A good, restorative night’s sleep has become a precious and rare thing for many people.
There are some simple things you can do to help yourself sleep better.
Don’t drink caffeine after midday. It is surprisingly common for people to drink coffee, tea, green tea or caffeinated cool drinks, well into the afternoon and even after dinner. The half life of caffeine in the body is 6 hours, so if you have a coffee at 3 pm half of the caffeine in that coffee is still in your body at 9pm. This can contribute to poor sleep.
Minimise blue light after dark. Blue light tells our brain it is daytime, and guess what our computer, TV screens and LED lights emit? Blue light. Studies have shown this lowers melatonin, our sleep and circadian rhythm hormone, affecting our brains negatively. There is a free computer program you can install called F.lux which will automatically take out the blue light of your computer screen after sunset, to help your brain prepare for sleep. Other than that- minimise screen time after dark if you want a good night’s sleep, and keep the lights dim, rather than imitating daytime. Take all digital lights and electronics out of the bedroom and sleep in a dark room.
3. Go to bed at the same time each night, and get up at the same time each morning, as much as possible. Daily rhythm helps our subconscious know when its time to slow down and get some sleep. Chaotic hours are likely to lead to sleep issues. The best hours for regenerative sleep for most people are between 10pm and 2am, so getting to bed before 10 can make a difference, although this varies between individuals.
4. Our natural circadian rhythm is trained to normalise when we get sunshine in the morning, telling our brain to create the hormone melatonin. Then at night time this melatonin is released, giving us the right type of sleep. To encourage this naturally, I suggest having your first cuppa or your breakfast sitting in the morning sun, and soaking it up. Or take a morning walk. Don’t stare at the sun, but don’t wear sunglasses either. Let your body know it is morning, time to be active and awake, through your eye and skin receptors, so that your circadian rhythms adjust themselves- then at night time, turn down the lights, get off the computer at least an hour before bed, and read a book, meditate or play a board game.
5. Drink herbal teas such as chamomile tea after dinner to help your body wind down. Don’t consume chocolate or sugar after dinner because they are too stimulating.
6. Essential oils such as lavender or Roman chamomile, in a bath blend, or a drop on your pillow, to help you relax. These are age old herbal remedies for helping us sleep better, as well as to lower anxiety and stress.
7. A warm bath can be wonderful, and Epsom salts can be added for magnesium. A magnesium supplement can also make a difference, as many people are deficient in this mineral, and it is essential for us to be able to unwind and relax.
8. Check your room is dark, a good temperature, and use earplugs if there is noise you cannot control. Keep your room as a room for sleeping, not as a second lounge room or office, then your subconscious mind will associate your bedroom with sleep.
9. Get enough exercise during the day to be physically tired at night. A day in the office or the computer can leave you feeling “wired but tired” and unable to switch off. Some exercise, such as a walk, or a trip to the gym, or a yoga class, can make a lot of difference, although it would be too stimulating to do an intense workout just before bed.
10. Don’t worry. The worst thing you can do if you can’t sleep, is worry about it. Even though sufficient sleep is important for our wellbeing, if we can’t sleep, we can’t sleep, so there is no point in worrying. Take comfort in the rest you are getting, and often when we think we are not sleeping, we do get some. If you are watching the clock, turn it away from you. If you find yourself worrying, try reading something non-stimulating with a dim light, or getting up and making a warm drink, or having a warm shower.
If you find these sleeping tips are not enough to help you get a good night’s sleep, it may be beneficial for you to have an appointment with a Naturopath to evaluate what else is going on for you, as there may be deeper reasons that need some attention. Good quality sleep is so important to our sense of happiness. As a Naturopath, helping people get quality sleep is something I am passionate about.
Golden Bedtime Milk
Golden Milk is an Ayurvedic recipe containing the anti-inflammatory spice turmeric. It is traditionally drunk in the evening before bed and helps with sleep as well as having many other benefits. Turmeric and its active constituent curcumin is anti-inflammatory, pain relieving, calming, helps the liver to detoxify, soothes and heals the digestive tract, and is mood-enhancing.
For a delicious bedtime drink:
1 cup of milk of your choice, or 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup water (almond milk is rich in magnesium)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon (good for digestion)
pinch of black pepper (increases the absorption of turmeric)
1 tsp raw honey (helps sleep-inducing triptophan enter brain more easily)
In a saucepan, whisk together the milk, turmeric, black pepper and ginger, then heat to just under boiling.
Pour into a cup through a strainer and add the honey.
Susan is a Naturopath- Herbalist- Nutritionist since 1999. She loves to support people in their wellbeing recovery, not just in the short term, but to maintain their health for their whole life. Susan works with men, women and children, with a diverse range of conditions, and she believes strongly in treating the whole person, not just the condition.