How to Get More, and Better, Sleep

Can't Sleep? - whywesuffer.com
Can’t Sleep? – http://www.whywesuffer.com

Mother Gaia’s Remedies

Relax & Sleep Tea – a blend of chamomile, lavender, and hops. Deliciously calming and soothing.

Relax & Sleep Lotion & Oil– basic lotion or bath oil with blue chamomile, valerian, and roman chamomile essential oils. Apply to chest or feet or use in the bath to calm the body and mind for a deep, restful sleep.

Insomnia?

We’ve all had nights, here and there, where no matter what we do we cannot get to sleep. It’s normal. What is not normal is struggling to get to sleep every night, using drugs or alcohol to try to get to sleep, or hoping the TV will help you fall asleep in the wee hours of the morning. These are the indications of insomnia, which is a treatable disorder or dysfunction. We know that insomnia is the inability to sleep, yet it’s much more than that. It is considered habitual sleeplessness, meaning more than two nights without good sleep. Acute insomnia is associated with a few weeks of not sleeping, typically associated with a traumatic or highly stressful event. Chronic insomnia is the habitual lack of sleep for months or years.

Caffeine & Insomnia

Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it stimulates the nervous systems, the metabolism, as well as mental function. It takes twelve, yes that’s 12, hours for your body to process the caffeine you consume. For example – you consume 1 cup of coffee (average of 95mg of caffeine) at 8am, by 8pm half of that caffeine (47.5mg) is still there in your system stimulating function. Well no wonder you can’t get to sleep.

Certain medications, like antidepressants, water pills (diuretics), high blood pressure and high cholesterol medications, and allergy medicines have a stimulating effect on the body much like caffeine and can keep you up. They also interfere with normal hormone production which can throw the whole system and all of its cycles out of balance. If you suspect your medications talk with your doctor about trying supplements or herbal remedies to help or even changing medications to help.

Anxiety & Insomnia

Most adults have had some trouble sleeping because they feel worried or nervous, but for some it’s a pattern that interferes with sleep on a regular basis. When this happens for many nights (or many months), you might start to feel anxiousness, dread, or panic at just the prospect of not sleeping. This is how anxiety and insomnia can feed each other and become a cycle that should be interrupted through treatment. There are cognitive and mind-body techniques that help people with anxiety settle into sleep, and overall healthy sleep practices that can improve sleep for many people with anxiety and insomnia. Anxiety symptoms that can lead to insomnia include:

  • Tension – in muscles and mind
  • Getting caught up in thoughts about past events
  • Excessive worrying about future events
  • Feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities
  • A general feeling of being revved up or overstimulated

Insomnia & Lifestyle

Insomnia can be triggered or perpetuated by your behaviors and sleep patterns. Unhealthy lifestyles and sleep habits can create insomnia on their own (without any underlying psychiatric or medical problem), or they can make insomnia caused by another problem worse. Examples of how specific lifestyles and sleep habits can lead to insomnia are:

  1. You work at home in the evenings. This can make it hard to unwind, and it can also make you feel preoccupied when it comes time to sleep. The light from your computer could also make your brain more alert.
  2. You take naps (even if they are short) in the afternoon. Short naps can be helpful for some people, but for others they make it difficult to fall asleep at night.
  3. You sometimes sleep in later to make up for lost sleep. This can confuse your body’s clock and make it difficult to fall asleep again the following night.
  4. You are a shift worker (meaning that you work irregular hours). Non-traditional hours can confuse your body’s clock, especially if you are trying to sleep during the day, or if your schedule changes periodically.
  5. You regularly use stimulants to wake up and get through your day.

sleep better

Need More Sleep?

In my last article, ‘Why Do We Need Sleep?’, we talked about why sleep is an absolute necessity for living, not just feeling well. So, to help you not only get more sleep, but also better sleep, I’ve put together multiple techniques that are known to induce relaxation in the body and practices that help quiet the mind. With these easy techniques, you’ll be sleeping hard and dreaming strong in no time, just try it.

The average person needs 7 hours of sleep every night, but because we are all so different the range is between 5 and 10 hours. So, a big part of getting better sleep is to understand yourself. This is done by taking time to understand your sleeping habits. Before you attempt any changes take time to observe your habits, taking notes if need be, to get an idea of what you are doing before bed and how well you are sleeping.

A sleep journal can be just as important as a dream journal in helping you to understand yourself. I suggest taking it with you to bed so you can easily write in it as you go to bed and wake in the morning. List your activities that are common for you before bed and list all of the activities you do in your bed. After about a week of this, go back through your journal and review what you have written. You can get an idea of what you need to work with by answering these simple questions:

  • What are the patterns or habits that you notice?
  • Why is your bed being used for activities besides sleeping and sex?
  • What can you change to improve your bedtime habits?
  • How many hours are you sleeping most nights?
  • Are you sleeping hard and remember dreaming?

Now that you’ve spent some time getting to know yourself better and have developed an understanding of your habits, you can change them.

