Want to sleep better ..... So many of us struggle at some point in time with getting to sleep, staying asleep, and that awful waking in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep.
Another issue especially for women is when our hormones cause sleeping issues at the same time each month. All of these can cause us to think will we never get to sleep, anxiety, stress, and frustration.
Please see below the asleep toolkit with suggestions, not only around getting to sleep, but also areas we could change during the day to enable us to have a better night's sleep.
A Sleep Toolkit to help you sleep better
Do not nap during the day.
If you are having trouble sleeping at night, try not to nap during the day because you will throw off your body clock and make it even more difficult to sleep at night. If you are feeling especially tired, and feel as if you absolutely must nap, be sure to sleep for less than 30 minutes, early in the day.
Limit caffeine and alcohol
Avoid drinking caffeinated or alcoholic beverages such as tea, coffee, coke, and red bull for several hours before bedtime. Although alcohol may initially act as a sedative, it can interrupt normal sleep patterns and produces poor quality sleep.
Nicotine is a stimulant and can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Many over-the-counter and prescribed nicotine replacement methods disrupt sleep.
Expose yourself to bright light/sunlight soon after awakening. This will help to regulate your body’s natural biological clock. Also, try to keep your bedroom dark while you are asleep so that the light will not interfere with your rest.
Exercise early in the day
Twenty to thirty minutes of exercise every day can help you sleep but be sure to exercise in the morning or afternoon. Exercise stimulated the body and aerobic activity before bedtime may make falling asleep more difficult.
Set an alarm clock
Set at the same time every day even the weekends so your body becomes used to the routine.
Check your iron level
Iron deficient women tend to have more problems sleeping so check with your GP to see if your blood is iron-poor.
Make sure your bed is large enough and comfortable. If you are disturbed by a restless bedmate, switch to a queen-size or king-size bed. Test different types of mattresses. Try therapeutic shaped foam pillows that cradle your neck or extra pillows that help you sleep on your side. Get comfortable cotton sheets.
Make your bedroom primarily a place for sleeping. It is not a good idea to use your bed for watching TV, doing work, etc. Help your body recognize that this is a place for rest or intimacy.
Hide your clock
A big, illuminated digital clock may cause you to focus on the time and make you feel stressed and anxious. Place your clock so you can’t see the time when you are in bed. Also, the bright light causes the brain to think it is light and time to get up.
Check the temperature
Try to keep a constant temperature so you are neither too hot nor too cold and make sure that are no draughts.
Keep a regular schedule
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. Keeping a regular schedule will help your body expect sleep at the same time each day. Don’t oversleep to make up for a poor night’s sleep, doing that for even a couple of days can resent your body clock and make it hard for you to get to sleep at night.
Incorporate bedtime rituals
Listening to soft music, sipping a cup of herbal tea, etc. cues your body that it’s time to slow down and begin to prepare for sleep.
Before going to bed. Spending quiet time can make falling asleep easier. This may include medication, relaxation and/or breathing exercises, or taking a warm bath. Try listening to recorded relaxation or guided mediation programs.
Don’t eat a large heavy meal before bed. This can cause indigestion and interfere with your normal sleep cycle. Drinking too much fluid before bed can cause you to get up to urinate. Try to eat your dinner at least two hours before bedtime.
Bedtime snacks can help. An amino acid called tryptophan, found in milk, turkey, and peanuts, helps the brain produce serotonin, a chemical that helps you relax. Try drinking warm milk or eat a slice of toast with peanut butter or a bowl of cereal before bedtime. Plus, the warmth may temporarily increase your body temperature and the subsequent drop may hasten sleep.
Jot down all your concerns and worries. Anxiety excites the nervous system, so your brain sends messages to the adrenal glands, making you more alert. Write down your worries and possible solutions before you go to bed. A journal or “to do” list may be very helpful in letting you put away these concerns until the next day when you are fresh.
Go to sleep when you are sleepy
When you feel tired, go to bed
Avoid ‘over the counter aids
Unless you speak to the pharmacist or seek advice from your doctor. There are natural sleep remedies such as valerian, which has a natural sedative effect. Also, chamomile, which can be, drank in tea it has a slightly strange taste perhaps put some honey in to make it taste better.
By controlling our breathing, you can control the functions of your brain and body. As your breathing slows down your body relaxes, for example when you sleep.
If breathing becomes fast, you can experience panic attacks and your body will feel under stress. The way we breathe is generally quite shallow and does not fully fill the lungs.
Deep breathing can feel alien at first as we generally hold our stomachs in as we breathe in, then push our stomachs out. Which is the reverse of the kind of breathing you should be doing, practice using the following techniques, try not to get frustrated.
Close our eyes
Try slowly deep breathing
Breathe in for the count of three and hold for a moment then slowly breathe out for the count of five
As you breathe in your stomach should come out and as you breathe out your stomach should move inwards it might help if you put a hand on your stomach so you can feel this
Now take a short rapid breath through your nose for as long as you can – don’t make yourself feel ill though!
How does this make you feel? This is hyperventilation – breathing too fast, like when we have a panic attack
Now slow your breathing down again
Use the first part of the exercise (slow stomach breathing) to bring the body back to relaxation
This exercise demonstrates how our breathing can make us feel. Breathing is the most important part of all relaxation if you do not get your breathing right you will not be able to relax fully.
Also just by doing some simple breathing exercises you can go from tense and aggravated to calm and rational.
Closed our eyes
Breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, feel the body begin to relax.
