Sleep rejuvenates your body, mind and spirit
An adequate amount of regular sleep is essential for good mental health. 8 hours sleep is recommended for the average adult. Research shows that healthy sleep habit strategies provide a long-term solution to sleep difficulties.
Medications tend to be effective in the short-term however the ongoing use of sleeping pills may lead to dependence and interfere with developing good sleep habits independent of medication.
Sufficient and restful sleep is a human necessity
Studies have shown that if your regular sleep hours are reduced by one hour over a three-week period your physical, mental and emotional well-being is impacted negatively. You may begin to experience mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression and stress-induced symptoms. Poor or reduced hours of sleep can affect your daily functioning - fatigue, irritability, tension headaches, and poor concentration and memory.
Insomnia is defined as difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep at least 3 nights per week in addition to related day-time impairments to concentration, lethargy, low motivation, anxiety and depression.
People with insomnia tend to experience one or more of the following sleep disturbances:
- Difficulty falling asleep at night
- Waking too early in the morning
- Waking frequently throughout the night
- Sleep that is chronically non-restorative or poor
Insomnia may stem from a disruption of the body's circadian rhythm - an internal clock that governs the timing of hormone production, sleep, body temperature, and other functions. While occasional restless nights are normal, prolonged insomnia can interfere with daytime function, concentration, and memory. Insomnia increases the risk of substance abuse, motor vehicle accidents, headaches, and depression. (Source: Insomnia | University of Maryland Medical Center)
"One more reason to get a good nights sleep"
Jeff Iliff connects sleep, the brain's plumbing system and a clear or murky mind.
He explains how the brain's waste clearing system only becomes activated in the sleeping brain.
Watch this compelling TED Talk here
The brain's waste clearing system only becomes activated in the sleeping brain
15 Tips to Enhance Good Sleeping Habits
1. Get regular
Go to bed at the same time every day. Set an alarm until your body clock gets used to the new bedtime pattern - be diligent and set up a pre-sleep ritual. Herbal relaxant teas such as chamomile, flower essence remedies - Bach or Australian Bush Flower, and Rescue Remedy are useful additions to your bedtime ritual. Introduce stress reducing practices such as yoga, meditation and deep relaxation.
2. Sleep when you are sleepy
If you feel sleepy grab a nap - call it what you want "power nap" Nanny nap"! Napping will improve your mental, emotional and physical well-being and your productivity - getting stuff done. If you are experiencing insomnia only nap before 3pm and less than 1 hour before your regular bed time.
3. Tossing and turning? Get up & try again
Trouble getting to sleep? Give it 20 minutes & then get up. Make a drink of warm milk and add some honey - do not boil the milk or the tryptophan (natural sleep inducer) breaks down. Sit in a quiet dark spot, use your relaxation techniques and start again. Guided meditations are available to help you get to sleep and benefit from a deep rejuvenating sleep.
4. Avoid alcohol, caffeine & nicotine 4-6 hours before bedtime
Alcohol, caffeine and nicotine all stimulate the body's parasympathetic nervous system - fright, flight and freeze! Your body is on high alert and you are not able to wind down to prepare for sleep. Reduce your stimulant intake during the day. Stimulants taken during the day will aggravate insomnia and make the insomnia cycle worse.
5. Avoid screens before bed
STOP using ANY SCREEN 1 hour before bedtime - this means anything with an "I" in front of it, computers, televisions etc. If you are using devises for relaxation music or guided meditation make sure the screen light is covered or turned down. Do not leave your computer or mobile devise on or near your bed especially if you are getting notification alerts!
6. Bed is for sleeping and sex
Keep your bedroom for sleeping and the rest of your life in its right place! This is particularly challenging for young people because your bedroom is your "go-to" cave. If you have to study or work in your bedroom set up a desk or separate space in the room for working or study. Make your work, social and sleep time separate. Before you go to bed tidy away your work and work space. Close down your work or social area at your set bedtime. Set an alarm if you need to!
7. Melatonin - Nature's sleeping pill
Melatonin (day-night -circadian rhythm, regulatory hormone) can help you get your sleep/awake cycle back on track. Melatonin's main job in the body is to regulate night-day cycles and sleep-wake cycles. Darkness causes the body to produce more melatonin, which signals the body to prepare for sleep. Light decreases melatonin production and signals the body to prepare for being awake. Some people who have trouble sleeping have low melatonin levels and it is thought adding melatonin will help them sleep. Shift workers also benefit from additional melatonin. If you are trying to reset regular sleep patterns or experience insomnia melatonin might help you. Talk to your doctor, GP or pharmacist about melatonin supplements.
8. Sleep rituals
Develop a sleep time ritual - you will train your body to prepare and slow down to enter the sleep state. Take a bath, do relaxation breathing exercises or tension releasing activities, have a chamomile or relaxant herbal tea, use relaxation flower essence or rescue remedy and then pop into bed. Listen to relaxation music or guided sleep meditations to prepare for sleep.
9. Bath time
Have a hot relaxation or spa bath 1-2 hours before bedtime. Add some lavender, some bicarbonate and Epsom salts or your favourite relaxation aromatherapy oils. Do the research and check out the best relaxation aromatherapy oils or relaxation herbs or flower essences online. I have used a lavender pillow (small sachet of lavender flowers and leaves) under my pillow to help relaxation and sleep.
10. No clock-watching
Check the story you are telling yourself about your sleep. A bright LED display of the time or checking your clock reinforces your "bad night sleep story". Remember on average you will wake 25 times during your sleep. Mostly we do not registered that we have woken however checking the clock when you do not only wakes you up further but you also feed the worry thoughts - providing further evidence for the "bad night sleep" or "I can't sleep" story increasing the anxiousness and insomnia symptoms.
11. Use a sleep diary
Use only for 2 weeks. Check your progress after 2 months after introducing your healthy sleep habit strategies. Celebrate your successes and keep going!
Exercise regularly at least 4 hours before bedtime. Stress reducing practices like yoga and pilates will help you get ready for sleep and have a deep restorative sleep.
13. Eat right - Tryptophan is a snooze food
Do you sometimes find yourself dozing off after a big meal or reaching for a sugary snack when you’re tired? The things we eat and drink can pick us up or slow us down. Knowing how food and beverages affect your body can help keep you alert during the day and avoid the agony of sleeplessness at night. Eat a healthy balanced diet regularly and only have a light snack of carbohydrate and protein only before bed - no high sugar foods. Bananas, salmon and milk are high tryptophan foods. Tryptophan is a snooze food. Proteins from the food we eat are the building blocks of tryptophan, which is why the best bedtime snack is one that contains both a carbohydrate and protein, such as cereal with milk, peanut butter on toast, or cheese and crackers.
14. Create the right space
Make your sleeping area a quiet and comfortable space. Decreased light stimulates an increase in hormones that regulate your circadian rhythm - night and day internal body clock. Keep your sleep space separate and protected from your work and social space.
15. Keep your daytime routine the same
If you have had a tough night stick to your daytime activities. This will avoid reinforcing the insomnia, your poor sleep story, and the worry thoughts.
Have you got any tips or strategies for good sleep habits?
I would love to hear what has worked for you. Leave me a comment