Holistic Wellness 3 – Get enough sleep!
So many of us are walking around every day sleep deprived and it is no wonder. We live in such a stress-inducing world, with too much stimulation and not enough time in the day for recreational pursuits. However, a good night’s sleep is critical to our wellness, and there are a few things you might not know about how to get a good night’s sleep.
The first two are diet and exercise – surprise!! Just what I blogged about in the previous two posts. If you are eating well and exercising half an hour a day then you’re well on your way to sleeping better.
The next thing that’s most important is keeping a regular sleep schedule. This will be different from person to person but you can get clued in to your personal sleep schedule by paying attention to when you feel drowsy in the evening. Try to get to bed within an hour and a half of noticing drowsiness. i.e. if you start feel drowsy around 9 pm, then you should be in bed by 10:30. (if you feel drowsy right after dinner then go for a stroll or do something mildly stimulating like playing a game or something, because that’s too early to go to bed). Along with this comes trying to wake up at the same time. Our bodies will naturally wake up after we’ve had enough sleep, but for many of us it’s the sound of the alarm clock – sigh! But try not to sleep in really late on weekends unless you are truly sleep deprived.
Of critical importance is the regulation of melatonin in our brains. This is a hormone produced naturally which is light controlled. That means that with a lack of light (night time) we will produce a lot more melatonin, and with daylight or artificial light we produce less. So that means: get plenty of light, preferably natural, during the day and limit your exposure to light in the evening. Turn off your computer and TV, dim your lights, don’t read from your iPad (sadly, that back-lighting is very melatonin unfriendly!), draw your curtains (and make sure they are heavy enough to block street lights) and try to go to the bathroom at night time using only night lights (as long as it’s safe to do so). If you feel your body needs help with getting enough melatonin, or if you’re fighting jetlag, there is a product on the market: Sleep+, made by Genuine Health and available at major pharmacies very economically that I have used succesfully myself. It is a timed-release melatonin, which means it lasts all night long and you just take it for a month after which time your body should get used to producing the right amount of melatonin to keep you asleep. This is a far better alternative to artificial sleeping pills.
Make sure your bedroom is comfortable and relaxing. Most people sleep better in a room which is not overloaded with electronics – TV’s, stereos, computers. If you must sleep in the same room with your electronics, make sure you put them on a timer bar so they’re really OFF at night time. Your bed needs to be comfortable for YOU. That means try the mattress out at the store and make sure they have a return policy if you’re not comfortable on it. It should provide you with the optimum firmness for your body. Often that is different from person to person, so a couple with very different needs may have a difficult time finding the right mattress, unless they get one with different firmnesses on each side. Same goes for pillows. You will have to experiment to see which one is right for you. Breathable cotton sheets and covers are important. The right temperature (65 degrees is best for most)
And lastly, preparing your head for sleep is of prime importance:
Deep breathing. Close your eyes—and try taking deep, slow breaths—making each breath even deeper than the last.
Progressive muscle relaxation. Starting at your toes, tense all the muscles as tightly as you can, then completely relax. Work your way up from your feet to the top of your head.
Visualizing a peaceful, restful place. Close your eyes and imagine a place or activity that is calming and peaceful for you. Concentrate on how relaxed this place or activity makes you feel. If you are awake at night then stay in bed and try these three activities without judging yourself for NOT being asleep.