Tips to get a good night sleep

18 March, 2016 How to get a good night sleep without sleeping tablets

Quality restorative sleep is the ultimate healer of all health problems – whether mental or physical.  It helps to reduce overall systemic inflammation in the body, and in the brain.  It is also something we tend to take for granted but in fact, it needs to be respectfully cultivated and nurtured. Sleep quality is the first thing to focus on when feeling unwell, physically or emotionally. If you are feeling out of balance – addressing as many of these sleep tips as possible would be a good start to putting your health complaints….and sleep cycle back on track.

  • Eliminate all caffeine (chocolate, coffee, tea and even green tea).  Caffeine decreases sleep quality.  For those in a phase of disrupted sleep it needs to be cut out in order for the sleep cycle to reboot.  If you really can’t do without it, trial cutting it right down to 1-2 per day and before midday only.
  • Address blood sugar imbalances.  To get off to sleep and to stay asleep – our sleep inducing hormone called melatonin can’t be interrupted by it’s opposing daytime/alertness giving hormone called cortisol.  When our blood sugar is out of balance our stress hormone cortisol is at risk of kicking in, causing melatonin secretion to be reduced.  This can lead to a feeling of being awake or agitated, or even hungry, when you should be feeling sleepy or asleep.  Consider cutting all added sugar, white refined junky carbs, alcohol and include good fats and proteins with each meal to help regulate these spikes of cortisol
  • Be strategic about light.  Let your eyes see bright light in the morning and dim light at night.  There is no way around it – we have to shut down blue light screens (phones, i-pads, computers) as the sun goes down or at least 2 hours before you go to bed.  These blue lights shut down the sleep hormone melatonin and allows the stress hormones to stay around, making it difficult to fall asleep. If your room isn’t completely dark when you sleep, wear an eye mask or get blackout curtains.  Or if you need to work on screens at night occassionally, consider getting blue light protective glasses.  They work!
  • Reassess your boundaries.  For our nervous system to go into rest, we need to shut out the outside world.  Do you really need to keep your phone on at night by your bed?  Honestly do you?  Do you really want your friend in the U.S. to text you at ridiculous o’clock? Sure keep it nearby as an alarm, but you can put it on flight mode and the alarm will still go off. Make your bedroom a nurturing sanctuary for sleep and intimacy, not work or chatting online or ‘facebooking’ to friends when ideally you should be winding down
  • Turn off wi-fi to cut down the electromagnetic fields in the home.  Some people are more susceptible to feeling the effects of these waves than others, especially those prone to anxiety or who are highly sensitive. There is a LOT more researching supporting that us being wired 24/7 through our own wi-fi, plus our neighbours surrounding us, causes changed in our mitochondrial expression.  There is also something psychologically supportive about “unplugging” totally at night – which can allow the body and brain to really trust that you are permitting it to rest
  • Check for mould or new or old water damage in your environment. A little known cause of insomnia is mould somewhere in the house or work place. Approximately 25% of people have a genetic predisposition to mould sensitivity.  In these people, mould mycotoxins affect the nervous system (as well as every other body system, leading to a condition called CIRS – or Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome – which can look like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, pain syndromes such as Fibromyalgia, thyroid auto-immunity and general auto-immunity, and just about any inflammatory condition including difficult weight loss).  Mould and associated complications inhibits melatonin release, leading to insomnia, night time anxiety and palpitations.  In my clinic I test clients whether they are genetically predisposed to CIRS, plus other pathology markers necessary to distinguish this condition.  Naturopathic treatment is ideal.  Ask me if you are interested in finding out more.
  • Be strategic about your night time routine.  Wind down and unplug before bed (no late night phone calls, heavy discussions, action movies etc).  It is a time for quietly winding down and going inward.  I always use the analogy in my consultations, of treating ourselves at night how we would treat a small child that is in our care.  Would you let a 7 year old eat chocolate and sugar right up until bedtime; watch a scary movie and feel stressed; or get too excited with stimulating conversations or games, then just make them jump into bed with a computer screen and watch the wiggles until the sun came up?  Wouldn’t make for a good night sleep, nor a functioning day the next day.  We are no different.  Our body and mind need structure and routine to thrive.  And our body needs to be able to trust us.  The more often we change our routines, sleep times, waking times, miss meals or don’t eat what our body needs – then the more our body and mind can’t trust us.  The busier you are after sun down, the more stress hormone cortisol you produce and this will affect the restorative quality of your sleep
  • Aim to be in bed by 10 and asleep by 10.30pm so your adrenal glands don’t go into the 11pm overdrive and you get a false second wind
  • Are you in physical pain? Pain is a major reason why people don’t get restful rejuvenating sleep which can lead to adrenal and thyroid imbalances in the long run. Inflammation and pain can be reduced with an ant-inflammatory diet and anti-inflammatory herbs and nutrients. Tumeric, quercetin, citrus bio-flavonoids, bromelains, boswellia are some that I include in prescriptions to reduce inflammation and pain
  • Have you got something on your mind which you can’t figure out?  Consider talking it through with a “safe” non advice giving friend, or a trained counsellor
  • Are you sleeping with pets?  Having a dog as a member of my family, I know too well this is a common and sneaky cause of long term sleep deprivation.  If your nocturnal kitty is up all night wanting company and on the prowl or your dog is taking up ¾ of the bed while you are squished on the edge wide awake…then something has to change
  • Are you sleeping with a snorer or teeth grinder? Try earplugs or perhaps your partner is willing to look at why they are snoring or grinding their teeth – and get help with diet changes and underlying causes.  Ear plugs are a great start though
  • Are you a snorer or do you have breathing problems such as sleep apnea – which are causing you to wake regularly?  Get assessed so you sort this out (sleep clinic or holistic dentist).  This is a huge risk factor for depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and general inflammatory health conditions
  • Get advice specifically for your body on herbs and nutritional supplementation.  Magnesium, 5HTP, zinc, B6 and L-theanine are some I use to get people back on track at the right doses.  Herbs such as Passionflower, Kava, Skullcap, Lavender and Lemon Balm are all beautiful and soothing herbal medicines to support sleep
  • A warm bath with some lavender oil; and a chamomile tea can also be a wonderful message to the body that it has permission to rest

If these tips don’t work for you, consider an individualised Naturopathic consultation, to gain an objective point of view on tips specific for you.  There are also sleep clinics and workshops which may give further support.

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