Simple Steps for Adjusting Your Sleep Schedule

  1. Make adjustments in increments. The best way to successfully shift your sleep cycle is to do it gradually, in 15-minute increments.
  2. Be consistent all week. The key to changing your sleep schedule is consistency. That means sticking to the same sleep and wake time throughout the week, including weekends.
  3. Keep your room dark at night and light in the morning. Our circadian rhythms are influenced by light and darkness.
  4. Get up if you can’t sleep. Don’t lie in bed tossing and turning, especially if you’re wired. Instead, get up and do something either boring or relaxing.
  5. Stop pressing the snooze button. While it might be rough to get up earlier, snoozing doesn’t help. In general it won’t be the best quality of sleep. Set your alarm to the time you actually want to wake up.
  6. Follow sleep hygiene rules. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, stop drinking caffeine within 12 hours of your bedtime or exercising within four to five hours. Give yourself an hour to unwind before bed. During that time, don’t do anything stressful or stimulating (such as use electronics).
  7. Fight after-dinner drowsiness. If you find yourself getting sleepy way before your bedtime, get off the couch and do something mildly stimulating to avoid falling asleep, such as washing the dishes, calling a friend, or getting clothes ready for the next day.
  8. Hungry at bedtime. For some people, a light snack before bed can help promote sleep. When you pair tryptophan-containing foods with carbohydrates, it may help calm the brain and allow you to sleep better. If you need a bedtime snack, try: half a turkey sandwich, small bowl of whole-grain, low-sugar cereal, granola with low-fat milk or yogurt, or a banana.
  9. Exercise Regularly You’ll also sleep more deeply if you exercise regularly. You don’t have to be a star athlete to reap the benefits—as little as 20 to 30 minutes of daily activity helps. And you don’t need to do all 30 minutes in one session. You can break it up into five minutes here, 10 minutes there, and still get the benefits.
  10. Exercise early. It’s no secret that exercise improves sleep and overall health. Morning exercise seems to affect body rhythms that affect sleep quality. One of the reasons for this interplay between exercise and sleep may be body temperature. Your body temp rises during exercise and takes up to 6 hours to drop back down to normal. Because cooler body temperatures are linked to better sleep, it’s important to give your body time to cool off before bed.
  11. Keep your slumber surroundings tranquil. Your bedroom should feel like a quiet sanctuary. Piles of clothes thrown on your bed, stacks of bills staring at you, or other random clutter will hamper you emotionally and may lead to sleep problems. A tranquil and organized space will help you feel more relaxed.
  12. Postpone worrying and brainstorming. If you wake during the night feeling anxious about something, make a brief note of it on paper and postpone worrying about it until the next day when you are fresh and it will be easier to resolve.
  13. Turn off the TV. In some people, nighttime light can hinder melatonin and create “social jetlag,” which mimics symptoms of having traveled several time zones.
  14. Stretch right before bed. Gentle stretching with deep breathing releases all the pent-up stress from the joints and muscles and makes it much easier for them to relax. Deep breathing helps calm and soothe the mind for getting to sleep faster and staying asleep longer.
  15. Meditation or progressive relaxation. Meditation is directing the mind to one focus, which can be shutting down and going to sleep, by focusing your intent you can make it happen. Progressive Relaxation is a process of mentally and physically working from your toes up and relaxing each muscle group with deep breathing. Each inhale the muscles tense and gather stress. Each exhale is a release of muscle tension.

Some Supplements Can Help Bring Sleep

  1. Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate the sleep/wake cycle, an internal pacemaker that controls the timing and our drive for sleep. It causes drowsiness, lowers body temperature, and puts the body into sleep mode.
  2. Warm milk. You can put a tasty spin on your grandmother’s natural insomnia remedy by sipping warm milk before bed. Almond milk is an excellent source of calcium, which helps the brain make melatonin.
  3. Sleepy-time snacks. The best sleep-inducing foods include a combination of protein and carbohydrates, a light snack of half a banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter, or a whole wheat cracker with some cheese. Eat one of these snacks about 30 minutes before hitting the hay.
  4. Magnesium apparently plays a key role with sleep. Research has shown that even a marginal lack of it can prevent the brain from settling down at night. Good sources include green leafy vegetables, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, and almonds.
  5. Valerian root. This medicinal herb has been used to treat sleep problems since ancient times. Research on the effectiveness of valerian for insomnia is mixed. It can take a few weeks for it to take effect. Talk to your doctor before taking valerian and follow label directions.
  6. Chamomile flowers. When consumed in a tea or light infusion they are a gentle sedative with strong calming, pain relief, and anti-inflammatory properties. Stronger dilutions have stronger and longer lasting effects.
  7. Lavender flowers. As a tea, it is a light sedative for those with minor stress interfering with sleep.
  8. Kava Kava root. Caution must be used, in large doses and with continued use Kava can cause liver failure. In small amounts with foods and other supplements it can help reduce anxiety and its associated insomnia.
  9. 5-HTP is a derivative of the amino acid tryptophan. It is used to boost serotonin in the body. 5-HTP is also the precursor of melatonin, which regulates sleep cycles.
  10. Eleuthero (Siberian) ginseng. Studies suggest that his herb (Eleutherococcus senticosus) can help enhance mental activity as well as physical endurance.
  11. Coenzyme Q10. This vital nutrient is involved in cellular energy production throughout the body.
  12. Ashwaghanda. This Ayurvedic herb is prized for its ability to help the body deal with stress.
  13. Cordiceps. This traditional Chinese medicinal mushroom may help fight fatigue and boost energy levels.

