If we don’t get enough and restful sleep, we don’t perform well during the day. Lack of sleep affects our personal life; we may get “grumpy” and we might not get along with others as well. It also affects our professional life as our productivity and work quality decreases. Sleep also affects our health tremendously: Sleep deficiency is associated with increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, obesity and depression.
Deep sleep is the body’s most effective way of processing excess stress hormones from the day. REM sleep, the kind we have when we are dreaming, is essential for good healthy functioning of the brain to process information. If we don’t get enough sleep, stress hormones stay elevated. Hormones that regulate appetite are affected as well. If we are tired, we are more likely to drink caffeinated beverages and eat sugery food to give us energy and to help us keep going. This again elevates stress hormones and puts on weight. It is a vicious cycle!
To improve our sleep, most important is to examine our life-style. Our sleeping problem is interrelated with the way we lead our lives. If we are stressed and reactive all day long, rushing through the day and feel pressured, it may not be a surprise that it is not easy to wind down for sleep at night. So finding calm and quiet time during our day is essential, may it be meditation, yoga, mindful breathing, spending time in nature, practicing an Alexander lie-down, writing in your journal or looking out the windows letting the clouds go by … Moments of stillness will most profoundly have a positive effect on your good night’s sleep!
Here are some more practical tips to help you find better sleep:
# 1 Turn Your Bedroom into a sleep-friendly Environment
A quiet, dark, and cool environment helps promote healthy sleep. Lower the volume of outside noise with earplugs or a "white noise" appliance. Use heavy curtains or an eye mask to block light. Keep computers, mobile devices, TVs, and work materials out of the room. Make sure, you associate your bedroom with sleep!
# Establish a Soothing Bedtime Routine
Create a routine with relaxing activities at least one hour before bed. Take a bath, read a book, practice relaxation, Alexander Technique lie-down or meditation. Avoid stressful and stimulating activities. It causes the body to secrete stress hormone cortisol which is associated with increased alertness. Aim for 7 – 8 hours of sleep a night.
# 3 Put your Worries aside and Count your Blessings
If you tend to take your problems to bed, try writing them down on a list and then putting it aside. Making a gratitude list as part of your bedtime routine may help to focus on the blessings in your life.
# 4 Avoid Screen Time before going to Sleep
Using an ipad or phone before bedtime makes it harder to fall asleep. Being exposed to white and blue light given off by electrical devices prevents our brain from releasing melatonin (hormone that lets us know it is sleeping time!) Shut down your social-media and phone early and keep the phone out of the bedroom!
# 5 Eat Right, Sleep Tight
Lighten up your evening meals. Drink enough water during the day and reduce drinking liquids after 6 pm. Reduce coffee intake and avoid drinking it 4 - 6 hours before bedtime. Limit your alcohol consumption. Reduce sugar! Refined carbohydrates leads to imbalanced blood sugar levels and may keep you waking up at night.
# 6 Don't be a Nighttime Clock-Watcher
Staring at a clock in your bedroom, either when you are trying to fall asleep or when you wake in the middle of the night, can actually increase stress, making it harder to fall asleep. Turn your clock away from you. If you have to go to the bathroom, keep the lights dim and don’t look at the clock!
# 7 Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Find your preferred bedtime that gives you enough sleep and keep to it every day so that your body clock can stabilize. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day sets the body’s "internal clock" to expect sleep at a certain time. Try to stick as closely as possible to your routine also on weekends.
# 8 Exercise Early
Regular exercise improves one’s ability to get a good night’s sleep. Avoid vigorous exercise 3 hours before you go sleep. Best is to work out earlier in the day.
# 9 Improve Sleep Naturally with Bach Flower Remedies
Bach remedies are gentle, safe and non-toxic, and assists you in gently restoring your emotional balance. Underlying emotional issues are often the cause for insomnia. The Bach Remedies have shown to be helpful to not only find better sleep, but also to be more positive and balanced during the day.
# 10 Reflexology to Find Better Sleep
Reflexology assists self-healing in the body, supports the natural functions of the organs and improves health and well-being. Reflexology treatments help to promote relaxation and find better sleep!