Tips for Improving Sleep

If you’re reading this, you’re likely someone for whom good sleep is not a reliable bed partner. Are you feeling discouraged about the way you’re sleeping is affecting your sense of wellbeing? If yes, I relate.

Sometimes it feels as though there’s a conspiracy of obstacles to a good night’s rest, and no matter what we try, we find ourselves awake when we shouldn’t be, or exhausted at dawn when nature expects us to start our day as if leaping out of a starting gate, with optimal energy.

There are a number of reasons why many of us rise too often in the morning without having had the deep rest we really needed. We’ve climbed into bed too late, tried to sleep through too much noise or light in the room or nearby, or we feel miserably sick. Other factors that interfere with sleep include:

*Dehydration, or excessive hydration;

*Allergies or sensitivities, either to certain foods or to environmental substances;

*Anxiety or worry;

*Hormonal irregularities, for women especially, but also for men;

*Pain; and

*Blood sugar imbalance.

I’ll add to that list overstimulation too close to bedtime from one or more sources: an electronic device, an upsetting or exciting personal conversation or social interaction, an intense book, even the energetic force of a full moon.

What can we do to sleep better?

First of all, figure how much sleep you actually need in order to function at your best. Is it the typical eight, nine, or seven hours that most people need? Maybe more? Or, are you one of those rare individuals who thrive on much less, as long as you sleep soundly.

Secondly, when you have trouble with sleep, is it with falling asleep, or with staying asleep?

If you struggle with getting to sleep in the first place, consider preparing for sleeping as if your sleep cycles were sacred, worthy of special rituals. Good sleep, after all, is essential for good health!

Bedtime Rituals

  • Establish a consistent wake time, and then work backwards to figure out your ideal bedtime.
  • If possible, go to bed early enough to sleep by 10:00PM, as we get the most out of sleeping between 10PM and 6AM.
  • Develop a consistent routine that calms and relaxes you before bed. For example, turn off your technological devices and reduce your exposure to artificial light at least one hour before bedtime. They can inhibit the melatonin production that we need for sleeping and for healing.
  • If you are a milk drinker, avoid drinking it before bedtime, because contrary to conventional wisdom, in adults cow’s milk tends to block the sleep-inducing effects of the amino acid, tryptophan, in the brain.
  • Listen to soothing, soft, slow music 45 minutes or so before bed-time to slow down your heart rate and breathing, which improves sleep quality.
  • Try soaking your body, or at least your feet, in a warm bath. It raises body temperature, which then decreases dramatically once out of the bath. This drop in body temperature relaxes us, also making it easier to fall into a deep sleep.
  • Once in bed, imagine a relaxing scene. See it and feel it, detail by detail. Relax into that scene as if you were there.
  • Focus on your breath. Doing so, similar to meditation, decreases the heart-rate and that helps prepare your body for sleep.

If sustaining sleep throughout the night is your challenge, here are some suggestions that may help.

Sounder Sleep Habits

  • Avoid consuming alcohol near bedtime, because alcohol, which takes a few hours to metabolize, can disrupt your sleep while being processed by your liver.
  • Balancing your blood sugar throughout the day can make a big difference in helping you to stay asleep during the night. When our blood sugar levels dip too low, it causes us to wake up.

If this is a problem for you, focus on eating meals at regular intervals during the day that include a mix of good fats, fiber, and protein.

Also, if you tend to wake up during the night, just before bed eat a bite or two of a somewhat fatty protein snack, such as one or two teaspoons of nut or seed butter or a few bites of sliced turkey. Pumpkin seed butter contains a good amount of tryptophan, which eventually turns into melatonin, which helps us sleep.

  • Drink plenty of water early enough in the day to be able to reduce your liquid intake in the evening. This may help eliminate the need to get up during the night.
  • In the middle of the night, avoid looking at a clock or any form of electronic light, which activates brain activity. If you must have light, chose red or orange, which won’t trigger the brain to stop producing melatonin like blue and white lights.

What interferes with your sleep? And what do you do about it? I’d love to hear from you!

 

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