Tips that could bring you some extra Zzzzzzz’s! How I changed from a terrible sleeper to a champion sleeper!
We all need good quality sleep but somehow the simplest need can be the hardest thing to achieve. One lifestyle change won’t necessarily be the answer but a combination of changes may help you get that rest you long for. I have compiled a list of tips for you which helped me along my way to better sleep.
I have never been a good sleeper, ask my mum! I never slept ‘like a baby’ and I didn’t grow out of my terrible sleeping. Different things have worked for me in the past and now as I get into my 40’s I think I have finally cracked it. It has worked so well that even sleeping in random motels and hostels on my year backpacking trip has been a sleep success.
TURN IT OFF!
Turn off laptops and devices at least half an hour before bed. Yes you heard it right. This sounds simple but it can be very hard to do. Move away from the stimulation and get ready to wind down. I read (usually something bland like a text book) or watch something on T.V that is not too interesting or involving to get sleepy. No, don’t go back and check your phone no matter how tempting! This includes turning off computer games when you are winding down for the night.
NO NIGHT TIME NOTIFICATIONS
Turn off all social media notifications so you won’t be tempted to check who’s messaging you. If someone really needs to contact you in the middle of the night for an emergency I am sure they will call you the old fashioned way. You really don’t need to know what is going on in cyberspace when you are meant to be asleep. If you don’t have a REAL excuse to check it, then stop! It IS ruining your sleep; you are re-stimulating your mind when you should be relaxing. If you can’t trust yourself then put your phone on the other side of the room and leave it there!
CATCH THAT SLEEP WAVE
Sleepiness seems to come in waves so make sure you catch that sleep wave. When you feel sleepy, go to bed! Have your favourite T.V. show on record so you don’t force yourself to stay awake. Ride that wave or it may not come around again for a few hours!
GET A BEDTIME ROUTINE
A routine helps us know that we are winding down for the day; our actions are slowing down and getting calmer. This time is well spent getting ready for bed so that when that sleep wave comes, you are prepared and everything has been taken care of. There is nothing worse than getting sleepy in front of the T.V. and then having to wake yourself up to go brush your teeth. My routine, an hour before bed is to finish up with any messages online, make any notes I need for tomorrow, put a glass of water next to my bed with my magnesium tablets, take a hot shower and brush my teeth. Now when I start to get sleepy I can go straight to bed and everything is ready for me to fall straight into a wonderful sleep.
CAFFEINE THE NATURAL BORN SLEEP KILLER
Caffeine is an obvious sleep killer. If caffeine keeps you awake then don’t consume it before bed. Stop during the day when you know it won’t affect your sleep. Don’t forget caffeine is not just in coffee, it can be found in tea (including some herbal ones), chocolate and soft drinks. If you don’t think caffeine affects you but you can’t sleep then just cut it back around midday and see if it helps. Just give it a go, can’t hurt. Try some caffeine free herbal teas, my favourite is Sleepy Tea by Celestial. http://www.celestialseasonings.com/products/herbal/sleepytime-classic
ALCOHOL AND STIMULANTS
I definitely noticed boozy evenings lead to very bad sleep. Sometimes falling asleep would be fine but then I would wake up at some ungodly hour and not be able to go to sleep again for ages. Apart from the disturbances of having to get up and pee constantly, I am sure that the blood sugar crash that occurs once all the sugary alcohol is metabolised keeps me up too. All stimulants are going to make your sleep difficult. Is your sleep worth cutting back a bit on the booze for?
LET YOUR MIND BE FREE
Clear your mind. When you know there is only an hour until you want to be asleep in bed then start your routine. Get all the things done that you want to complete for the day. Write down the things you wanted to complete but didn’t, so you can then stop thinking about them while you relax instead. The list will still be there in the morning for you to finish I promise, so stop worrying about it and sort it out tomorrow!
HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH?
Only sleep as much as you need. We don’t all need 8 hours. My body regularly wants only 7 hours and not matter how much I try I can rarely sleep more. Don’t go to bed too early or too late. Work out what you seem to need and go to bed at an appropriate time that is going to fit in those hours. Sometimes it is better to go to sleep a little later so you are actually tired enough to fall asleep. Get yourself into a routine where you try and get ready for bed around the same time each night and aim to wake up around the same time. Hopefully your body will get the gist of what you are trying to achieve.
Exercise is a great way to promote sleep as it has a positive effect on our sleep cycle. Our minds are often tired but our bodies are still full of life. Get out there and tire that body out with anything that floats your boat. Pent up energy wants to be used and if you don’t use it up it is going to want to party when you don’t want it to.
LET GO OF STRESS
Stress is one of the worst things for sleep. Elevated stress hormones can cause alertness, anxiety and restlessness when you are trying to sleep even if you are dead tired. Learning ways to manage your stress through the day will help at night. Find out what helps you whether it is a boxing class, mediation, affirmations and mantras, running, massages or hot baths.
