soothing bedtime routine sets the stage for a good night’s sleep. Too many people are burning the candle at both ends – going and going until they can’t go anymore.

 

Eventually they crash but are feeling tired but wired, wanting to sleep but unable to wind down enough to actually do it. They can't switch off.

 

What your body needs is a signal that it’s the end of the day and its time to relax. Scrolling through your phone on Instagram at 10pm does not send that signal.

 

A bedtime routine can be settling down with a good book to read for a few minutes. Or an Epsom salt bath, diffusing essential oils (lavender is great for this), meditating, journaling (great for getting things off your mind), gentle stretching or a herbal tea earlier in the evening. Plus, make sure you go to the loo before bedtime too, so you lessen the chances of waking up in the night for a wee.

 

Your bedroom should be a sanctuary of rest – comfortable pillows, comfy sheets and blankets and soft lighting. Make sure your bedroom is completely dark before sleeping – light blocking curtains can help or else use an eye mask.

 

Also, remove all electronic devices from the bedroom, so that there isn’t any indicator lights to disturb your sleep.  However, in saying this, sometimes listening to a sleep app through earphones on your phone can be a great way to help you nod off quickly either when you go to bed or if you wake in the night.

A Regular Time for Bed & Waking

When it comes to improving your sleep, another important area to focus on is a regular bedtime - as in, going to bed at the same time every night and waking at the same time every morning (if possible).

 

A regular bedtime helps to establish a healthy sleep pattern. If your bedtime is different every night, then that isn’t a pattern. Your body orchestrates many functions based on rhythms and signals. As such, your body likes routine. It prefers to eat, sleep and be active on a schedule.

 

When the schedule gets disrupted, it interferes with the normal cycle of sleep and wakefulness.

 

Establishing a regular bedtime and sticking to it, allows the body to plan its sleep cycle.

 

Determine how many hours of sleep you need each night to wake up refreshed. Say, it's 8 hours, so sleeping from 10pm and waking at 6am. Then set a reminder on your phone to start your bedtime ritual at 9.30pm (see above) and to start winding down for the night and preparing for sleep.

Caffeine, Alcohol and Screentime

Before electric lighting, most people went to bed when it got dark and got up when the sun came up. The lighting they did have, gas or candle light, was much more gentle on the eyes than today’s lighting. Now we have artificial lighting which can disrupt sleep.

 

The light from computer screens, TV’s, smartphones, tablets etc, is heavy on the blue light spectrum, which is especially stimulating to the brain. Even one evening of blue light exposure can result in having less energy and a slower metabolism the next day.

 

It's suggested to limit or remove blue light for around 2 hours before bedtime. It is therefore best to keep your screens out of the bedroom or at least have them switched off.

 

Many people turn to caffeine to help fight off the fogginess of sleep deprivation. But this can do more harm than good. Caffeine can have an affect on your adrenal glands and also decreases the amount of melatonin (your sleep hormone) released from the pineal gland, which contributes to poor sleep. If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, consider reducing or eliminating your coffee consumption. Definitely don't have any after 12pm if you are having sleep issues.

 

And, sorry to tell you, but alcohol can also affect your sleep cycles.  While it can help people fall asleep faster, it interferes with rapid eye movement REM sleep, which is the time when people dream.  Dream time is extremely important for getting adequate rest, healing the adrenals and improving day time wakefulness.  Alcohol also increases the incidence of sleep apnea episodes – where a person stops breathing multiple times during the night.  This can be life-threatening over time as sleep apnea has been found to be a risk factor for heart disease and sudden death.

Food & Exercise 

It's a good idea to ensure that you are not eating several hours before your bedtime. Eating right before bedtime activates the digestive system which can disturb sleep. So, don’t eat at least 2-3 hours before bed.  This is especially relevant if you have elevated cortisol (your stress hormone). If you eat before bedtime you will experience a rise in blood sugar followed by a crash.

Whilst eating before bed helps some people get to sleep, in the long run the sleep is disturbed by the blood sugar imbalances. Fasting before bed has been shown to decrease brain fog and attention difficulties associated with sleep deprivation. So aim to cut out those trips to the pantry at 8.30pm.

 

The next is to not exercise close to your bedtime. Yes, exercise is good for sleep, but not right before bedtime. A sedentary life actually contributes to sleep disturbances. Exercise regularly, but avoid late night exercise, unless its low intensity yoga. Depending on your body type you are better to either exercise in the morning, lunch time, mid afternoon, or before dinner at the latest.

Your Hormones & Your Liver

Another factor that can come into play is your hormones.

Your thyroid (a butterfly shaped gland in your neck) can cause sleep issues if you are suffering from hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid).

Low progesterone can also be another factor.  Progesterone is your calm and happy hormone, however if the levels are low, this means you can have feelings of anxiety and restlessness, meaning the ability to nod off nicely is going to be compromised.

HPA axis dysfunction (hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands - once called adrenal fatigue) can also cause insomnia, as well as general PMS symptoms, especially when your period is nearly due, along with perimenopause or menopause causing sleep issues too.  These quite often link into the rise and fall of oestrogen levels or oestrogen dominance.

Your liver can also play a role, as if it is feeling overloaded by certain foods, liquids and toxins, it will wake you in the night whilst trying to 'unload' - usually around 2-4 am.

So, ensuring your hormones are balanced and that your liver is unloaded are great steps to take here.

You & Your Day

Finally, on the sleep tips - it's really important to think about what your day is like. Are you on the go all the time? Kids out the door, rushing to work, trying to meet deadlines, coffee, coffee, coffee, inhaling a sandwich at your desk, racing home, after school activities, dinner, kids homework, lunchboxes, bed time, then finally flopping on the couch, exhausted?  Does this sound familiar?

If so, where does connecting to you happen in this type of day? Is there any time when you have a moment to switch off? To check in and see how you are doing? To take some time to breathe deeply, nourish yourself with good food and drink water instead of coffee?

 

If these types of busy days are the norm, chances are you have high levels of cortisol and when it comes to switching off, it just doesn't happen. Your brain is on alert, watching out for a perceived threat. And you can't sleep if there is a threat right?

So if sleep is an issue, it's important to look at what your day is like. Your stress levels. It's also important to try to bring some moments of calm too. Go and sit outside at lunch time or go for a walk. Schedule in at least two 5-10 minute slots in your day where you can just sit and 'chill out' for a wee while, breathing into your belly, clearing your mind, focusing on where you are at right now, instead of what you need to do or haven't done. Just being in that moment.

 

Doing this brings you back to your parasympathetic nervous system and is going to bring about a sense of calm. The idea of at threat will be diminished and your brain and body will have some time to relax.

 

In turn, this will help to improve your sleep.

 

What changes do you think you can make in your day?

If sleep is an issue for you, you're welcome to book in for a complimentary 30 minute chat with myself to talk about what may be going on for you.

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 Melissa Lowe | Nutrition & Health Coach | melissa@thethriveguide.co.nz

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