Updated: Nov 28, 2019
You are exhausted…you want to go to sleep. But, for some reason, instead of sleeping, you are lying awake attending to your thinking.
All the usual worries about the bills, work issues, deadlines, family stuff, and upcoming social events. Or maybe you can’t quite settle, and you are getting up several times to check on your kids? Sound familiar?
If so, you are not alone. According to a articles by the Sleep Health Foundation, many Australians struggle at times to get a good night's sleep. There's an endless list of reasons we can't get to sleep at night, and the associated cost of this are wide ranging; from detrimental impacts on physical and mental health, daytime alertness, mood, work performance and accident risk. In children poor sleep adversely affects behaviour and learning.
So, what can we do about this? How do we improve our sleep situation?
Why aren't you sleeping well?
First things first! How come we're not sleeping well? Let's get to the bottom of that problem. There are many issues that affect our ability to get a good night’s sleep, from changes to your routine, accumulation of stress, your mood, your age and even how you have set up your bedroom. All these things have the potential to disrupt your circadian rhythm (the sleep-wake cycle).
All of these disruptions mean most of us are just not getting enough sleep. When we do sleep, it may be restless sleep, during which we wake up several times. You may be one of those who wake up too early, then can't fall back to sleep. All day long, you feel sleepy, like you need to take a nap.
Sleep issues like these can eventually affect your overall health. These issues maybe easier to deal with than you think. Developing some awareness around your routine during the day and into the early evening and managing your expectation around work and general tasks could have a big benefit for your sleep routine. What would the benefits for you of getting a good night’s sleep regularly? So if you are willing, here are some tips to get you started.
Strategies for better sleep.
Try these and see if they help you find your way back to sleeping soundly and getting the rest you need every night:
1. Notice what you eat.
What we eat affects our sleep patterns. This is often overlooked, but there's real scientific data to back it up. If you're eating a lot of sugar, fats, and carbs in the evenings, you may not sleep as well.
As I'm sure you're aware, when our blood sugar levels are wildly fluctuating, it can mess with lots of different areas of our health, including sleep. That's why watching what we eat and making small changes can be so helpful. More protein, less sugar & carbs in the afternoon may help regulate hormone levels and even work to reset your circadian rhythm.
2. Noticing your sleep routine.
Allow yourself enough time to get to sleep. Can you establish your own sleep routine. What do I need to do in order to have between 7 to 8 hours sleep? When can I start winding down, can you pick a time & say no phone calls after this time, screen time ends at, and I’ll be in my bed by this time? Likewise, what time do you need to be up in the morning?
3. Disconnect yourself from you day and your devices.
You've probably figured this one out on your own, but to truly disconnect from the day's stress and activities, it's important to turn off all your devices. This includes TV, computers and smartphones. These devices have LED screens that are much brighter than what we see in everyday life. These bright lights can disrupt your circadian rhythm, melatonin production, and thus your sleep patterns.
4. Cut out the stimulants.
Lots of people enjoy a glass of wine in the evening, and some will have tea or coffee with sugar. We all have our little habits we know are probably not helping when it comes to sleep. Though alcoholic beverages initially make you feel sleepy, the alcohol can disrupt your sleep cycles, especially REM (dreaming) sleep. All humans require that REM sleep in order to help us wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day.
5. Mood boosting activities.
Oxytocin is famous for being known as the "bonding" hormone. It is produced when we enjoy life. Isn't that simple? Hug your loved ones, play with your pets, laugh every day. Build some warm friendships. All these tasks stimulate the release of oxytocin. This "bonding" hormone has a calming effect. It leaves you feeling tranquil and at peace with the world. When we feel loved and at peace, it elevates our quality of life, we feel better and we in turn sleep better.
6. Create a comfortable sleep space.
Your bedroom should be your own private retreat, a place where you can go and just relax. We all need a free space where we don't have to work, respond, or be anyone special. According to research, you can help to create that relaxing environment with just a few adjustments. Keep the room temp at a comfortable 18-21 degrees. Once you're ready to turn in for the night, turn off all the lights. A quiet and dark room helps to improve sleep.
Keep your bedroom for sleeping or lovemaking. Remove the other clutter, especially screens and devices or anything which might beep in the night. When your bedroom looks and feels like your own personal oasis, you'll sleep better. We all need a space that's we can feel comfortable and relax in.
7. How does your day end?
Calming down after a busy day takes a bit of effort. Does your day end in a flurry or do you gently calm down and find time and ways to relax your body and mind? Try to set up your own way to end your busy day. Some of the most popular steps include chamomile tea, lavender essential oils, listening to relaxing music, and mindfulness. You can also try things like gently stretching your muscles or going for a short walk. Deep breathing and meditation help regulate hormones, so they support all-natural rhythms in our bodies.
We all know how amazing we feel after a great night's sleep. Our bodies and mind have all they need to keep working at optimal levels when we're eating and sleeping right. You may even find that when you start getting better sleep, it leads to you feeling better about your life worth living now and into the future.
(2019) Sleep Health Foundation. Sleep Health Foundation and Australasian Sleep Association Pre Budget-Submission 2019-20. Retrieved from https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/
(2019) Dr. A Cabeca, 7 Strategies For Better Sleep From A Hormone Expert. Retrieved from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/over-40-and-trouble-sleeping-heres-what-hormone-expert-wants-you-to-know?mbg_mcid=777:5dd31d5dabd7ac428028ea2d:ot:5dacdec1195063fa4f409d07:1&mbg_hash=69350d55804e2434d45e2b1b49454de3&utm_source=mbg&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_v2_20191119