I have seen a fair few articles/blogs come up recently about how to improve sleep or treat insomnia. They all have similar concepts in mind and the following 9 points sum up the basics of what you can do to improve your sleep quality yourself!
- Go to sleep at the same time each night! Much easier said than done as we associate weekends with staying up later and sleeping in. This can throw out our sleep/wake cycle and hormones required for healthy sleep patterns, hence why everyone seems to be on struggle street come Monday morning at work.
- No technology close to bed time (this includes no technology while lying in bed). Our body is extremely clever and has a specific biological cycle of body processors that allows it to have a rough idea of what time of day it is, therefore using bright lights close to bed time tricks the body into thinking its morning again. Try to refrain from using your phone or computer at least 1 hour before sleep time. Most of us probably use our phones as an alarm clock which is fine, however try setting your alarm clock on your phone to automatically go off at the same time each day so you don’t have to worry about checking it every night to ensure it is set.
- Eating food close to bed time. Eating a big meal just before sleeping requires energy for the body to break down and metabolise the food which can keep us more alert. It can also promote the onset of reflux and heartburn. If you are really hungry close to bed time try eating a small snack such as some raw nuts, few spoonful’s of yoghurt or a glass of warm milk. Try to avoid sugary foods even fruit as this can make you more alert!
- Protein with dinner. Protein is required for blood sugar regulation and also for its role in melatonin and serotonin synthesis, therefore consuming adequate protein with dinner is important for a good quality sleep.
- Aim for 8 hours of sleep. This is the average amount of sleep required for most individuals with adolescents and young children requiring a little more. The more sleep you can get before midnight the better you will feel! Our bodies seem to produce more of the growth hormone when we go to sleep before midnight, allowing the adequate repair of our heart and blood vessels, muscles and tissues and our immune system. Let’s face it, most of us do not function as well after 1 bad night of sleep (or I don’t) and our reflexes are generally not a sharp.
- Caffeine. This can be a tricky one as some people can sleep well when they have caffeine right before bed, quite often because they have consumed significant amounts of caffeine during the day that the body no longer responds the same way anymore, which is not a good thing! As caffeine is a strong stimulant a majority of people will not be able to consume caffeine after about 2-3pm and still sleep well come 9pm. Try to stick to 1 cup of coffee/tea each day preferably in the morning and refrain from having caffeine after 3pm.
- Exercise. Again some people can exercise close to bed time and experience no difficulty sleeping, however many people cannot. If you have trouble sleeping of a night time try to avoid exercise 3 hours before bed time so that your nervous system is able to calm down in time. Exercising in the morning or during the day has actually been proven to improve sleep quality.
- Relaxing. This is often a tricky thing for most people including me, especially when I have weeks of higher stress than normal due to my workload. This is often the most important aspect that needs to be managed to improve sleep quality. While meditation is recommended this is not something most people want to try or feel like learning during periods of stress. I personally enjoy doing some form of lighter exercise (yoga, Pilates or walking) either in the mornings or later afternoon to calm me down. Some people find just having dinner with a friend or partner enough to wind down for the day. Hot baths with magnesium salts, taking a good quality magnesium supplement or herbal teas can also be very beneficial in calming your nervous system. Finding your own way to wind down and relax is critical!
- What if you can’t get to sleep? So you go to bed because you are tired but before you know it the lights go off and it’s like a light bulb in your head has turned on and you are wide awake again. Feel familiar? The best thing you can do is get back out of bed and go sit somewhere else and read a book or do something that doesn’t require technology until your feel tired again.
If these tips do not help with your sleep there are other options that can be taken. Nutritional medicine can be very beneficial in improving poor sleep quality through dietary changes and practitioner only products.
For more information call 0439 764 426 or visit www.good4younutrition.com.au