A good night’s sleep, with restful deep sleep, is essential for our health and wellbeing. When we sleep our bodies repair and our minds regenerate and rejuvenate.
Unfortunately, a poor night of sleep leaves us feeling groggy and dull and unable to cope well with a busy day.
Before giving tips for sleep it is helpful to have an understanding of the circadian rhythm of the human body.
The human body has an internal 24-hour cycle that we go through each day.
It controls our energy levels, metabolism, how awake we feel and our tiredness.
Our core body temperature, brain waves, and levels of hormone production are also affected by this cycle.
The point on this cycle where your metabolism is at its lowest is around 3 am at night. Some people find they wake at this time feeling buzzed, alert or even panicky.
This can be linked to metabolic and blood sugar issues. If you are not healthy then blood sugar and energy levels fall too low while sleeping and your body uses adrenaline as an emergency measure to get your body back in balance.
Which results in the feeling of alert or panic. Talk to your GP or thyroid clinic if this matches your situation.
1. Set a specific time to go to sleep and stick to it as best as you can.
A regular bedtime trains our internal cycle to become regular and stable. It also allows you to mentally wind down and prepare for sleep as you have set the time beforehand.
2. Do 30 minutes of exercise most days
Exercise has many physical and mental benefits that are very important to help you sleep better.
30 minutes or more of medium level exercise encourages good deep sleep.
Don’t exercise late in the day! Exercise is stimulating and makes you feel more alert. So don’t exercise for 2 or 3 hours before your planned bedtime.
3. Avoid stimulating drinks and foods
Food and drink that contains caffeine activate the adrenal glands and stimulate our nervous system. Coffee, tea, chocolate and energy drinks all contain caffeine and make sleep difficult. If you must have a coffee or tea then do so before 11 am as the effects of caffeine can last for around 8 hours.
4. Turn off computers, phones and other devices 1 hour before bed
The light from phones, tablets, computers, and other gadgets can trick the brain into thinking it is daylight.
Use apps such as Flux or Twilight (for Android phones) to make phones and computers give off more red light which is similar to dusk and dim light in the evening. This mimics the natural lowering of light which is going on outside.
5. Don’t eat right before bedtime
The average meal takes around 2-3 hours to digest. Going to bed on a full stomach often does not feel restful as our bodies are using energy to digest and metabolise the meal. Not eating 3 hours before sleeping is best.
Including some complex carbohydrates with your evening meal can also help promote restful sleep as complex carbohydrates break down slowly and release glucose to give some energy overnight.
6. Avoid drinks late at night.
Similar to eating, drinks must be digested and can disturb our sleep. Avoid alcoholic drinks in the evening and before bed if you are struggling with falling asleep.
Try not to drink a lot of water before bedtime as you will need to get up and use the bathroom during the night.
7. Try a relaxation practice before sleeping
Relax your nervous system before bed by engaging in an activity that encourages calm and lowers stimulation. Activities such as reading or listening to a relaxation tape or guided meditation.
Taking a hot bath before bed is another activity that many people find relaxing.
8. Get out in the sunlight early morning
When your eyes are exposed to sunlight it switches your internal cycle from sleep mode to awake mode.
Getting outside in the daylight for around 30 minutes each day helps to switch our brains into “daytime” mode.
Along with this you can limit napping during the day and avoid afternoon naps.
9. Have a relaxing sleeping area
To promote good sleep, your room needs to be dark, at a nice temperature, and be free from stimulation like noises or lights.
Computers that are on can be distracting as well as alerts on phones. Make sure you have a comfortable bed and pillow.
Generally, you want to use your bed for sex and sleep only. Try not to watch television, read, or do anything else in bed. That way your mind will be used to the habit of getting into bed and falling asleep.
10. Be careful with medications
Talk to your Doctor about the effects of any medications that you might be taking (over-the-counter or prescribed).
Some medications prevent restful sleep; others help it. If you are having trouble sleeping, talk to your GP to see if one of your current medications may be interfering with deep restful sleep. It may be possible to change one medication for a different one which does not cause sleeping problems.
Emotional and Mental Disturbances
Sometimes sleep is disturbed because we have troubling emotions or a life situation is causing distressing thoughts. Counselling can help to clear the emotions and resolve the distress and confusion. Please get in contact if you would like a space to talk about what is going on in your life.