A recent poll on my Facebook Page, revealed that the majority of women don’t get enough sleep. Add that to the fact that lack of sleep is likely linked to weight gain, it’s a worrying situation.

As pointed out by one of my recent clients, Reflexology and Massage Therapy can help you sleep better but you can’t have reflexology every day (or can you!?) so what *can* you do to help you get a restful night’s slumber?

Hopefully after reading this article on best practices for better sleep, you’ll know!

The massage was really good and I felt lovely and relaxed after. In the evening, I felt very sleepy and slept very very well which was perfect, would highly recommend and use again!

Lesley J

What causes poor sleep?

According to the NHS website “most adults need between 6 and 9 hours of sleep every night.” But many of us fail to get that.

Reasons for lack of sleep (insomnia) include:

  • stress,
  • jet lag,
  • health conditions,
  • medications,
  • environment,or
  • even the amount you drink.

Insomnia can also be caused by other sleep disorders or mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.

How does poor sleep or lack of sleep affect us?

Initially – and most commonly – chronic sleep deprivation can affect your appearance – we’ve all seen the bags under the eyes but any less than forty-winks can lead to premature ageing (wrinkles) and even poor posture …

Not getting enough sleep will leave you feeling tired and worn out the following day. This can lead to dizziness, disorientation, clumsiness and accidents.

Not to mention the inability to carry out work to the best of your abilities, because of the “brain fog”!  And not just work will suffer, ever been tired and cranky and snapped at a loved one? There’s only so much they can take!

More serious potential problems associated with chronic sleep deprivation can be:

  • high blood pressure,
  • diabetes,
  • heart attack,
  • heart failure or stroke.
  • depression,
  • impairment of immunity;
  • and lower sex drive.

Taking all the above into account, it is obviously VITAL to get ample shut-eye.

So how *can* you ensure you get enough hours every night?

Here are 10 ways to improve your “sleep hygiene” and get a good night’s sleep:

1) Keep a sleep diary

Note down the times you go to bed, when you wake, and how many times you woke during the night. Also keep track of what you ate and drank before bed, how you were thinking/feeling, and anything else that occurred that may have affected you.

By doing this you will begin to see if any patterns emerge and be able to make changes accordingly.

Click here to download a free sleep tracker (no signup/email required)

2) Keep to consistent timings.

Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day (even on weekends) will programme your body to eventually sleep better. Don’t force it though: choose a time when you’re likely to feel tired and sleepy.

3) Create a sleep-enducing environment

Keep in mind these factors:

  • Temperature – neither too hot nor too cold. Remember to turn the heating down before bed or use a fan if too hot. Blankets are better than duvets as you can layer up or remove individually as and when needed.
  • Darkness – the darker, the better. Invest in black-out blinds/curtains or a good sleep mask.
  • Quiet – the quieter, the better. Ear plugs?
  • Comfort – room to lie down and stretch out. Is your bed big enough? If you’re sharing with a partner, do they encroach? Does you mattress need turning or even changing?

4) Limit screen time before going to bed.

Not only to TVs, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones keep our attention but they also emit blue light, which is known to effect  the body’s ability to prepare for sleep as it blocks melatonin, a hormone that causes sleepiness.

Turn them off at least 90minutes before bedtime and use a blue light filter after sun down to help you prepare for bed. Most devices now have a blue light filter which you can programme to come on automatically at designated times.

5) SET A BED TIME ROUTINE

Don’t just have a regular bedtime, but a regular routine too. This will programme your brain to recognise it’s time to switch off and “power down”.

You may want to include the following activites as part of your routine:

  • Turn off all electronics
  • Take a warm bath
  • Aromatherapy and/or self-massage
  • Meditation or visualization (HeadSpace app etc)
  • Deep breathing and/or progressive muscle relaxation
  • Read a book by a soft lamp

6) Cut down on caffeine

Caffeine interferes with the process of falling asleep, and also prevents deep sleep. Avoid tea, coffee, energy drinks or colas, especially in the evening. Try a warm, milky drink or herbal tea, such as chamomile, instead.

7) Try journalling

Lying in bed thinking about everything you have to do tomorrow or the things that happened today will keep you awake. Set aside time before bedtime to journal about the day just gone and also write a plan for the following day. That way you’ll stop thinking about them and be able to sleep better.

8) Don’t over-indulge late at night

Too much food or alcohol, especially late at night, can interrupt sleep patterns.  Food laying heavy on your stomach can make it umcomfortable to sleep and whilst alcohol may help you to fall asleep initially, it will disrupt your sleep later on in the night, meaning you don’t reach that deep, restful sleep we all need. Not to mention the ill-feeling the next day.

9) Exercise during the day

Moderate, regular exercise, such as swimming or walking, can relieve daily built up tension. But vigorous exercise, such as running or the gym, too close to bedtime, may keep you awake.

10) Don’t struggle!

If you cannot sleep, do not lie there worrying about it otherwise you’ll start to associate your bed with frustration and stress!! Get up and do something you find relaxing until you feel sleepy again, then go back to bed. 

Unfortunately, it is possible that you’ll implement all these tips and follow them dutifully, and still not experience improved sleep. If this is the case, it may mean you have a sleep disorder or other health issue. 

Make an appointment to see your GP if lack of sleep is affecting your day-to-day life.

So there you have it – 10 ways to practice better sleep. Let me know how you get on!

REFERENCES

 

Whilst the above links provide useful information on the topic of sleep hygeine and every effort is made to ensure these links are accurate, up to date and relevant, Balance Holistic cannot take responsibility for pages maintained by external providers.