What you can do to get a restful night’s sleep
By Deb Dittner
Sleep is so very important and needs to be taken seriously when it comes to your overall health.
Going to bed at the same time each evening and waking at the same time each morning is important. Falling asleep within approximately 20 minutes of resting your head, then remaining asleep throughout the night without waking up more than a couple times is a goal. Looking at your lifestyle will help you in achieving a healthy sleep.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that you may experience from time to time, consisting of difficulty falling or staying asleep then not achieving that well-rested feeling. Insomnia can be due to poor sleep habits, stress, anxiety, depression, a lack of physical movement, certain medications and certain illnesses. Identifying the cause of sleep issues and treating them appropriately can take time while searching for the root cause.
What might cause your inability to get a good night’s sleep? Let’s explore the possibilities:
• Caffeine – Caffeine has a long half-life, taking its time to get out of your system. Consider minimizing the amount of caffeine you have by eliminating the mid-afternoon pick-me-up and substituting with a small green tea. Stopping caffeine intake by noon may also be beneficial.
• A midnight snack – Eating your last meal of the day (especially if it’s a heavy meal) at least three hours before resting your head will allow for appropriate digestion to occur. If you feel the need for a bedtime snack, consider something light, avoiding fatty, spicy or acidic foods. Adding a magnesium-rich snack such as pumpkin seeds or whole grain crackers with hummus can also aid in better sleep.
• Stress – Stressful situations or events throughout the day can cause you to be unable to shut the mind down come nighttime. Consider activities that slow the heart rate down such as meditation or yoga. Journaling or creating a gratitude journal by writing down three things you are grateful for that day may help.
• Travel – A new environment with different sounds and smells or possibly jet lag can cause difficulty in falling asleep. Melatonin may be considered but do consult your health care provider first.
• Alcohol – Drinking alcohol before bed may be thought to have a calming effect on the body and mind but it actually reduces sleep quality and length while increasing disturbances. Timing is of the essence. Having a glass or two at least three hours before bed will allow for digestion. Drinking a glass of water for each alcoholic drink will help to rehydrate the body and prepare it for restful sleep.
• Exercise – You know the need to physically move is important, but right before bed is not necessarily a good time. Exercise can actually get you wound up and raring to go. Working out at least three to four hours before resting your head will reduce your core body temperature needed to acquire that restful sleep. You still need to make sure you are moving daily and doing something you enjoy, like running or walking, yoga, kick-boxing or whatever makes you move. Without enough exercise, your body won’t feel the need to rest come bedtime.
Now that you may have determined the cause of your sleep difficulties, let’s explore what you can do to improve a night’s sleep:
• Prepare your room – A bedroom that is cool, quiet, and dark will produce the best night’s sleep. Consider darkening shades or curtains or an eye mask possibly scented with lavender (a calming essential oil). Turn the temperature down in the winter months or cool the bedroom down in summer heat. Add a noise machine to drown out busy streets or if you live in the country, the sound of crickets is delightful. A good quality mattress and firm pillow allow the body to relax.
• Consistent bedtime and awakening – A sleep schedule will help encourage your natural melatonin, a hormone telling you it’s time for sleep. Getting into a rhythm will allow for restful sleep.
• Pre-Sleep – Approximately one hour before resting your head, turn off all electronics (iPhone/iPad, TV, computer, etc.) as these devices stimulate the brain, not allowing you to wind down as needed. Consider this time to journal or read. Consider an Epsom salt bath with therapeutic grade essential oil of lavender. Consider a calming cup of tea. Consider evening yoga such as child’s pose, legs up the wall, and corpse pose. Consider breathing techniques to calm the mind.
If you still find that sleep does not come easily consider consulting with your primary provider as there may be underlying causes to your situation. A restful night of sleep allows you and your body to be prepared for the next day and all it has to offer.
Deborah Dittner is a family nurse practitioner and health consultant. Her mission is to transform as many individuals as possible through nutrition and lifestyle changes.
For more information, check out her website at www.debdittner.com or contact her at 518-596-8565.