How you can get healthier sleep
A healthy sleep pattern helps us to get the physical and mental rest that we need. The optimal amount of sleep we need varies for each of us but 8 hours per night is good to aim for.
If you are finding it had to get to sleep, stay asleep or are waking up overly tired each day, follow these steps to regain a healthy sleep pattern and good quality sleep.
Stimulants prevent healthy sleep
Caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and some painkillers block the release of chemicals that help us to sleep. Alcohol, though it may help us to relax initially, becomes a stimulant after 3-4 hours and prevents us from sleeping deeply. Avoid caffeine up to 6 hours before bedtime and alcohol 3 hours beforehand for better sleep.
Make your bedroom a haven for healthy sleep
Making your bedroom a quiet, cool and comfortable environment to help you unwind fully will aid sleep. A comfortable mattress, pillows and sleepwear are essential. Light is a cue to our brain to wake up, so low lights, heavy curtains or black out blinds will help to ensure darkness.
Try to leave phones, TV, iPads and other devices outside of the bedroom so that you make a strong association with the bedroom as a space for sleep and sex only.
Get a healthy pre-sleep routine
An hour before bed, start to unwind with a pre-sleep routine - take a bath, read a book, sit quietly to meditate or listen to music. Anything that raises your physical or psychological stress levels can stimulate the release of cortisol, a stress hormone linked to alertness. If have a lot on your mind, try putting the issues down on paper and returning to them the next day refreshed.
Set a consistent sleep schedule for a healthy body clock
Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps your body to establish a healthy ‘internal clock’ which affects levels of alertness hormones. These hormones naturally peak in the morning to help you wake and then gradually decline through the day to a point where you want to sleep. The easiest and most effective way to regulate our body clock is to wake at the same time each day. If you wake early after a short sleep, this will naturally put you into a mild sleep deprivation which will ensure you go to bed early the next night.
Exercise regularly but not too late in the day
Exercise is essential for healthy sleep - it tires us out and balances stress hormones. However, during exercise stress hormones are raised so it’s a good idea not to exercise too close to bedtime. The healthiest time to exercise is earlier in the day.
Power Naps and Siestas
A short nap in the day for no more than 20 minutes can be very beneficial to help us recover energy before the dreaded mid afternoon slump - if we feel we need it (not everyone does).
Power naps are best taken early-mid afternoon - the time when lots of countries traditionally take a ‘siesta’. 20 minutes has been found to be optimal. More than 20 minutes and we lose our ‘sleep drive’ for later in the day when we need it before bed. Tempting as it is not to you will be better off if you set your alarm.
If followed through these steps should help to re-establish a healthy sleep pattern, if this doesn’t happen, or if your sleep problems have become more serious it is wise to consult your doctor or consult us for information about how Chinese Medicine can help you.