There's no doubt that a poor night of sleep reduces your ability to function at an optimal level the next day. When sleep is broken or inadequate on a regular basis it becomes not only frustrating but also a risk factor for chronic disease.
Adequate, good quality sleep is one of the best medicines that we have. Research has shown that a lack of sleep can have a negative impact on:
- Body weight (obesity)
- Heart disease
- Mood disorders
- Immune function
- Life expectancy
How much sleep do we need?
Setting your sites on around seven or eight hours sleep is recommended. Too much or too little are both considered to be damaging to health.
Often people who don't get enough sleep simply don't allow enough time to get a good sleep. Setting up good sleeping habits requires you to make a routine allowing for enough hours sleep between when you go to bed and when you need to wake up. Don't get trapped on the computer, in front of the television or in the suspenseful novel until the early hours of the morning.
How can you get a good night's sleep?
Sometimes our sleep is interrupted by noisy neighbours, small children or snoring partners. These causes of sleep deprivation need to be managed as best we can however they are external causes and not related to your inability to sleep.
If you aren't being disturbed from your sleep by an external cause and just can't fall asleep or stay asleep, then there are a number of measures which may assist:
- Unwind before bed - Use your last 1 or 2 hours prior to your bedtime to unwind. Have a bath, listen to soft music, dim your lights, avoid computer screens (that includes tablets and phones with backlit screens), enjoy a calming herbal tea (Cool, Calm and Collected Tea perhaps?) and vaporise relaxing essential oils such as lavender or chamomile.
- Avoid eating late at night - Refrain from eating a heavy evening meal and try not to eat within an hour or two of bedtime.
- No caffeine after lunch - Coffee and other caffeinated drinks/foods should not be consumed after lunchtime.
- Exercise at the right time - Exercise helps to tire us out and can improve sleep but if you have trouble sleeping then high intensity exercise should be saved for earlier in the day.
- Learn to relax - You could meditate or do relaxation exercises in the lead up to bedtime.
- Set the scene for sleep - Make sure that your bedroom is peaceful, quiet and dark. This means no televisions! Your bed and pillows need to be comfortable.
When these interventions are not enough, speak to your practitioner about how your sleep can be improved. This may be the case if you are struggling with:
- A busy mind or a high stress situation
- Excessive dreaming
- Nocturia (waking to urinate often)
- Body pains
- Heartburn or acid reflux
- Hot flushes or night sweats
- Simply can't fall or stay asleep and don't know why.
There are several complementary and alternative therapies which aid sleep including:
- Acupuncture - one of the great side effects of acupuncture is relaxation.
- Herbal medicines - sleep herbs are not just limited to valerian. Often a personalised herbal medicine formula can be designed to address your specific sleep disorder.
- Nutritional medicines - there are several vitamin and mineral deficiencies which may contribute to poor sleep.
- Dietary modifications - some foods may disturb sleep in some individuals.
- Massage - relaxation and improved sleep are often reported following a massage.
Poor sleep is not something to 'cope' with. It is worth investigating its cause and identifying which therapies work for you. You need to get enough regenerative sleep to help your body to function optimally and besides a good sleep makes you feel great!