We’ve all heard it—regular sleep keeps us fit, sharpens memory, prevents illnesses like diabetes—and ensures emotional balance. Yet getting enough sleep is becoming more and more elusive. We have endless distractions, less routines and more choices. According to Stats Canada (2010), 46 percent of Canadians will avoid sleep to complete some activity—which may not be all that surprising, but the repercussions are terrible. Not only is lack of sleep negatively impacting our productivity, health and happiness, but when we do finally lie down to rest, we often can’t fall asleep or wake up in the middle of the night.
What can we do? The first step is to develop a few sleep friendly habits and stick to them for at least one week, as it takes that long to reset your sleep schedule. It’s simple, mostly free and is sure to make an impact.
Embrace both darkness and light–regularly
If there’s just one habit to adopt for a healthier sleep, it would be to remove all electronics from the bedroom and avoid electronics an hour or more before bed—including the phone. It’s not just the buzzing and chirping of messages and apps, it’s that the bedroom must be completely dark at night. No blinking lights and no shining streetlights.
Melatonin is a hormone that has become popular as a supplement, but in actual fact it is released naturally by your pineal gland to set your sleep-waking schedule once darkness hits. In order to ensure a complete and proper reset of your sleep, simply take a walk outdoors in the morning so that your body knows it’s daytime, and then shut off all lights at night when it’s time for bed.
There are now apps to allow the screen to adjust to the day’s light and remove the high energy blue light from computer (and phone) screens as the day wanes (the brightness returns during the day). One such app is Flux. Of course, an app should never replace a bedtime routine.
Bedtime routines don’t just work for kids
You know how moms turn down the lights, give their kids a bath and read a story before bed? Bedtime routines don’t just work for kids. Our bodies naturally crave routines and even as adults we need transitions between a high activity day and settling down at night. Maybe you love baths and candles, or just like to cozy up to a cup of non caffeinated tea and a comforting book. Having a 20-60 minute daily routine that doesn’t vary too much on weekends helps the body settle down more consistently.
If you need a little extra help, I would highly recommend incorporating just a few minutes of easy yoga poses for winding down and settling the body. Spending a few minutes doing a yoga routine using inverted poses where the head is low or lower than the feet is calming before bed. Poses such as Uttanasana (standing forward bend) or Adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog), Balasana (child’s pose) and Viparita karani (lying on your back with legs up the wall) all help calm the mind. Adding Savasana (corpse pose lying on your back) at the end, paying attention to relaxing different parts of the body, starting with the head and face, moving down through the shoulders, arms, abdomen, and finally, the legs and feet. In yoga, any inverted poses, where the head is low or lower than the feet are good before bed.
YouTube has endless videos of yoga bedtime routines. Here’s a great video that contains a simple routine you can do right in bed.
Teas offer added benefit if needed, and there are plenty of tea varieties containing passionflower, or valerian, which tends to be a little stronger. Typically, these teas to be mild enough so you won’t feel groggy in the morning, but offer a little extra to help get you asleep and keep you there until the alarm goes off in the morning. David’s Tea has a couple of delicious sleep varieties: The Big Chill and Mother’s Little Helper among others. Be sure to incorporate the cup of tea early on at the beginning of the routine.
Often, getting enough sleep is as simple as getting back to the basics. Developing routine for bedtime and keeping it up for at least a week is often all we need to calm the nervous system and reset the sleep wake cycle for a great beauty sleep. There are times when the body needs extra help, and that’s when homeopathy offers remedies such as Coffea, Nux vomica and Kalium phosphoricum. More on those in my next post.
- Vigorous exercise during the day ensures a good night’s sleep (but avoid it within 2-3 hours of bedtime)
- Eat dinner 3 hours before bedtime, but a light snack before bed is fine
- Avoid caffeine including chocolate and green tea after supper, or earlier, if you’re sensitive
- If you can’t sleep after 30 minutes or more, or you notice your mind worrying soon after lying down, get up and grab a good book, meditate or listen to a relaxing audio recording.
- Remember to drink during the day, so that you don’t get thirsty just before bed and wake up to use the bathroom.
- A cool bedroom ensures a better, longer sleep.