How to get better sleep and treat insomnia, tips on getting better sleep habits, how to relax and get ready to sleep, what can interfere with sleep, sleepy, not sleepy, can’t sleep
Do you take your worries to bed with you? Do you toss and turn during your sleep? Wake up not refreshed or tired? Sound sleep is a under appreciated repair mechanism for your body. It is likely that you only appreciate good sleep when you no longer have it. If you don’t sleep well, then the consequences are felt throughout the day. You can’t get your day started the right way. You may feel more irritable and work performance suffers. Read this for better Zees.
Are your symptoms from inadequate sleep?
Let’s start with the most obvious symptoms: drowsiness, more fatigue, decreased concentration, and impaired memory. The lesser known symptoms you may not have thought about are: reduced stress tolerance, mood changes, irritability, muscle tension, or increased health problems such as infections.
From my experience sleep has a lot to do with stress and a lot to do with routine. So how do you get the right routine?
But first, why is sleep so important?
To maintain and improve long term health; regeneration occurs during deep sleep when growth hormone(GH), or the “anti-aging” hormone(as it is fondly known as). Growth hormone secretion promotes: tissue regeneration, liver cleansing, muscle building, break down of fat stores and normalization of blood sugar. Sounds good doesn’t it. Free radicals are scavenged in the brain, minimizing its aging during sleep as well. This regeneration can also help explain “beauty sleep.” But beware that many conditions are aggravated by inadequate sleep-don’t take it for granted. Adequate sleep gives us an improved outlook on life and the energy to accomplish what we set out to do.
Tips on getting better sleep habits
- Consistency is the key to better sleep. Have a set schedule. Keep your “wake-up” and “go to bed time” consistent. In other words, sleep when you feel sleepy and don’t push yourself to stay up “past your bedtime.” This will cause increased epinephrine production, and lead to more difficulty getting to sleep later. Have a “getting ready for bed” routine to relax and prepare your body for sleep. (Keep reading for ideas) Avoid taking naps if you have trouble sleeping at night. According to Ayurvedic medicine, the body repairs itself mainly from 10pm to 2am , so if you’re a “night- person” then you’re losing precious repair and regeneration time for your body.
- Your bed is primarily for sleeping. Try not to use the bed for anything other than sleep, such as watching television, eating, doing homework, using your laptop, or texting your friends with your high EMF(electromagnetic field phone), worrying or problem solving. If you are trying to sleep and are unsuccessful then after 15-20 minutes then don’t stay in bed because then you will create a habit of poor sleep. The trick though is to do a mundane activity that will bore you to sleep.
- Do not worry about sleeping. If you have poor sleep one night then and the next and the next then you may begin to worry about your lack of sleep. You need to realize that you should be tired and you won’t have to worry about sleep. You are tired enough to sleep. You shouldn’t have the energy to stay awake. As a side note don’t stare at the clock every time you wake up or while you’re trying to sleep.
- You need a peaceful, quiet, cool and comfortable sleep environment. A messy room will be distracting, and electronic clocks, mp3 players, stereos, computer monitors all have electromagnetic fields that can upset sleep for some individuals. You can use an EMF shield or move the electronic equipment out of the room. White noise is very helpful for people who can’t sleep in absolute quiet. For example you can use a fan to create background sound.
- Your adrenal gland secrets a hormone known as cortisol during the day to help you get moving and the levels of cortisol decrease as you get to sleep. So to help regulate cortisol levels you need routine, meaning wake up and sleep at the same time every night and every day, including weekends. Exercise is also helpful can improve energy levels during the day and allow for better sleep at night. Most people will enjoy better sleep if the exercise in the morning as opposed to evening. Stress management is also important to help your cortisol levels stay in balance. Avoiding sugar can also help.
- Circadian rhythm (internal body clock) is a approximate 24 hour cycle that regulates biological processes. The hormone melatoninis secreted by the pineal gland in darkness and suppressed by light, so to help regulate the rhythm you should sleep in the dark and even dim the lights before you sleep to create the right mood to sleep. Also, turn on the all the lights in the morning, open the blinds or drapes, and let the light into your room, so you body knows it’s time to wake up. A sunlight lamp can be helpful for some people, especially those who live where there is little sunshine during the days. (Vancouver and Seattle come to mind.) This rhythm can be out of balance in shift work, jet lag (travelling outside of your time zone), and pregnancy, certain medications and changes in routine.
- If you have difficulty actually staying asleep it could be because your blood sugar levels are not stable during the night. To help with that you can eat a protein snack before bed and avoid high glycemic index foods and sugar at bedtime. If you’re a diabetic then a 24 hour monitoring of your blood sugar will help the doctor assess if a change in the time that you take your medicine can help.
- Any health problem can interrupt sleep, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, fatigue. So get a health and wellness evaluation to know where to start to improve your health.
Ideas on how to relax and get ready to sleep, and stay asleep
- Warm baths with Epsom salts, and lavender can be a way to achieve spa-like relaxation
- Relaxing breathing exercises and meditation can help within minutes.
- Another great tool is progressive muscle relaxation. In fact many CD’s are available on the subject. CD’s that increase certain brainwave activity to help sleep are also available
- Herbal combination or individuals herbs such as scutellaria, ziziphus spinosa, Californian poppy, lemon balm, hops(the herb and not the beer), valerian, passionflower can all be helpful but you should consult your naturopath or health professional before using these or any other herbs.
- Magnesium supplementation of high quality such as magnesium citrate or glycinate can be helpful in combination with calcium
What can interfere with sleep?
- Sleep apnea is a very serious condition that needs to be properly diagnosed by a medical professional whose expertise is in that area. If you don’t have much energy, are overweight and get sleepy during the day and take naps, or sleep when you are a passenger in a car, or while watching or reading, then it is a possibility–especially if you snore. You may actually stop breathing at night. Even if you partner doesn’t think so. By the way alcohol also worsens a type of sleep apnea.
- Alcohol might get you to sleep but studies show that the sleep is not a deep but fragmented.
- Caffeine is a stimulant and may not be eliminated from the body for 10 hours or more. So avoid it in the afternoon or evening. Even green tea, black tea and chocolate have caffeine, not just coffee and energy drinks.
- Sugar (especially refined sugar) also has a stimulating effect on the body and can raise your cortisol levels thereby temporarily disturbing your sleep or not allowing you to get to sleep.
- Nicotine smoke also has a stimulating effect on the body so avoid it as well, even second hand smoke.
- Too much liquid before bed can have you up all night going to the bathroom so avoid drinking water after 8pm. It’s best to drink small amounts of water throughout the day.
- B-vitamins can help people deal with stress, but they also improve energy levels in some people if taken at night, so just take them in the morning.
- Don’t just blame your B-vitamins, certain prescription drugs contain caffeine and can be stimulating to the body. For example decongestants and pain killers. Weight loss products and energy supplements containing guarana and the like will be stimulating as well.
- Heavy dinners, fried food, sugary desserts and food that doesn’t digest easily such as large amounts of protein (ie. Meat) can be stimulating to the body. Definitely shouldn’t eat and go straight to sleep. Give you body a chance to digest. About three hours should suffice.
Goodnite : )
- Dement MD PhD, William. The Promise of Sleep. 1999. Dell Publishing. New York, NY.
- Jacobs PhD, Gregg. Say Goodnight to Insomnia. 1998. Henry Holt and Company. New York, NY.
- Ross DC, Herbert, Brenner Lac, Keri and Goldberg, Burton. Sleep Disorders. <AlternativeMedicine.com> Tiburon, CA. 2000.