Better Sleep Checklist
For those of you not able to have acupuncture, I’ve put together some general advice on how to improve your sleep.
Food and drink
- Cut out caffeine. Try drinking naturally-caffeine free drinks instead such as, Red Bush or Rooibos Tea (Try Dragon Fly teas if your local shop does not stock Red/Rooibos bush.) or herbal teas such as chamomile.
- Cut-out alcohol or at least have a few alcohol-free nights a week.
- Reduce sugary and fatty foods. By adopting a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and taking supplements if necessary, the body is better able to regulate its hormones and sleep cycle.
- Try not overeating or missing your evening meal. Feeling full or hungry before bed will affect your sleep. Try to leave about 4 hours between eating and bedtime.
Broadly speaking, if you keep active, you are more likely to sleep better and of course, there are numerous other health benefits.
It’s best not to do too much in the evening. Being active will generally help you to sleep but, if you exercise late in the evening, you may find it difficult to settle.
- Firstly – any exercise is better than none.
- BUT a moderate level of exercise seems to work best.
- This is roughly equivalent to walking fast, but being able to talk to someone at the same time.
- You need to do about 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise on at least 5 days of every week. This can be done in one 30-minute session or broken up into shorter 10 or 15-minute sessions.
- This may not only lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, but also seems to help depression – so you get a double benefit. Which may then help your sleep – a triple benefit!
- Don’t start suddenly - build more physical activity into your life gradually, in small steps.
Relaxation for Sleep
Relaxation is not the same as sleep. We are not conscious or in control of our brain and body while we are asleep. When we are in a true state of relaxation, the muscles are relaxed and the mind is still.
Relaxation is a skill that can be learnt and used to help you feel less stressed and in control. Many people find relaxation techniques help them to fall asleep. They also help during periods of wakefulness and can help you fall back to sleep again.
Breathing for relaxation – gentle exercise with controlled breathing. Breathing slower helps us relax. Try Yoga (particularly Nidra Yoga), Tai Chi and Qi Gong.
Meditation or hypnotherapy - A short daily meditation session can make all the difference to a good night's sleep. By teaching the mind to disconnect from all the cares and despairs of the day, you may be able take that final step towards stilling the mind and drifting into a deep sleep. Hypnotherapy or guided meditation CDs are popular and help quieten the mind before sleep.
Create the right sleeping environment
Many poor sleepers are unaware of how their environment affects the quality of their sleep:
Tanya Shoop, Alexander Teacher, has some useful tips on how to sleep more comfortably: Read her article: "Are You Sleeping Comfortably?".
- Good quality mattress and bed covers - the importance of a good bed is often unrecognised and is a good place to start when making changes. An uncomfortable mattress can be causing you to toss and turn in your sleep.
- Pillows and covers are also often neglected. Partners may have different requirements and it is worth exploring different options to make sure you are not too hot or cold.
- Keep the bedroom ventilated to ensure fresh air circulates and the temperature right for sleep.
- Remove any electrical devices, particularly computers and TVs, which act as subconscious reminders of activities you 'should' be doing.
- Reduce background noise from within the bedroom and around it. Make sure if someone is watching the TV downstairs you can't hear it. If reducing background noise is impossible, try wearing earplugs occasionally or listen to a meditation or hypnotherapy tape to calm the mind.
- Keep the bedroom dark – this induces sleep as melatonin is secreted as darkness increases. If there is light seeping into the bedroom try wearing eye masks.
If you have any questions about the newsletter, my therapies or would like to contribute an article, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org