Making your snooze time more healthy is a plight that many of us struggle with at one time or another. No matter how insignificant you feel your sleep problem is, it CAN be helped! Without adequate sleep your body will feel stress more powerfully and won’t heal as quickly from minor health issues or injuries. Here are some tips that have worked wonders with my acupuncture clients who needed a better night’s rest:
1) Environment control: You can't sleep on a rock, in the middle of a noisy storm, or in a sauna, so why would you make your bedroom imitate any of these environments? Make sure your bedroom has a comfortable temperature at bedtime. Make sure your room is dark and get a comfortable bed that hasn't been jumped on by your kids and mauled by the dog. Most importantly, create a quiet environment at bedtime.
2) Consumption: Happily wave goodbye to caffeine and cut back on sugars after 3pm. Also don't eat after 8pm. If you are digesting you will have more trouble sleeping (and you will gain weight). If you are starving you won't be able to sleep either so make sure you eat something satisfying for dinner. Before bed try to consume some herbal nerve soothers too like chamomile or valerian tea.
3) Bedrooms are for bedtime: Make your room exactly that, a space for your bed and nothing else. Don't watch television, eat, work, read, text, do cartwheels, cook, paint or garden in your bedroom. Eventually your body will relate this room with sleep and you will start feeling tired just walking into the room!
4) Light: Light is key when we are talking about sleep patterns. Melatonin is the hormone that creates sleep patterns. We release it at night when it gets dark as sunlight inhibits its release during the day. That said, if you have a lot of light in your bedroom from street lights, night lights, laptops, glow sticks, ray guns, light sabors or TV’s then you will not fall asleep as deeply as you otherwise would. Turn it all off and get some black out curtains.
5) Routine: Create good sleep habits by providing your weary body with a routine. Set your alarm for the same time every morning, and go to bed at the same time every night. An hour before bed start a before bed routine: stop what you are doing, get dressed for bed, dim the lights in the room you are in, drink some herbal tea, do something that relaxes you - 5 minutes of lotus pose, 15 minutes of reading, listen to quiet music, knit a few rows of your kids sweater, watch a youtube video of your cat loving it up on some strawberries (yes I have that cat- and that video). At your allotted bedtime go to your bedroom and make sure your environment is perfect before snuggling in.
6) Stress relief: Constant thinking can keep us awake at night no matter how perfect our environment and routine may be. Worry, anxiety and stress all lead to insomnia or worsen it. Regular exercise will curb this but also try bringing some kind of peaceful de-stressing activity into your day: yoga, tai chi, qi gong, meditation, reading, walking. Also write down your worries on a pad of paper in the living room an hour before bedtime and leave them behind when you go to your bedroom.
Always remember that trouble sleeping can be helped. You simply need to find help soothing the root of the problem and resetting your sleep patterns.
Good sleep will help you on the path to better health.