Stars shining bright above you;
Night breezes seem to whisper I love you.
Birds singing in the sycamore tree.
Dream a little dream of me.
(The Mamas and The Papas)
A good night's rest is one of the best things in the world. We feel relaxed, refreshed and awake. When we sleep well our body repairs itself, our mind relaxes and we process our emotional experiences. Even our dreams, chaotic though they sometimes are, can be a window to our soul helping us to unravel some of life's mystery. But don't we all miss a good night's sleep when we don't get enough of it? Before we know it we are knackered and possibly even a tad grumpy. If it becomes a regular pattern there often seems little you can do about it. But there is. There are lots of simple things you can include in your day to help your night. See some of our simple hints below to help you have a restful night's sleep.
Your sleepy questions answered:
Why is sleep so important?
We repair our physical body when we are in deep sleep during the first third of the night. The later two thirds of the night are spent in REM and lighter sleep responsible for memory and emotional regulation. We don't need to be in deep sleep the whole night to get proper rest.
Do I have a sleep problem if I wake up in the night?
Its completely normal to wake up in the night: We are evolutionary conditioned to wake up in the night, so when you do, just roll over and let your slumber flow.
How much sleep do I need?
It all depends on who you are, how old you are, what is normal for your family. You will know what is enough for you by how refreshed you feel. We need an average of 7-8 hours but some people need 4 whilst others need 10.
When should I go to bed?
Many people believe that going to bed early is better for a good nights sleep but what is more important is routine. Try and go to sleep and get up at the same time every day (+/- 30 minutes is fine).
Do I need a strict regime to get a good night’s sleep?
The less anxiety you have about getting to sleep the better. Just try and keep noise and electronic stimulation low and keep the lights dimmed for an hour or so before bed.
If I wake up in the night should I get up and potter about?
No, you should just relax and stay in bed.
Should I completely avoid caffeine?
That’s not necessary but its probably best to not have more than two caffeinated drinks a day and none after lunch time.
• Keep your room cool as if its too hot you will be restless.
• Keep your room dark as too much light disrupts the production of hormones that help us sleep. Blackout blinds can be helpful but a little crack of light is fine.
• Make sure you have a comfortable mattress. You deserve it!
Even more tips to get in tune with your natural sleep pattern:
- Minimise mental activity in the evening. Try to avoid working, doing life admin or sending those long text messages/ emails just before bed. Give your poor brain a break. Those messages can wait and they’ll be a lot better when you’re less tired too!
- Eat the right foods – Go for foods that convert tryptophan to serotonin which makes melatonin the ‘sleep’ hormone. These foods include oats and oat flowers, dates, pumpkin & sunflower seeds but also natural proteins. Herbs such as chamomile, help to relax the nervous system or influence a slight sedative action can also help smooth out any tension left over from the day. Spices such as nutmeg have wonderful sedative properties to help you get to sleep and help to prevent you from waking during sleep.
- Do the right exercise in the evenings – Try to avoid doing any high intensity workouts late in the afternoon or evening to avoid cortisol levels increasing too high. Do more relaxing exercise, such as yoga, at the end of the day.
- Alcohol is not the right antidote to sleeping problems – Alcohol is renowned for disturbing sleep. Try calming concoctions with herbs such as chamomile and valerian in to unwind.
- Start getting ready an hour before bed – Light a candle, run a bath and start letting your body and mind relax and unwind an hour before bed. The essential oils from certain herbs and flowers have been traditionally used in Ayurveda to calm an overactive system.
- Quieten the mind – Meditating is a powerful way of silencing the worries rattling around in your head. Go beyond your brain’s noisy internal dialogue and enter into a more relaxed state. Try Pukka Herbs’ Yoga Nidra CD.
- Lastly, let go of trying to sleep and giving yourself a hard time if you can’t get to sleep. Start by helping yourself to relax and the zzz’s should come naturally.