If you’re finding it hard to sleep there are plenty of natural alternatives to hardcore prescription sleeping pills. There are some proactive steps you can take to make sure you are fully prepped for a good night. Use this check list to help you drift off when you shut your eyes.
Yes our phones and devices are kind of addictive but getting into a WhatsApp group chat ten minutes before you hit the sack or checking your emails as you clean your teeth could be stopping you sleep in more than one way.
Firstly, engaging means your brain isn’t starting to wind down and relax. Your fear of missing out can mean you don’t start to try and sleep until long after you intended to turn out your bedside light.
We have all fallen down that Instagram hole and come back discovering an hour has somehow vanished!
“Switch off your computer and TV at least an hour and a half before bed time, or remove it from your room entirely!” recommends Anandi The Sleep Guru. “Spend that time reading and relaxing instead. Your mind needs to quieten down in order for your body to quieten down.”
Secondly, our devices emit a certain wave of light called blue light. Research has found this suppresses the production of bodies are extremely sensitive to it and that it can definitely dent your chances of getting a good night’s sleep. Blue light makes up part of sunlight and exposure to blue light during daytime hours helps maintain a healthy circadian rhythm.
Dim the lights before you try to go to sleep
Just as our bodies recognise blue light as part of ‘daytime’, we can tell ourselves it’s bedtime by reducing light levels. “Turn the lights down early,” says Anandi.
“The body’s sleep hormones respond to light and dark. When the light comes up in the morning serotonin levels increase. And when the light goes down in the evening, serotonin levels go down.”
If you have dimmer switches in your living areas, use them, and in the bedroom try and restrict lighting to bedside or softer lights.
What we eat in the day can have a direct effect on how well we will sleep at night.
Feeling too full – or too empty – makes it harder for us to get comfortable. If our body is busy digesting food it will feel more ‘awake’ than usual. This is because eating pushes up the body’s core temperature and naturally our temperature drops when we are preparing to sleep.
So eat your evening meal at least 4 hours before bedtime.
Our blood sugar levels spiking and falling can also make us restless and leave us feeling rubbish in the morning if they are too low when we get up.
Some foods also work like sleep aids as they have a relaxing effect on our brains.
Chicken and turkey, milk and dairy, nuts and seeds all contain an amino acid called tryptophan which helps to boost the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.
Combine these with rice, pasta or potatoes to help the body get the most benefits from tryptophan. There are some natural supplements on the market which can also help, such as Utmost Me’s Neuro Rest which contains “neuro fruit” extracts.
There’s no doubt modern life involves racing around at an incredible pace. So many of us don’t take time to relax in the evening when it really would aid our chances of sleeping.
Anandi has a couple of top tips for helping the wind down process which you can easily make time for. “I recommend ‘legs up the wall’ to nearly everyone, this yoga pose is called Viparita Karani,” Anandi explains.
“It has such a heavenly rejuvenating power and will bring you back to earth after all that running and rushing. Everything will calm down, including the mind and the nervous system. Stay there for 10 minutes as your bedtime prep!”
And following that she has another incredibly easy – if a little strange – tip.
“The last thing you do before you settle down to go to sleep… hum like a bumblebee for 10 minutes” Anandi insists.
Why stress won’t help you get restful sleep
If you find you are laying in bed tossing and turning don’t panic – instead breathe.
We are all guilty of not breathing ‘properly’ and filling our lungs the correct way can have enormously beneficial effects on our physical and mental health, including sleep. “The breath, heart and mind are intimately linked,” explains Anandi.
“The moment you start taking longer, deeper breaths, the heart rate comes down and the mind settles and you are more likely to fall asleep. When we breathe fully, we breathe into all the spaces of the body and not just the lungs.”
To ensure you are breathing correctly, put your hands on your tummy, keep all your awareness in your hands, and allow the breath to deepen. “The breath will go where the awareness goes. Having your hands on your belly encourages deep breathing.”
You can try this as part of your unwinding regime at bedtime, or if you wake up in the night and can’t go back to sleep.
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