As you breathe in imagine you are breathing in pure white lights this is all around you.
As you breathe out imagine this is grey smoke this is all the stresses and strains, which are in your body.
If you have thoughts that you do not want, then imagine these as the grey smoke and exhale them.
Do this exercise for five to ten minutes until you feel calm and relaxed.
In combination with a breathing exercise, you can add this physical exercise to relax and reduce tension in your body.
Take your attention down to your feet, clench the muscles in your feet and curl up your toes while you breathe in, and then relax them as you breathe out.
Do this three times, notice how different your feet feel from relaxed to tense? Repeat the breathing and clenching three more times until your feet are relaxed.
Now move your attention to your calves, clench the muscles in your calves as you breathe in, and relax on the out breathe, again repeat this three times until your calves feel relaxed.
Repeat the exercise moving up your body relaxing each of the following muscle groups in turn.
- Upper Arms
- Lower Arms/Wrists
Now bring your attention to the whole body, If you have any areas which do not feel relaxed repeat the exercise.
Now your whole body is relaxed, and your breathing is calm. Try this exercise when you go to bed or set some time aside in your day to complete the exercise.
Why this works
As well as helping you focus on your breathing this works on the theory that any muscle that has been put under tension will be more relaxed than other muscles.
For instance, when you have carried a heavy load and your arm feels more relaxed after you put it down.
Getting back to sleep
Focus all your attention on your toes or visualize walking down an endless stairwell. Thinking about repetitive or mindless things will help your brain to shut down and adjust to sleep.
Get out of bed
If you’re unable to sleep. Don’t lie in bed awake to another room and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. Worrying about falling asleep actually keeps many people awake. Also, keep the lights low as your brain will think it’s daytime if it’s bright.
Don’t do anything stimulating
Don’t read anything job-related or watch a stimulating TV program (commercials and the news tend to be alerting). Don’t expose yourself to bright light.
Consider changing your bedtime
If you are experiencing sleeplessness or insomnia consistently, think about going to bed later so that the time you spend in bed is spent sleeping. If you are only getting five hours of sleep at night, figure out what time you need to get up and subtract five hours (for example, if you want to get up at 6 am going to bed a 1 am).
This may seem counterproductive and, at first, you may be depriving yourself of some sleep, but it can help train your body to sleep consistently while in bed. When you are spending all of your time in bed sleeping, you can gradually sleep more, by adding 15 minutes at a time.
Drink plenty of water, this helps to flush toxins and keep your body hydrated. Water is essential for the body’s growth and maintenance as it’s involved in a number of processes For example, water helps get rid of waste and regulates body temperature.
It’s a good idea to have at least two liters of water a day (or other fluids), although we do get some of this from our food. However, it is also important to remember that too much water too fast can be very dangerous.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. The body does not produce Tryptophan so we need to get it from our food.
Tryptophan helps the body produce niacin, which in turn produces serotonin, which is the chemical responsible for the calming effect and plays a key role in sleep.
You can find Tryptophan in; egg whites, red meat, turkey, dairy produce, nuts, seeds, bananas, fish, shellfish, chocolate, and soya beans.
Phenylalanine produces dopamine, which is the chemical, produced by the brain when we feel excited or anticipate something nice. This is an important brain chemical in recovery stimulant use. Foods high in Phenylalanine are cereals, chocolate, eggs, and fish.
Oats contain active ingredients that help to restore the nervous system and also relax the nervous system allowing you to unwind. Also, a good source of B vitamins.
Meditation & Aromatherapy
Letting go Meditation
If you find yourself in a situation where the intensity of your anger or anxiety over a certain matter is keeping you from sleeping, try this letting go meditation.
Find a small, hard object, such as a coin or a pebble. Sit somewhere comfortably and squeeze the object as hard as you can in the palm of your hand, while at the same time counting to ten. You will probably find yourself holding your breath but try not to.
Breathe out as you release the object this time count to five. Repeat this exercise three times.
Keeping the object in your hand, empty your mind and focus your breath on haling and exhaling slowly, for about five minutes. If you find thoughts creeping into your mind, try not to focus on them let them just drift away.
Reflect on your feelings, acknowledge that it’s ok to be angry however you need to be able to move on and not let the issue take over your thinking process. Open your hand stroke the object then put it away in a draw you have not let go of your anger.
Essential oils are organic compounds derived from plants sources such as roots, bark, flowers, and seeds. They are complex chemical compounds and not technically oils at all! They are extracted using a variety of methods to capture the scented particles leaving many of the other chemicals constituents of the plant behind.
Aromatherapy is a type of complementary therapy that is based on holistic principles. It uses the application of essential oils to improve mental, physical, and emotional as well as spiritual well-being. Essential oils can be used in the bath, in oil burners, or put on tissues and inhaled.
DO NOT put essential oils directly onto the skin as they are very concentrated and may cause severe irritation.
Suggested oil recipes
Relax and calm
2 drops of Lavender
2 drops of Bergamot
2 drops of Cedarwood
6 drops of Geranium
4 drops of Basil
4 drops of Chamomile
2 drops Lavender
2 drops Neroli
2 drops Marjoram
3 drops of Rosemary
2 drops of Lemon
2 drops of Frankincense
Other useful oils
Geranium = calming and uplifting
Lavender = relaxing and calming
Jasmine = uplifting and relaxing
Neroli = calming
Marjoram = calming and comforting
Rosemary = invigorating and stimulating
Bergamot = calming, uplifting and energizing
Calming Sleep Apps: