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Catching The Zzz’s

What are signs of poor sleep?

Frequent sleep disturbances and daytime sleepiness are the most telling signs of poor sleep. In addition, if you’re taking too long to fall asleep, you should consider evaluating your sleep routine and revising your bedtime habits. Just a few simple changes can make the difference between a good night’s sleep and night spent tossing and turning.

What would happen if you just allowed yourself to be still and feel safe?

How would that make you feel?

What is it that is making you restless and on guard?

What are you dwelling on? What is bugging you? Who or what are you trying to make sense of?

Are you angry with someone?

Are you facing circumstances in your life that are challenging your beliefs?

Are you unconsciously dwelling on unresolved issues?

Are you struggling with either waking up after a couple of hours, or are you falling asleep at odd times?

Have you ever noticed that you tend to feel energized and drowsy around the same times every day, you have your circadian rhythm to thank?

What is it, exactly?

Your circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. It’s also known as your sleep/wake cycle.

For most adults, the biggest dip in energy happens in the middle of the night (somewhere between 2:00am and 4:00am, when they’re usually fast asleep) and just after lunchtime (around 1:00pm to 3:00pm, when they tend to crave a post-lunch nap).

Those times can be different if you’re naturally a night owl or a morning person. You also won’t feel the dips and rises of your circadian rhythm as strongly if you’re all caught up on sleep. It’s when you’re sleep-deprived that you’ll notice bigger swings of sleepiness and alertness.

A part of your hypothalamus (a portion of your brain) controls your circadian rhythm. That said, outside factors like lightness and darkness can also impact it. When it’s dark at night, your eyes send a signal to the hypothalamus that it’s time to feel tired. Your brain, in turn, sends a signal to your body to release melatonin, which makes your body tired. That’s why your circadian rhythm tends to coincide with the cycle of daytime and night-time (and why it’s so hard for shift workers to sleep during the day and stay awake at night).

Your circadian rhythm works best when you have regular sleep habits, like going to bed at night and waking up in the morning around the same times from day to day (including weekends). When things get in the way, like jet lag, daylight savings time, or a compelling sporting event on TV that keeps you up into the wee hours of the morning, you can disrupt your circadian rhythm, which makes you feel out of sorts and can make it harder to pay attention.

Interestingly, your circadian rhythm will likely change as you get older. And you may not have the same sleep/wake cycle as your partner, child or parents. But the more you pay attention to your body and notice feelings of alertness and drowsiness, and the more time you spend developing good sleep habits, the better your slumber will be and the better you’ll feel.

What is sleep hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good night-time sleep quality and full daytime alertness.

Why is it important to practice good sleep hygiene?

Obtaining healthy sleep is important for both physical and mental health. It can also improve productivity and overall quality of life. Everyone, from children to older adults, can benefit from practicing good sleep habits.

How can I improve my sleep hygiene?

One of the most important sleep hygiene practices is to spend an appropriate amount of time asleep in bed, not too little or too excessive. Sleep needs vary across ages and are especially impacted by lifestyle and health. However, there are recommendations that can provide guidance on how much sleep you need generally. Other good sleep hygiene practices include:

  • Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes

    • Napping does not make up for inadequate night-time sleep. However, a short nap of 20-30 minutes can help to improve mood, alertness and performance.

  • Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime

    • And when it comes to alcohol, moderation is key. While alcohol is well-known to help you fall asleep faster, too much close to bedtime can disrupt sleep in the second half of the night as the body begins to process the alcohol.

  • Exercising to promote good quality sleep

    • As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can drastically improve night-time sleep quality. For the best night’s sleep, most people should avoid strenuous workouts close to bedtime. However, the effect of intense night-time exercise on sleep differs from person to person, so find out what works best for you.

  • Steering clear of food that can be disruptive right before sleep

    • Heavy or rich foods, fatty or fried meals, spicy dishes, citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks can trigger indigestion for some people. When this occurs close to bedtime, it can lead to painful heartburn that disrupts sleep.

  • Ensuring adequate exposure to natural light

    • This is particularly important for individuals who may not venture outside frequently. Exposure to sunlight during the day, as well as darkness at night, helps to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.

  • Establishing a regular relaxing bedtime routine

    • A regular nightly routine helps the body recognize that it is bedtime. This could include taking warm shower or bath, reading a book, or light stretches. When possible, try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations and activities before attempting to sleep.

  • Making sure that the sleep environment is pleasant

    • Mattress and pillows should be comfortable. The bedroom should be cool – between 60 and 67 degrees – for optimal sleep. Bright light from lamps, cell phone and TV screens can make it difficult to fall asleep, so turn those lights off or adjust them when possible. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices that can make the bedroom more relaxing. Turn off wifi if possible and remove devices from the bedroom, if you can’t do that then at least put your phone on sleep mode away from your pillow or bed, as electro magnetic frequencies (EMF’s) interfere with REM sleep, particularly if you are sensitive to noise, bright light, or are in the highly sensitive people category.

If you find yourself waking up in the early hours of the morning it maybe that you are having a dip in your blood sugar, eat a banana or a couple of oatcakes before going to bed can sometimes help.

If anything in this blog has resonated with you and you would like to talk things through with an accredited specialist practitioner please make an appointment here.

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