Essential Oils to Help You Sleep

Lavender: Most people are aware that lavender is somehow related to sleep, but what most people don’t know is that this has been studied extensively and its effectiveness is more than just an Old Wives Tale.

Vetiver: distilled from the roots of the plant. It’s rich and earthy smelling, and helps the brain “shut-off” for the night. Try mixing it with “lighter” oil, such as lavender or roman chamomile.

Roman Chamomile: known for is calming, soothing, and relaxing properties. Simply smelling the oil has a calming effect, which can help you feel relaxed and more prepared for sleep.

German (Blue) Chamomile: is a very strong sedative, almost narcotic when undiluted. This can be diffused into the air or sprayed on to bedding before bed.

Bergamot: citrus fruit and the oil is cold-pressed from the rind or peel. It’s bright, yet calming at the same time.

Marjoram: wonderful for soothing muscles and joints, but it also excels in creating peaceful sleep.

Relaxing Techniques for Better Sleep: before bed is a great way to wind down, calm the mind, and prepare for sleep.

  1. Deep breathing. Close your eyes, and try taking deep, slow breaths, making each breath even deeper than the last.
  2. Progressive muscle relaxation. Starting with 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Rubbing or massaging the soles of your feet. Using fingertips and thumbs, rub lotion into the bottom of your feet. Using as much pressure as is comfortable and possible. Massaging in circles in the bottom of the foot releases large amounts of tension. If you cannot reach with your hands, use a broom handle laid across in front of you and rub the bottoms of your feet, with/without lotion or socks, on the handle, gently rolling it under your foot back and forth.

Stretching for Bed: can help alleviate Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and help you relax more and sleep more deeply.

Seated Leg Stretches

Sitting in your chair or bed and keeping your back straight. Simple stretches done by flexing and pointing your toes while keeping your leg straight.

  1. Sitting up straight, raise feet up, and hold legs straight.
  2. Breathing in bend toes back towards shins, holding for a few seconds.
  3. Breathing out releasing toes straight again.
  4. Breathing in point toes and hold for a few seconds with breath.
  5. Breathing out releasing toes straight again.
  6. Repeat holding the stretches with breath.

Ankle Rotations

Simple rotational movements done to relax and strengthen the ankle joint.

  1. Sitting up straight, raise feet up, and hold legs straight.
  2. Breathing slowly, evenly, and smoothly in through nose, out through mouth.
  3. Point your toes and draw circles in clockwise direction with them.
  4. Stop and draw circles in counterclockwise direction.

Shoulder Scrunches

  1. Sitting up with back straight, chin parallel to the floor, legs resting and feet relaxed.
  2. Breathing in through your nose, bring your shoulders up to your ears.
  3. Hold your shoulders to your ears while holding breath, for a few seconds.
  4. Breathing out through your mouth releasing your shoulders back down and relaxing.
  5. Pause and repeat at least five times.

Shoulder Squeezes

  1. Sitting up with back straight, chin parallel to the floor, legs resting and feet relaxed.
  2. Breathing in bring your shoulders back, squeezing the shoulder blades together.
  3. Hold your shoulder blades together while holding breath for a few seconds.
  4. Breathing out release the shoulders and relaxing them.
  5. Repeating shoulder squeezes with breaths and pauses at least five times.

Head Roll

  1. Sitting with back straight, feet flat, chin parallel to floor, and palms resting on knees.
  2. Breathing slowly and deeply, bring your chin to your chest. Then roll the head to the left, drawing a circle with your head.
  3. Straighten up, pause, and relax.
  4. Bring chin back to chest and roll head to the right, drawing a circle.
  5. Straighten up, pause, relax, and repeat.

Neck Twist

  1. Sitting with back straight, feet flat, chin parallel to floor, and palms resting on knees. Breathing slowly and deeply, relaxing the neck.
  2. Gently turn to the left, as far as your head will turn without injury, hold and stretch. Face forward again. Relaxing the neck.
  3. Gently turn to the right, as far as your head will turn without injury, hold and stretch.

Using these practices every night before bed helps to develop healthy sleep practices and ensures you sleep well most of the time.

Find great products to help you sleep at MotherGaias.com

Find a comprehensive book from YooHealth.com on sleep deprivation and how to fix it here.

 

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