‘RAIN RAIN’ APP
Probably the thing that has improved my sleep THE MOST, especially while I have been backpacking this year, is the RAIN RAIN app. I have the app on my iphone and it is set on thunder storms and rain. I put it on at loudest phone volume setting and leave it on my bedside table. The noise blocks out most outside noise and muffles the ‘lovely’ tunes my husband makes snoring. I swear this ‘white noise’ makes me fall asleep within minutes most nights and I rarely wake up to any noises. This has impressed me and saved my sanity to no end! I don’t think I could live without it now! Download it for free at www.rainrainapp.com
FITBIT HOLDS THE SECRETS
I am not joking when I say that I sleep better since I got a fitbit tracking device 3 years ago. It may be all in my mind but who cares if it feels like it helps. Before fitbit I was sure I was getting next to no sleep and started feeling constantly tired. Once I got my fitbit it showed me that I was sleeping quite well, falling asleep faster than I thought and staying asleep most of the night. That reduced my worry about not sleeping enough so when I started going to sleep I had no stress about it. So yes my fitbit helps me sleep! (Make sure you choose a device that tracks sleep too).
I know it sounds silly but really… do what you can to make your bed and bedroom as comfortably and cosy as you can. Make sure your pillows aren’t too old and flat, have the temperature to suit your needs, have a bed large enough to spread out and keep the room nice and dark. Comfort is everything when you are trying not to get distracted from sleeping. Oh and if you have to sleep in another room once in a while or kick someone out of the room to get some sleep, don’t feel bad, you will be a better person for it in the morning.
The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise has been something I have used when everything else fails. That means I don’t have to use it very much these days which is good. The numbers relate to how you breathe in, hold the air and release it. I think you get focussed so much on counting your breaths that your brain gets bored and sends you to sleep. I am sure there are more complex reasons why it helps! Read more at this link. http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00521/three-breathing-exercises.html
I am a naturopath and it is natural for me to love herbal preparations. Herbs have so many wonderful qualities and can be the answer to many sleeping problems, depending on what the cause of sleeplessness is. I tend to stay away from the most well-known sleep herb Valerian because it doesn’t help me. It can also have the opposite effect on some people. My favourite herbal sleep remedy is by Fusion Health. You can contact them online to ask them if their product is suitable for you; don’t forget to mention any existing health problems and current medications. Do not use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. https://www.fusionhealth.com.au/products/product/sleep
Some people find essential oils relaxing before bedtime. I would often put a few drops of 100% pure lavender essential oils under my pillow to help me wind down and feel calm. Other oils that you may like to use for sleep are myrrh, vetiver or Roman chamomile. For some help on choosing your sleep oils just message Sharon at dōTERRA and she will answer your questions. www.mydoterra.com/sharontaylor1 Oh and the most important thing, don’t burn oils when you are about to fall asleep as I don’t want you to burn your house down!
DIET EFFECTS EVERYTHING
Eating an unbalanced diet can cause sleeplessness. Not only are specific nutrients necessary for a healthy body, they are essential for sleep. The most important ones are magnesium, potassium, B vitamin group, calcium and omega 3 oils. Also trace minerals like molybdenum are unknown to many but very necessary. Get a balanced diet in order and consider taking a multivitamin that contains all the trace nutrients as well as the essential vitamins and minerals. If you get cramps or restless legs then try a good quality magnesium at a decent dose for a few weeks and see if it helps. 99% of the time it will be a winner. Talk to your health food professional about your needs; don’t forget to mention any existing health issues, pregnancy/breastfeeding or use of medications. Magnesium is something I take daily and I swear by it for a better sleep.
BLOOD SUGAR ROLLERCOASTER
When your blood sugars are imbalanced it can cause poor sleep. Try to avoid carbohydrates at night time, especially sugar. Your best bet for an evening snack is a handful of raw nuts such as almonds. It provides protein to help stabilise the blood sugar while you sleep, the fats also slow down the breakdown of carbohydrates. I like to have some almonds with a cup of herbal tea while I chill out on the couch. If I feel like something sweet then berries are my favourite choice as they are quite low in fruit sugars and also delicious!
*Sleep apnoea is a real problem. Google the symptoms and if they ring true for you then you should seek medical advice. It is way more serious than just losing sleep and you should attend to it straight away. Excess weight is one of the causes so get your bikini cookbooks out and get onto that weight loss now!
*Jet lag is short term, it will pass. Try to get your body into a regular routine as best you can.
*Shift workers will need to work out what combination of tips can help to get the best sleep possible. Often shift workers will not sleep well until they change their jobs because it is going against your natural needs.
*Medications can be keeping you awake, speak with your doctor about the possible side effects. Sometimes sleep will never improve when particular meds are in your system but there may be alternative drugs you could try or perhaps the doctor could recommend alternative times of the day to take them that would have less effect on your sleep.
*Anxiety, fears or stress can lead to restless sleep- if you have emotional issues to deal with then you may need to work it out with a counsellor.
*Painful injuries or health conditions can rob you of a full sleep; speak to your doctor or health practitioner about pain management.
*Hormones can affect your sleep, especially monthly cycles or menopause. Ask your health professional how to treat the symptoms to improve your sleep, there are lots of herbal treatments that can reduce the symptoms and help balance hormones.
Please note that sometimes your body needs a bit of time to adjust to your new ways so be patient and give it time. Also if you think one of my recommendations wouldn’t help, just give it a go for a few days anyway… you don’t know everything about what your body needs, it may surprise you. So when you read the first tip about turning off your computer devices at night time and switching off all notifications… don’t just say ‘yeah right, as if I could do that’… actually give it a go. What have you got to lose…. apart from more sleep! Make sure you speak to your health professional before adding supplements and herbal remedies into your diet.
Let me know if any of these things help you, I would love your feedback.
Written by Michelle Floate, Naturopath and Cookbook Author of ‘the bikini cookbook’ weight loss cookbook series.
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