There are many reasons why people have trouble falling and staying asleep. Here are some tips from our team for getting a better rest at night.
1. DAYTIME HABITS
Don’t nap during the day. This will throw off your body clock and can make it difficult to sleep at night. If you must, do it for less than 30 minutes and keep it early. Alternatively, meditate which is even more rewarding than a power nap (in our opinion) and shouldn’t disturb your sleep patterns in the evening.
Limit caffeine and alcohol. Alcohol can interrupt normal sleep patterns, causing you to have only one or two REM sleep cycles instead of six or seven. This can lead you to wake to feel exhausted.
Caffeine is a stimulant that affects your sleep and is found in common drinks such as tea, coffee, cocoa, chocolate, some soft drinks, and certain drugs. Ideally, avoid caffeinated drinks before bed. As an alternative, consider caffeine-free herbal teas that support the relaxation of the body.
Avoid Smoking or Vaping. Nicotine is a stimulant and can make it difficult to fall and stay asleep. Smokers often have difficulty sleeping due to night-time withdrawal symptoms. There has been a study highlighting vaping could negatively affect your sleep too. *
Medication and side-effects. Many medications can have the side-effect of disrupting sleep patterns, so always check the Medsafe information sheet and keep yourself informed.
Expose yourself to bright light/sunlight soon after waking up. This will help regulate your body’s natural biological clock. Keep your bedroom dark while you are sleeping though.
Exercise early in the day. Thirty minutes in the morning or afternoon of exercise every day can help you sleep. But be careful of evening exercise, as stimulation of the body during aerobic activity may make falling asleep more difficult.
Eat to enhance sleep. Some foods are more conducive to a better night’s sleep than others. Warm milk, chamomile tea, turkey, bananas, potatoes, and oatmeal are great sleep foods. Avoid food with additives like MSG, colours, aspartame, or food/drinks that cause you digestive problems.
Relax before bed. Take some time to relax before bed without stimulation from technology. Read a book and drink a cup of herbal tea including ingredients such as chamomile, valerian, lemon balm, passionflower, and skullcap.
2. CHECK YOUR HEALTH
B vitamins. Maintaining sufficient levels of Vitamins B3, B5, B6, B9 and B12 help achieve good sleep. B vitamins help regulate the body’s level of tryptophan; an amino acid important for maintaining healthy sleep.
Thyroid. If you are experiencing insomnia, frequent waking with no pattern and waking around 3 am, it could be your thyroid. We recommend visiting your doctor.
Stress and anxiety. These can also seriously affect your sleep. Consider meditation and relaxation before bed. We also recommend discussing these feelings with your Healthcare professional if symptoms persist.
Five ideas to support your sleep:
- Have a nice relaxing bath with some relaxing essential oils such as Lavender
- Eat some Magnesium rich food – a cup of cocoa
- Journal – release all your pent-up emotions from the day so you are not stewing on any issues when you go to sleep. Write the problem in your writing hand and then see if your non-writing hand has an answer.
- Think of 3 things you are grateful for in the day – gratitude helps us focus on the positive and gets us in a good vibe. If it is a struggle, to begin with, start with just one thing to be grateful for – you’re alive
- Catch the angel train – ideally between 10 -10.30 pm before you get into another wave of energy.
3. CREATE A BETTER SLEEP ENVIRONMENT
Be careful of allergies with your bedding. Some people are allergic to feathers and down, wool, nylon, or dust, so make sure that the materials used on your bed are right for you.
Make your bedroom a place for sleeping. Do not use your bed for paying bills, doing work, or watching movies. Help your body recognise that this is a place for rest.
Keep your bedroom peaceful and comfortable. Ensure your mattress is comfortable and supportive and that your bed is big enough. Make sure your room is well-ventilated and the temperature consistent. Keep it quiet. You could use a fan or a “white noise” machine to help block outside noises.
Hide your clock. A big, illuminated digital clock may cause you to focus on the time, making you feel stressed and anxious. Place your clock so you cannot see the time when in bed and/or if your mobile phone is your clock and alarm, place it on flight mode, so it is not beeping at you all night and disrupting your sleep.
4. TRY THIS WHEN YOU WAKE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
Read, journal your thoughts, and write your to-do list down - Try reading for 10–15 minutes.
- Keep a pen and paper handy – if your brain cannot switch off and you are thinking of your long ‘to-do list’ – write it all down with a pen and paper beside your bed.
- Empty your mind
Do not stress about the time. In our opinion, the worst thing you can do is clock watch and stress about the lack of sleep you are now incurring. That will not encourage sleep. Just relax and go with it.
Let it go. When you wake up in the morning – do not focus on the missed sleep – move forward – do not think about how tired you are going to be instead focus on another great day. Before you hop out of bed, set your intentions for your day in a positive style.
Bathroom visits. If you need to go to the bathroom, do not switch the light on. Consider a dim night light that can light your way and will automatically switch off.
Get up and eat l-tryptophan. Foods such as turkey, pumpkin seeds, and dairy products.
STILL HAVING PROBLEMS?
If you have made changes and you are still having problems, then consider keeping a sleep diary. Include things like – the time you went to bed and woke up, total sleep hours, sleep quality, the general mood before bed, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco consumption, exercise, bedroom environment and pre-sleep activities.
Sources for this article: Journal of Sleep Research