12 Tips To Get You Sleeping And Feeling Great Again
September 3, 2015 | Published by Dr. Eric Bakker
This is part two of my article on insomnia and sleep disruptions (read part one here). In this article, I offer tips to help get you sleeping and feeling better again.
- Exercise to better manage stress and tension
Exercise gives your body and mind a chance to unwind, leading to better sleep. It could be something as simple as a 20 minute walk, a quick swim or bike ride at least three times weekly. What’s the big deal? Do you find yourself saying I don’t have time to exercise? Consider these words of wisdom: “Those who don’t make the time for good health now will find plenty of time for ill health later.”
If you get stressed and tensed at work, the ideal time to exercise is later in the day. Exercise when it suits your lifestyle, whether it be early morning or late afternoon. Exercise is a classic example of investing your time in an activity which is guaranteed to give you rewards later on. A one hour exercise session makes your other 23 hours so much more effective.
- Avoid going to bed hungry or right after eating
Going to bed with a full or empty stomach means you are not going to get a good night’s sleep. Your digestive system needs time to digest and process food. Going to bed right after eating disrupts this process, leading to gas, stomach rumblings and discomfort. Sleeping with an empty stomach will leave you waking up with low blood sugar levels (an “empty tank”), especially if you suffer from adrenal fatigue. Sometimes eating a small snack, even a little piece of cheese, can do the trick.
- Watch the caffeine
Avoid coffee or caffeinated drinks at least 6-8 hours before bedtime, especially if you have problems sleeping. Coffee, tea or chocolate may stimulate you for several hours after, causing disturbed or restless sleep. Be aware that caffeine-containing foods or drinks may also clash with certain prescription drugs causing further sleep issues, so be sure to ask your doctor about anything you’re taking.
- Sleep on a good bed
This is a BIG one. You are less likely to get a good night’s sleep on a worn out old bed, or one that is too hard, too soft or too small. I replaced my bed recently and what a huge difference it has made. Do you wake up regularly with a sore neck or back? Is your bed sagging or creaking? It’s time to replace it. Remember: you spend a lot of time sleeping; why should you put up with a crappy bed?
Don’t think it is a silly idea to invest in a nice new bed. A good bed can be expensive and may require saving, but will be worth every penny. After all, a quality bed could mean the difference between a great night’s sleep and a feeling like you woke up after sleeping all night on the ground in a tent.
- Be careful to rely on sleeping pills
There are several risks in relying on sleeping pills to get good sleep. For one, you can quickly build up a tolerance–even after using them for a week. Sleeping pills can also make you drowsy throughout the day, and make it more difficult to get up in the morning. It can also be difficult to wean off sleeping pills. Some people experience “rebound insomnia,” where sleeping problems worsen after quitting.
See your naturopath, local pharmacist or natural foods store for non-drug options to help you sleep at night. One thing I suggest is taking 400 mg of magnesium citrate about half an hour before bed. Magnesium works well, especially if you drop the coffee, chocolate and alcohol from lunch time onward.
- Do your best to stop smoking
Research has shown that those who smoke heavy take longer to fall asleep, awaken more often and spend less time in the deep (REM) sleep phase. Because nicotine withdrawal can last two to three hours after their last puff, smokers may actually wake in the middle of the night craving a cigarette. Improved sleep is one of many benefits to quitting smoking.
- Drink in moderation
Many people think that a drink will help them get to sleep and stay asleep, but drinkers don’t sleep as well as those who drink in moderation or not at all. According to many different studies, even moderate drinking can suppress REM sleep, the deep sleep we need in order to wake up refreshed. Too much booze with dinner can make it hard to fall asleep, and too much later at night can make it harder to stay asleep.
- Go for quality over quantity
Six solid hours of good sleep is better than eight or more hours of light or disturbed sleep. Don’t stress over getting exactly eight hours of sleep every night. If six hours does the trick several times a week, you may well find that a nap here or there for twenty minutes may be all you need. Quality counts, so experiment with what is right for you.
- Become a napper
Some people, like my wife, actually feel worse after naps. Not me; I have a chill-out session at least three times weekly for twenty minutes in my office on a carpeted floor. I call it my TPM sessions, or “twenty peaceful minutes.”
Try it yourself: lay down on the floor or couch between 2.00pm – 3.00 pm. This time slot is probably the best, due to the naturally lower level of cortisol your body produces at this time. By the time I get up, I feel very refreshed and relaxed. It’s what I call a “defrag of the mind.” It is not that I lack the sleep; I need these sessions to help me re-focus and get my mind from the busy beta into the relaxed alpha state.
- Take time outs
Here is a simple way to break out of the stress-sleeplessness cycle. Take regular “time-out” sessions during the day. It could be something as simple as closing your eyes. Several times a day close your eyes, take a few deep and relaxed breaths and meditate on a relaxing scene. It can work wonders.
- Get more organized to worry less
Some folk lie in bed thinking of what they should have done during the day, or about tasks they have to perform the next day. Try to deal with work-related distractions before you hit the sack. Make a list of tasks before you go to bed may help. Write out anxieties or worries and possible solutions; this will save your mind having to do this while you are supposed to be resting. Tell yourself that you will sort it the next day.
Try not to go to bed until you resolve disagreements you care about. It is true; we all have disagreements or arguments with our partners or loved ones from time to time. The trick is in resolving the matter before bed so your mind can rest. Do you go to bed after an argument and lie there churning things over in your mind? Relax before you go to bed to get yourself in the right frame of mind, and if you do have indifference it is important to resolve the issue as much as possible in order to have a “clear head.”
- The melatonin question
When you are asleep, melatonin–which is made from the “feel good” hormone called serotonin–is released from the pineal gland in the brain. When you are awake, serotonin aids in many different functions, including muscular contractions. Restless and fidgeting at night are often the result of a confused sleep-wake cycle and can point to a serotonin (too much) or melatonin (not enough) imbalance.
Although Melatonin supplements appear to help with better sleep, it is not necessarily better quality or longer sleep. A recent study demonstrated that the differences between 0.01 and 10 mg dosages were not significant. In comparison, the average adult human produces 1 mg of melatonin in a 24-hour period, whereas most supplemental tablets come in 2 mg tablets or higher. Melatonin is still a controversial subject, and my advice before you take melatonin is to try other things first such as the suggestions above.
About the author: Eric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 27 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida, psoriasis, as well as adrenal fatigue, thyroid and digestive disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. He has also written what may well be the most comprehensive Natural Psoriasis Treatment Program available. You can find more articles by Dr. Bakker on his blog at www.ericbakker.com
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