Hands up who has had issues with their sleep at some point during their adult lives? I’m willing to bet that every hand would be in the air! We all know what it is like to be lying awake at night, wishing we would just dose off to a peaceful slumber
Personally, I suffered from insomnia for most of my childhood and early adulthood and it affected my life in a negative way for many years. This stemmed from the severe anxiety I used to suffer from. My mind would be working overtime and I would lie awake worrying all night, often about the most trivial of things, but the worries just wouldn’t go away. This would keep me awake night after night. For me, getting my anxiety under control was the first step to improving my sleep patterns. Thankfully my sleep patterns are much better these days as I have taken further steps over the years to improve my sleep. I will share some of the advice and tips I have learned over the years which have helped me to sleep better in this blog.
Why Sleep Is Important
Sleep is vital to health. Dr Matthew Walker’s brilliant book ‘Why We Sleep’ looks into the importance of sleep and this is the book I completely recommend if you wanted further information on the importance of sleep. Dr Walker went as far as saying ‘Without sleep, there is low energy and disease. With sleep, there is vitality and health.’
A good sleep is beneficial as it can help boost memory and concentration, it gives you more energy, it can keep your heart in good working order, and it plays a role in boosting our immune system.
Actually, it does kind of makes sense- the body renews itself overnight as we are asleep, cells can regenerate, muscles get time to relax and recover and the body is in its natural state of calm. If we are not getting enough, it can negatively affect our blood sugars, weaken our immune system and affect our mental state in the short term and long-term lack of sleep can increase the risk factor for Alzheimer’s, heart attacks or strokes later on in life.
This is a brilliant article if you would like further details around the importance of sleep.
But how much do we actually need? Yes, it’s true, 6.5 – 8 hours is the recommended amount for adults. This always isn’t possible for a whole myriad of reasons but is a good benchmark to try and aim to achieve most nights of optimum health.
Tips to improve sleep
Here are some tips that you may wish to try to improve your sleep- all of them I have tried at some point and many have helped with my own sleep issues. I recommend that you give a few a go and see if they make a difference to your sleep pattern?
- Sounds obvious but make sure you have a comfortable bed and mattress. Nothing disrupts sleep more than being uncomfortable or in pain!
- Make sure the room is not too hot as this can affect sleep patterns. A temperature between 19-23 degrees is what you should be aiming for.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even at weekends- this is a struggle for a lot of us but going to bed at the same time every night helps your body clock to stay regular and you should sleep easier for it!
- Don’t have an alarm clock in your bedroom! This was a game changer for me as I used to get stressed looking at the time every 10 minutes when trying to sleep and also, as they are usually quite bright, they can make the room lighter than it needs to be.
- Invest in blackout curtains, to keep the light out.
- Have a warm bath 1 hour before you go to bed to help to wind down after a long day.
- Stop watching TV and try to avoid technology for 1 hour before bed- use night time mode if you must use your phone or ipad or you invest in some amber glasses to limit the bright screen light. (available from amazon or ebay).
- Eat your last big meal of the day at least 2-3 hours before bed. Turkey, cheese, pineapple and nuts are rich in tryptophan which is believed to help promote sleep, so you could have a small snack including one of these food types 1 hour before bed.
- Deep breathing techniques- the ‘4-7-8’ breathing technique is a great way of bringing about sleep if you are struggling to switch off your thoughts. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds then slowly breathe out for 8 seconds, repeat this a few times and you should be drifting off. Another option if you find this difficult is to breathe in for 4 and out for 4.
- Do a brain dump before bed- write down what’s worrying you before bed which will hopefully offload your worries until the morning.
- Avoid coffee and caffeine after 3pm.
- Limit your alcohol to 1 drink per night and aim to have at least 3-4 alcohol free nights a week- whilst alcohol can help you fall asleep initially, the qualityof the sleep is not as good and it is more disturbed so you are more likely to be restless and then more tired in the morning.
- Try going to a yoga class or doing another gentle form of exercise such as walking during the day. Try to avoid high impact exercise close to bedtime as this will just make you more awake
- Use a preblended lavender based pillow mist or sleep spray. I like the This Works one, but there are lots available. I would recommend getting advice from a qualified aromatherapist before using any neat oils, but preblended sleep sprays are usually OK and safe to use.
- Consider using some Bachs Night time rescue remedy or take some natural valerian (such as kalms tablets) which can help calm your mind and relax the body.
Can reflexology help with sleep?
Yes it can! Most clients I see enjoy a good night sleep after receiving reflexology as it helps then to relax fully. Reflexology works by encouraging the body to balance itself. Reflexology to help promote sleep can be achieved through working the endocrine gland reflexes on the feet (especially the pineal gland which regulates the body clock) and through calming the respiratory reflexes, the brain area, as well as the stimulating the solar plexus. All areas of the foot are worked, and the gentle nature of the touch can be very calming and nurturing to the client, giving them a sense of feeling totally chilled out!
The Association of Reflexologists have made a great video highlighting a few hand reflexology moves that you can do at home, so why not try some of these out and let me know how you get on?
If you have any further tips on getting a good night sleep, I would love to know. Likewise, if you have had reflexology to help with sleep issues and you got great results from it, I would love to hear your story.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this blog and wishing you a peaceful Christmas with hopefully lots of sleep and rest and a Happy New Year.
Take care lovelies x