I don’t know about you, but I have found over the last year my sleep is all over the place. Put it down to stress, worry from the pandemic, unhealthy amount of screen time or peri-menopause! Whatever the reason, it was time to start doing something about it.
Sleep is a non-negotiable biological necessity – it is your life support system. Maintaining adequate amounts of QUALITY sleep is essential to your wellbeing. If you are feeling run down, struggling to focus, and irritable, you may want to take a look at your sleep patterns. Once your sleep is below that of seven hours, you can start to measure objective impairments in the brain and body. Experts recommend between seven to nine hours of sleep, although some may need more or less than average. If you are getting less than six hours a night you could be putting yourself at a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cognitive decline.
Critical activities occur during sleep such as internal organ rest and repair, tissue repair, muscle growth, memory consolidation as well as hormones being released that help regulate appetite control, stress and metabolism.
So what steps can we take to improve our quality of sleep?
- Nutrition – eat a variety of foods and limit sugar. Reduce inflammatory foods such as dairy, gluten, artificial flavours and preservatives. Light evening meals, and crowd-out late night snacking with other relaxing activities such as yoga and journaling. Digestion requires energy so when a large meal is consumed at night it interferes with our body’s ability to rest. Avoid late night drinks which often lead to waking up for a bathroom break in the middle of the night, thus disturbing your sleep cycle and hindering sleep quality. This was a mistake my husband I made as we always went to bed with camomile tea!
- Supplements – Zinc, magnesium, Vitamin C, B vitamins including B12 and Vitamin D. Adaptogenic herbs and plants that can help reduce stress and anxiety. Some of the ones I recommend are Ashwagandha, and Schisandra Berry.
- Drugs, Alcohol and Caffeine – these are all stimulants that disrupt our sleep cycles. They can block your REM dream sleep and degrade the quality of your sleep. Avoid caffeine after 1pm as there will still be a 1/4 of the caffeine in your body at midnight after 1pm.
- Bedroom Setting – create a peaceful bedroom that sets the mood for sleep. Clean out clutter – the saying a cluttered space is a cluttered mind is so true.
- No electronics in the bedroom – yes I know a hard one, but if you want to take your sleep seriously then this is non-negotiable. TV, computer, cell phones, tablets, kindle, LED lighting. These devices emit artificial blue light that affects your body’s production of melatonin and in turn your quality and quantity of sleep. Remove anything that creates anxious feelings and triggers you, eg. social media, news feed, TV program.
- Reduce your exposure to light and sound. Black out blinds, eye masks help block out light. A fan is useful for creating white noise that minimises distracting outside sounds.
- Keep your bedroom at the right temperature. Your body needs to drop its core temperature by about 2 to 3 degrees F to initiate sleep and then stay asleep. Aim for the bedroom temperature to be 18 degrees C.
- Aromatherapy – a body of research shows that essential oils can provide relief for disrupted sleep and improve its quality. I use essential oils in the diffuser every night to help me wind down and create a calm bedroom. My favourites are SERENTIY, VETIVER, COPAIBA, FRANKINCENSE, CEDARWOOD, SANDALWOOD, ROMAN CHAMOMILE, LAVENDER, CLARY SAGE and MARJORAM.
Here is a link to a great podcast all about how our sleep is non-negotiable and how to improve it: https://www.richroll.com/podcast/matthew-walker-600/