When I was younger every night I would get so excited to go to bed just so I could wake up and start a fresh new day. These days I still have that pizazz for the waking hours but I cherish every moment that I get of deep restful sleep as well. Being a new mom, I cherish the nights that I get to sleep straight thru, even though they have been few and far between this past year and a half! When I talk about healthy sleep I want to know how many hours of uninterrupted rest someone is getting, not how many hours they have laid in bed. This can be quite a difference, rolling around restless making lists in your head for the next day is not counted for hours of good sleep!
Sleep hygiene refers to healthy habits that can promote the ability to sleep longer and deeper, making it easier to fall asleep and waking up refreshed and ready for the day! Sleep is a very important part of life and the journal Scientific American states that "Sleeping is an integral part of our life, and as research shows, it is incredibly complex. The brain generates two distinct types of sleep—slow-wave sleep (SWS), known as deep sleep, and rapid eye movement (REM), also called dreaming sleep. Most of the sleeping we do is of the SWS variety, characterized by large, slow brain waves, relaxed muscles and slow, deep breathing, which may help the brain and body to recuperate after a long day."
Many of my patients do not get a full night of restful sleep, luckily Chinese Medicine is very effective in treating sleep disorders especially acupuncture and herbal medicine. These modalities can help to calm the nervous system and bring relaxation to the body and mind. They can also help address the underlying cause of poor sleep patterns. Remember that your behaviors during the day and activities in the evening have a large impact on the quality of your sleep as well.
Whether it is difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep thru the night, or you are waking early, or waking tired, these tips hopefully will help you get more restful sleep!
Tips for Good Sleep
- Avoid stimulates- This varies for each person but if you are struggling with poor sleep, stay away from caffeinated beverages and snacks after about 1-2pm. If you are a person that is sensitive to caffeine try to eliminate them altogether.
- Get regular exercise- Exercise will help keep the body fit, and help keep stress levels low. Stress tends to be one of the major causes of poor sleep.
- Try to keep a regular sleep schedule- Try to have a "bedtime" and a wake up time that stays relatively the same through the course of the week. I know due to work schedules, and busy life commitments this may be challenging but do your best!
- Exposure to Natural Light- Allowing your body to com more in alignment with the natural light cycle will help regulate your circadian rhythm and sleep cycle.
- Reserve your bedroom for relaxation and passion- This means no cell phones, computers or TV in bed. Decreasing these external distractions will help to promote an atmosphere more conducive to sleep and rest.
- Eat a resonable dinner- Eating too much or too late will cause the body to focus more on digesting then preparing to sleep through the night. A great rule is to try to eat within a 12 hours period on the day, especially if you are eating breakfast at a reasonable time.
- Don't drink excessive fluids before bed- Waking to urinate is a major nusiance and affects many people, so limit your liquid intake a few hours before bedtime.
- Soak your feet in warm water- Soaking your feet before bed, especially with a few drops of lavender essential oil or Epsom salts can help to bring a sense of calm to your body and mind.
- Drink a cup of tea- There are some amazing herbs and herbal tea blends that can help promote more restful nights, such as chamomile or passionflower. There are also some amazing Chinese herbal formulas that work wonders too!
- Get a comfortable pillow- This tip changed my life! I used to have a hard time getting comfortable, or waking with a stiff neck, but then I got my self a foam contoured pillow! Play around with pillow shapes, sizes and materials. (I suggest thin and foam)
- Try meditation- even five minutes a day especially in the evening can help promote a sense of relaxation and wellbeing!
If you are still not sleeping well after applying all these changes, talk to a well versed healthcare practitioner, or make an appointment and we can discuss more specific lifestyle change and more indepth herbal options...