What we do directly before sleep affects our rest and dream patterns. Follow our tips for a great night’s sleep.
We all know how important a good night’s sleep is for our health and general performance: if we are tired we are less capable and struggle to conduct ourselves as effectively. So to encourage a healthy long uninterrupted sleep is paramount; how do we go about achieving this? Does the age-old adage about eating cheese before going to bed giving you nightmares hold any weight? The following will give you some pointers as to what not to do before hoping to head off for a lengthy slumber; and what you can do to achieve a deeper sleep.
One major factor to be aware of with respect to sleep patterns is that we must regulate our melatonin levels if we wish to achieve restful, consistent sleep. Melatonin is the hormone which regulates our sleep/wake cycle, or ‘circadian rhythm’.
1. Avoid certain foods and drinks
What we eat affects our bodily functions as well as our mood and so it is obvious that we must consider that foods which we know affect us negatively or disrupt our daily life when we are awake may well also affect us during sleep. Caffeine can stay elevated in your system for as long as six to eight hours, so steer clear of this at least eight hours before heading to bed; avoid, tea & coffee, fizzy drinks, chocolate. Alcohol is known to cause, or increase, the symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring and disrupted sleep patterns. It also alters nighttime melatonin production, which plays a key role in your body’s circadian rhythm. Another study found that alcohol consumption at night decreased the natural nighttime elevations of human growth hormone (HGH), which plays a role in your circadian rhythm and has many other key functions. Other foods to avoid which can disrupt your sleep: fatty foods, high sugar cereal, hot and spicy foods, high-protein or high fat meals, raw onion, green tea. Foods that increase melatonin production include white and black mustard, almonds, sunflower seeds, passion flower tea, cherries, kiwi fruit, and flax seeds. While not as strong, oats, barley, bananas, ginger, omega 3 rich fish and tomatoes also increase melatonin.
2. Dinner time
Eat at least four hours before you expect to be going to sleep to allow your body time to digest and reduce any effects your meal may have on you while you sleep.
3. Screens away
Within the last few years, experts have found that our screen time could be disrupting our sleeping in a big way. Reading using a digital device can greatly reduce our melatonin levels, leading to poor sleep. This habit can also delay our chances of falling asleep by around an hour and a half. This can make us feel a lot less alert in the morning as well as reduce energy levels. The best advice is to stay well away from any devices at least one hour prior to going to bed and keep them out of the bedroom altogether. Buy an alarm clock instead of making the excuse that you need your phone to wake you up! It is a huge temptation to have a peek at your messages, but this only leads to a disruption in your thoughts and often follows on into your sleep. Keep devices well away from the bedroom, and do not engage in ANY screen activity at least one hour prior to going to bed.
4. Daylight saving
Daily sunlight or artificial bright light can improve sleep quality and duration, especially if you have severe sleep issues or insomnia. If you make sure you absorb plenty of natural light throughout the day and cut back on blue light this can help your melatonin levels. If you read from actual books or magazines or newspapers rather than on a screen this can help you to have a better night’s sleep.
Before going to bed it is essential that we avoid taking the stresses of the day with us into our slumber. These will only serve to disturb our natural sleep pattern by perhaps affecting our dreams, wake us up mid-sleep, or even prevent us from dropping off in the first place. So, before bed make sure you carve out some time to relieve some pressure: read a good book, take a long hot bath, light candles, apply essential oils with calming properties or place a few drops on your pillow or a napkin nearby, meditate, have a decent yoga-like stretch, have a long talk with a close friend or family member who will make you laugh or smile, and very importantly plan and prepare for the next day. If you are ready for everything facing you tomorrow you will be able to switch off safe in the knowledge that you are prepared. All of these will help to calm you down and allow you to gently drift off with peace of mind.
6. Keep a sleep schedule
If you keep to a regular pattern your inner body clock will help you to manage your sleep. If your body knows you regularly go to bed at a certain time it will begin to set your rhythm to this. You will get used to sleeping for those hours, your body and mind will naturally begin to wind down at the chosen hour and wake you up when required. We are that amazing!
7. Environment is paramount
Make sure your sleeping environment is calm, clear and comfortable. To be able to sleep deeply we need to rest in an agreeable place. Some are more sensitive than others to light and sound when trying to sleep so for those who struggle, wear an eye mask or invest in some black-out curtains, wear ear plugs, ensure that your pillow and mattress supports your frame, and your sheets and blankets are comfortable.
8. Natural supplements to help you relax
- Ginkgo biloba: A natural herb with many benefits, it may aid in sleep, relaxation and stress reduction.
- Glycine: A few studies show that 3 grams of the amino acid glycine can improve sleep quality.
- Valerian root: Several studies suggest that valerian can help you fall asleep and improve sleep quality. A valerian tea could be a soothing and calming drink before bed.
- Magnesium: Responsible for over 600 reactions within your body, can improve relaxation and enhance sleep quality.
- L-theanine: An amino acid that can improve relaxation and sleep.
- Lavender: A powerful herb with many health benefits, lavender can induce a calming and sedentary effect to improve sleep.
So if you’re still wondering about the cheese thing – it isn’t an exact science but stronger cheeses are harder to digest and therefore can potentially have a disturbing affect on your dreams, which, in turn, can cause restlessness.
Sleep well everyone!
Become Qualified in Dream Therapy
Here at the School of Natural Health Sciences we offer over 60 Holistic Therapy Courses. One of those is Dream Therapy – a distance learning diploma course of 9 Lessons that offers an introduction to sleep, its functions and dream analysis. The course is of value both to the layperson with a keen interest in dream analysis and interpretation, as well as the Therapist who is looking for holistic methodology with real examples worked out to show technique and style of analysis.