By Jackie Bland
Healthy sleep is a vital component of your well-being. Almost everyone needs 7-8 hours of sleep each night to function properly.
Lack of sleep affects your mental health, memory, ability to pay attention, ability to learn and levels of depression, anxiety and psychosis.
The risk of all chronic disease is increased if there is regular sleep deprivation.
Lack of healthy sleep also affects energy levels, motivation and general contentment with life.
Like many aspects of health, we tend to expect to have healthy sleep without paying attention to the things that enable us to sleep well.
The following steps, based on well tested and repeated research, create the best conditions for sleep. As with everything, don't overwhelm yourself with changes but just begin step-by-step to incorporate new habits and routines until your sleep feels good to you. Our free sleep meditation is a great start and a link can be found further down.
To invite deep sleep back into your life:
1. Sleep in the absolute dark, any amount of light can disrupt sleep.
2. Get some natural daylight every day, at least 15 to 20 minutes. Best to aim for daylight before 2 pm as the light is more intense.
3. Avoid bright artificial light and backlit screens, TVs, mobile phones, for at least an hour before going to sleep.
4. Keep electrical devices away from your bed and switch off Wi-Fi.
1. Aim for quiet, remove any noisy clocks for example. Address snoring issues!
1. Aim for a room below 21 degrees Centigrade
2. Try taking a hot bath 1 ½ to 2 hours before bed, your body interprets the temperature drop as a cue to fall asleep. If you can't bathe then try the same with a footbath.
1. Eat your last meal of the day at least two (preferably three) hours before bed
2. Make the last meal a mixture of healthy protein and carbohydrates, to help your body create the chemicals that keep you asleep.
3. Avoid too much alcohol, it can be too sugary and although it may aid you to fall asleep it tends to wake you up a few hours later
4. If it helps, take a herbal remedy to aid sleep. Valerian, hops, chamomile and lime flowers are popular choice's. They are relaxants and sedatives and gently prepare you for sleep.
1. Try to go to sleep before midnight. ideally between 10 pm and 11 pm or earlier. This fits with your body's natural rhythms and expectations, we are very attuned to the light/day patterns.
2. Try to go to bed at the same time each day and get up at the same time in the morning, like a puppy, your brain responds to routines and habits.
1. Watch your thoughts, anxious thoughts produce cortisol in your body and cortisol keeps you awake. Use techniques such as mindful breathing or meditation for gently diverting your thoughts.
2. Avoid watching TV programmes, news, or reading material that is overstimulating or disturbing before sleep. You want to avoid giving your brain to much to process as you fall asleep
3. Note any repetitive thoughts and thinking patterns. Sleep is an opportunity for your brain to ditch certain thoughts, ideas, worries and beliefs, but only if you send a message that they are not important. Your brain will retain the things you keep thinking about because it sees the repetition of a sign that those things are important to you. Basically, thinking patterns are eliminated by your brain if they are not used. Likewise, you can seed your brain with thoughts that are important to you, think them often, and these will be retained.
4. Train yourself to enter a relaxed state every night. The simple breathing activity such as counting down 5-4-3-2-1 as you breathe, mindfulness meditation, or recalling happy memories or stories. Our sleep meditation on YouTube is a great way to learn to do this.
5. Try writing your thoughts in a journal each night. Sometimes dumping thoughts and ideas by writing it down frees your brain for sleep. Likewise, anything you are afraid of forgetting the next day, writing it down helps you to relax.
1. Make sure your sleeping area feels comfortable, safe and relaxing. It should say ‘sleep’ to you as you enter.
2. Remove work-related and stress-related items such as papers, workbooks etc and put them somewhere else. Nothing in your room should distract you from sleep.
3. Have familiar objects, such as photographs, mementoes, personal things around you, they should be things that make you feel comfortable.
4. Make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable, and that you like your bedding, really think about it, sleep likes to be encouraged and not expected.