5 Steps to a Better Night Sleep
So many people struggle to get a restful night’s sleep and it’s impacting our day-to-day lives, energy levels, and overall wellbeing.
Let’s face it, most of us are constantly busy. We race around from morning to night getting to work, sending emails, making calls, cooking meals, walking the dog, chasing the kids, going to the gym, and maybe squeezing in a few moments to relax if we’re lucky. By the time our heads hit the pillow we’re absolutely exhausted and want nothing more than a good rest, but often our brains have trouble switching off and they decide that now would be a good time for us to think of a good idea to tell the boss tomorrow, wonder where the dog has stashed that hat and remember that Aunt Jodie is visiting next week! It feels like the alarm is blaring ten seconds after we fall asleep and we drag ourselves out of bed to do it all over again…
So many people struggle to get a restful night’s sleep and it’s impacting our day-to-day lives, energy levels, and overall wellbeing. Here are 5 steps we can use to naturally improve sleep and reduce the urge to hit snooze on that alarm clock:
1. Start Your Day with Sunshine
The first step to a good night is to start with a good morning. When light enters our eyes and hits our skin it signals to the brain that it is daytime. This is important for the production of serotonin, which is a “feel-good” hormone that helps us to feel energised for the day ahead. Serotonin, in turn, is important in the production of melatonin at the end of the day, which we need for a good night’s sleep. As always, the natural source is best, so start your day with some sun (or if you’re up before the sun, make sure you grab some when it arrives)!
2. End Your Day with Darkness
In order to produce melatonin — the all-important sleep hormone — we need darkness. Nature provides this for us when the sun goes down, but in this busy world our days don’t stop when the sun leaves — we ignore nature’s rhythms and turn the lights on. Even worse, the LED lights in our computer screens, smartphones, tablets and TVs that we spend the night staring at often produce a lot of light in the blue spectrum, which is particularly detrimental to melatonin production. The solution: dim the lights as much as possible after sunset and avoid screens for at least an hour before you want to sleep. Also, red light is less detrimental than blue, so investing in a red night light or some blue-blocking glasses could be helpful. You can download the f.lux app for your computer screen too.
3. Avoid Stimulants
Many people rely on caffeine to keep them awake and alert during the day. One of the problems with caffeine, however, is that it generally takes the body more than 24 hours to metabolise and eliminate it, so even though you might not notice it, that cup of coffee you had in the morning will still be affecting your physiology when you want to go to sleep. Energy drinks – which often have an even stronger effect than coffee – create the same problem. So it’s best to lay off the caffeine if you’re struggling to get some shut-eye.
4. Minimise Exposure to Unnatural Electromagnetic Frequencies (EMFs)
EMFs are essentially the electromagnetic radiation that is produced by all of our electronic devices. Many people report sleeping better when they take steps to reduce their EMF exposure, especially during the night. There are many ways to do this – some requiring more effort than others – but here are a couple of simple ones to get you started.
- Switch off your wi-fi router at night. A timer on the powerpoint can make this easier — just set it and forget it.
- Switch your phone to aeroplane mode, especially if you keep it in your bedroom during the night.
- Switch off powerpoints that aren’t in use.
5. Relaxation Breathing
One of the reasons people have trouble sleeping is because they’re too stressed. In fact, most of the health problems that plague our Western world are caused by chronic stress. Stress comes from many places and it’s best to eliminate it at its source if possible. Often that’s tricky though, so using breathing techniques to promote relaxation can help. Why do breathing techniques help us relax? There are two divisions in the autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic division coordinates your stress response. The parasympathetic division coordinates rest and relaxation. Breathing in is under sympathetic control and breathing out is under parasympathetic control. So, one way to increase parasympathetic activity (which is what we want at night) is by taking some deep breaths — quickly in, and slowly out. For example, breathe in for 3 seconds, then out for 6 seconds. Doing this for a few minutes before bed each night will help set you up for a good night’s sleep.
Health is all about habits, so if you don’t notice any difference immediately, don’t lose heart. Keep persisting with your new healthy habits and you’ll soon be enjoying the rewards!
Dr Peter Swift
B.Sc (Chiro) M Chiro, AKDr