Improve your Sleep Patterns

Your sleep patterns can often dictate how you enjoy the following day.  They also have a direct impact on your stress levels.

The therapists at Inspiring Health have put together some tips to help you sleep well, which in turn means that you will be better placed for a better tomorrow.

If sleeping is sometimes an issue for you, we suggest you find three things that you can implement into your evening routine right now.   Once these first three become a habit you can implement more if you need to.   Every little step counts.  Everything you do to help calm the mind will be nourishing for the soul.  Every good habit helps maintain a healthy mind and body.   Every hour of sleep helps give you the energy you need to enjoy your day tomorrow.

That said, the last thing you want to do is worry about not sleeping.  Occasionally we all have a bad night.  Often people worry that they don’t get enough sleep.  The truth is that as we grow older our needs for sleep change.  Some people can manage well on just 4 hours sleep a night, other people sleep for 8, 9 or even 10 hours.   

So the first trick is to find out if you are worrying about your sleep when you needn’t be.  Can you count up the hours of sleep rather than the hours of being awake.  If you are sleeping for 6 hours or more, you may well have as much sleep as you need.  If you awake feeling unrefreshed even after what should have been enough sleep then you may need to check if your adrenal glands are functioning properly.

If you feel sleepy during the day are you able to power nap.  It is a really good skill to learn and it shouldn’t effect your night time sleeping routine.

Remember, restful lying can be just as useful as sleeping, so if you can enjoy lying down, even if you are not sleeping, you will be helping your body more than worrying about being awake.

and remember…. every hour you sleep before midnight is worth 2 hours after midnight.

Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

Exercise regularly
Exercising for at least thirty minutes each day will help you fall asleep at night. Just make sure you don’t do it too close to bedtime or the reverse will be true.

  • Make your bedroom an attractive place to sleep.
    Don’t dump work, chores, or junk on or around your bed. You will sleep much better in a relaxed and uncluttered environment.
  • Electro-magnetic fields (EMFs) and remove electrical devices.
    These can disrupt the pineal gland and the production of melatonin and serotonin that lead to sleep.

    Maintain a moderate temperature. The recommended temperature for sleep is no more than 21 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit). A warmer temperature can disturb sleep.

  • Darkness will help. Even small amounts of light can disrupt your body’s production of the neuro-transmitters needed for sleep. Avoid sudden exposures to bright light if getting up at night, as these can stop you body’s production of melatonin.
  • Change the noise. Gentle music, white noise or relaxation CDs can help you relax and unwind.
  • Stop watching TV well before you go to sleep and certainly do not watch it in the bedroom.
  • Add a little fragrance. As well as smelling divine, essential oils contain active constituents that give them proven therapeutic properties.

Create a Night-time Ritual    

  • Write the following day’s ‘to do’ list before finishing work to stop your mind compiling lists as you try to go to sleep.
  • Start a relaxing routine. This could consist of a warm bath, massage, aromatherapy or listening to a soothing CD – anything that relaxes you. Repeat this routine each night and your body will soon associate it with going to sleep.
  • Go to bed at the same time each night. And get up at the same time each morning, too, even on weekends.
  • Take a hot bath or shower before bed. This will increase the temperature of your body. The fall in temperature as it returns to normal will encourage relaxation and help with sleep.
  • If your mind races when you try to sleep, writing your thoughts, plans and worries in a book can be a useful way of calming and emptying your mind.
  • Read something relaxing. Slightly boring material is best as stimulating material such as mysteries or suspense novels will only wake you up further.

Go to bed early. It is often said that every of hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after it, and there is truth in that saying. Our bodies do most of their detoxing before the early hours of the morning, something that is hindered if we go to bed too late.

Prepare your body for sleep    

  • Warm your feet with socks. Feet often have the poorest circulation of your body.  Wearing socks will stop them becoming cold and disturbing your sleep at night.
  • Wear an eye mask to block out light. As already mentioned, blocking out as much light as possible will help you sleep. An eye-mask is an easy way to do this, especially if it’s impossible to have your room in complete darkness.
  • Stop the noise. Ear plugs will block or muffle sounds if you are a light sleeper or if you have to sleep in a noisy environment
  • Face your alarm clock away from you. Watching the hours tick by as you try to sleep will only increase your stress and make it harder to drift off.

Nutrition

  • Aim to have your last meal at least 2-hours before you go to bed, you shouldn’t be digesting food during the night as this may interfere with your sleep. If you need a snack before bed, try cottage cheese on an oatcake or a small handful of almonds or perhaps a cup of warm milk with a cracker.
      
    Avoid caffeine. Be aware that caffeine is also in some processed foods, drinks, and even medications such as diet pills.  Avoid foods which irritate. Dairy and wheat products are high on the list of foods that cause sleep-disturbing problems such as gastrointestinal upsets, congestion, flatulence, and apnoea in sensitive people. 
  • Avoid snacks, especially sugars and processed grains, before bed. These foods cause rapid spikes and drops in blood sugar levels that disturb sleep.  Avoid alcohol. The drowsiness produced by alcohol is short-lived and stops you entering the deeper and more restful stages of sleep. As its effect wears off some hours later, you are also more likely to wake and then be unable to go back to sleep. 
  • Drink a herbal tea with relaxing or sedative properties before going to bed.     

Awake Again

If you find yourself unable to go to sleep when you go to bed, or you wake in the night and find it difficult to go back to sleep try some of our breathing exercises to help you focus.

Just Breathe

When stressed or in pain, your breathing may be very shallow and uneven, you may hold your breath without even realising it and you may find it difficult to concentrate. Learning specialised breathing techniques can have a large impact on your life, giving you the ability to calm a busy mind, ease physical pain and reduce stress and anxiety.

If you think about it, this is a technique available to everyone, anywhere and at anytime as we always have our breath and lungs with us. It is one thing in our life that we can have complete control over.

Breathing in a concentrated way will help you to focus on the ‘here and now’ and not dwell on the past or worry about the future. This is a huge calming effect.

When you practice any of these exercises you must be aware of your wellbeing and if you start to feel uncomfortable it is advisable to stop and return to gentle rhythmic breathing.

Breathing – Relaxing

This technique has very calming qualities. It is great when you find yourself in a stressful situation, feel yourself tensing up from outside influences or when you are suffering from physical discomfort or pain.

This is a good exercise to do before bed to help induce sleep.

  • Sit or lie in a comfortable position, making sure your back is supported and comfortable and your feet are on the ground. This exercise can be practiced in any position but is best learnt in the seated position.
  • Place the tip of tongue behind your upper front teeth. Your tongue will need to be in this position during the whole exercise; it may feel uncomfortable to begin with but bear with it.
  • Close your eyes and exhale completely making a ‘whooshing’ sound.
  • Inhale through your nose for a count of 4
  • Hold your breath for a count of 7
  • Exhale through your mouth making a ‘whooshing’ sound for a count of 8
  • Repeat this cycle 3 more times – a total of 4

If you feel any discomfort during this exercise, then speed up the breaths but maintain 4 -7-8. The more you practice the more you will be able to slow it down.

Repeat this at least twice a day for good results although you cannot repeat too much.

The information here is provided for your information only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your GP or other healthcare professional. The information should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease.

Find out more things you can do at home to look after yourself … www.inspiringhealth.org.uk

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