Sleep is so underrated as an indicator of overall health. When you sleep well, so many wonderful things happen in your body that make your body feel better, your mind work better, and give you the opportunity to feel more present and connected. Here are some of the benefits of a good night sleep:
- As you sleep, your brain processes the events of the day and allows you to recall things better.
- Your brain shifts into rest and repair allowing your organs to detoxify the body.
- Getting “enough” (not too much and not too little) increases your life span.
- Sleeping more than 5 or 6 hours per night reduces inflammation. Inflammation is the precursor to many diseases, so consistently sleeping well prevents disease.
- People who sleep have greater creativity.
- Sleeping increases mental and physical performance.
- Sleeping improves learning and attention.
- Sleep and metabolism are related. If you need to lose weight, you can be more successful if you get adequate sleep.
- Sleep helps to reduce the perception of stress as it gives you more flexibility in dealing with events before you start to feel tense.
- Sleeping increases alertness. This allows you to be more productive, present, and effective.
- Sleeping boosts attitude. When you are tired, you’re more likely to feel irritated or even depressed.
Now that you can see the benefit of a good night sleep, how can you make that happen? Here are some natural tips that can help.
Control the Noise Level
Some people need complete silence to sleep. Some need background noise. Find your preference and meet the need. If you need total silence and that is not possible, try sleeping with ear plugs. If you need a bit of background noise, resist using the television set. Try a fan or white noise machine instead.
Control the Temperature
Like sound, people sleep better when their temperature preference is met. Too cool and you can’t sleep. Too warm and you can’t sleep. You can control the temperature by setting the thermostat, choose comfortable sleep wear, and with covers. Some feel most comfortable with fluffy, heavy blankets. If this is you, you can avoid getting too hot by wearing light clothing and keeping the room cool.
Make it Dark
Televisions, night lights, electric alarms, or anything that has even the dimmest glow can interfere with circadian rhythms. Exposure to not only bright light, but ANY light, when your body is in its natural sleep phase can throw you out of alignment with nature. This can keep you awake, make your sleep poorly, and contribute to mood disorders.
The body is designed to follow the sun. When the sun comes up, you wake and move around. When the sun goes down, you slow down and go to sleep. This means that the body starts to feel tired around 9:00 p.m. and should be asleep by 10:00 p.m. When you resist, continue to go, go, go, or even just hang out peacefully, you interrupt your own inner clock and steal your health. I know it seems early. Go to sleep anyway.
If you really have a hard time sleeping, shut out all light in your house by 9:00. Use only candlelight from 9:00 p.m. until the time you go to sleep. Get black out blinds to make sure that light pollution (passing cars, street lights, lights from computer screens and video games) don’t send signals to your brain to wake up.
Keep to a Consistent Schedule
If you keep the same schedule 7 days a week, your body will learn when to go to sleep and when to wake up. If you don’t have a consistent schedule, your body can never settle into a pattern. All nature loves a pattern. Patterns create stability.
Eat Your Last Meal a Few Hours Before Bed
Your body cannot rest and repair if it is busy digesting. Eating too late in the day can keep you awake. What you eat also matters. Keep sugary, carb heavy foods for earlier in the day.
You might think that sleeping alone was only for the married aristocracy who sometimes didn’t know or like each other. Actually, it’s a brilliant way to get a good night sleep. When you sleep with animals, they move. Even if you don’t become totally conscious of it, it can disturb your sleep. Anybody with a FitBit or similar device can track how many times they awaken during the night and prove me right. Unfortunately, your child and spouse can do the same. Unless they sleep like the dead and don’t move and don’t make a sound, the presence of another body in bed is probably interfering with your sleep- especially if there is sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or something like that going on. It’s up to you to decide if this is worth the sacrifice.
Choose Your Sleep Aids Carefully
There are many things that can help you get to sleep: alcohol, calcium, magnesium, amino acids, L theanine, taurine, 5 HTP and GABA, lemon balm, passion flower, chamomile, valerian root, and/or melatonin. Some work better than others. Long term use of minerals can throw your body out of balance. Alcohol can make you initially drowsy, but as the alcohol is broken down, it will disturb the second half of sleep. Melatonin is produced by the brain. When you supplement, your brain perceives that you have enough and stops producing as much so long term use is not recommended. It’s better to fix the underlying problem than to cope with it with supplements or drugs.
Use Your Bed Only for Sleeping and Sex
Don’t knit, watch television, read, work, lounge, or do anything other than sleep or make love while in bed. This sends the message to your brain that the bed is for sleeping. This means that if you are not sleeping, only trying to sleep, get up. Do something else for a while (without turning on a light), then try again.
If You Are a Worrier, Schedule Your Worrying
Sometimes people can’t sleep because their mind is focused on what already happened or what has yet to happen. If this is you, schedule fifteen or thirty minutes each day for worrying. Do nothing else during that time. This let’s your brain know that your thoughts will get the attention that they deserve, but sleep time is not the proper time for that. In case your brain is insistent that you must think about it while you sleep, keep a notebook by your bed to write down your thoughts so that you won’t forget to worry about it at the scheduled time. This generally will allow your mind to relax enough to let go.
Most of us learn not to drink before going to bed so that you don’t have to get up and go to bed during the night. You definitely don’t want your sleep disturbed by the need to use the bathroom, but you also need to stay hydrated in order to sleep well. The trick is to find the right balance. Your brain is 85% water. It needs this water to function well. The brain is busiest at night when it’s processing memories and detoxifying the body. When the brain is well hydrated, it helps daytime and nighttime processes go more smoothly. Since 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated, this means that you could probably use more water AND sea salt to help your body absorb it. (Water without electrolytes can’t be used by the body).
To hydrate your body, start by drinking a full glass of water first thing in the morning. Continue to drink throughout the day, but avoid mealtimes as this will reduce stomach acid. You need that acid for good digestion. Stop drinking water two hours before bedtime. To calculate how much water you need, take your weight and divide it in half. Drink that many ounces per day- more if you are particularly active, it’s summertime, or you are outdoors a lot.
If you are dehydrated and start drinking more water, you may feel like you are urinating all the time and your bladder is uncomfortably full. You may initially have to get up at night to pee despite not taking in fluids two hours before bed. As your body adjusts to having adequate water, this will go away.
Check Your Mattress
Your body has to be well supported and comfortable in order to relax. Check your mattress and see if it provides what you need. A good mattress can make a world of difference in how well you sleep. If your sleep quality is affected by where you are sleeping, rule out your mattress as a cause for insomnia. Click here for advice on how to find the best one for you.
If you are not sleeping well, you are not functioning well. It doesn’t matter how productive you think you are or how good you think you look. Your brain and body are struggling. Fortunately, most sleep problems can be improved by making lifestyle changes. Some can even be totally eliminated. If this make these changes and still can’t get a good night sleep consistently, rule out trauma, brain injury, or nutritional imbalance. Your body can’t heal itself without the proper nutrition. Trauma and brain injury need a different type of intervention that lifestyle won’t heal. If you are in the Richmond, VA area and would like help with your sleep issues, contact Laura Giles now.