Some of the following suggestions may help to improve your sleep.
You don’t have to be a Jane Austen fan to enjoy supper. A light meal half to one hour before sleep will steady blood sugar levels. It takes the average bear 3 to 4 hours to digest a meal, after which blood sugar bottoms out. For some people, low blood sugar levels disturb sleep quality.
So, if you eat dinner early, it makes sense to top up with a small nibble before bed, but nothing too heavy on the tummy like a roast, as this will only cause nightmares and a restless night. Good supper choices are a piece of cheese and an apple or a pear, traditional hot milk (cow or soy) and honey, or a mug of soup.
Bath before bed
A hot bath an hour or so before bed will help you slide gracefully into the land of nod — just remember to get out of the bath first. While the warmth will relax tense muscles, immersing the body in hot water also raises body temperature a degree or two. In a 24 hour period, our internal body temperature is coolest when we are deeply asleep. People are like fridges. We like to keep our body temperatures fairly stable, so by artificially raising temperature in the bath, like a refrigerator our bodies will try to adjust the thermostat, sending down body temperature and tricking us into feeling ready for bed. For added soporific effect throw a handful of Epsom salts and a few drops of lavender oil into the bathwater. As usual, my advice to those without a bathtub — move.
Herbs are excellent for insomnia. While lacking the sledgehammer effect of sleeping tablets, somniferous herbs don’t carry the risk of addiction. Herbs such as Passionflower, Californian Poppy, Skullcap, Hops, Kava, St. John’s wort and Valerian work by relaxing muscles, calming the mind and acting as a gentle sedative. (Note: for about one in one hundred, valerian has exactly the opposite effect and is likely to keep you awake, this herb is not for you). Good sleeping patterns are to be cultivated. Don’t throw away your herbs after one or two good nights, you need to get into a routine — at least ten nights of good sleep in a row. Herbs are best taken after dinner and before bed. The secret to sleeping success through herbs, is dosage (high) and diligence (regular). (Some herbs may interact with medication, check with your health practitioner)
Starch for dinner
If you suffer insomnia, give up the Atkins diet NOW. Eating starchy foods at night will help you sleep. Starches including rice, pasta, bread, potatoes and pumpkin increase a natural chemical in the brain, serotonin. Serotonin makes us feel good and is sleep-inducing. Which explains why a starch based meal at lunch will send you to sleep mid-afternoon. Mashed potatoes, ravioli, linguine, lasagne and risotto. Bring ‘em on!
Feeling stressed is a major player in sleep deprivation. Firstly, give yourself a stern lecture about the futility of worrying. Worrying won’t solve your problems, particularly at 2 am. If the lecture doesn’t do the trick, then relaxing the body and emptying the mind of thoughts will. Of course, stressing about relaxing only defeats the purpose, creating just another worry. The secret is to ‘get out’ of your mind (before you ‘go’ out of your mind) and the best place to go is into your body! For most people this doesn’t come naturally. Letting go of thoughts is a skill, and like any skill needs to be practiced. Those rascally yogis have come up with a nice little technique that thankfully doesn’t require you to lotus in a loincloth, or bend into an unnatural position in 50-degree heat. The practice is called Yoga nidra and literally means yoga sleep. There are various forms, but most focus on becoming aware of the body sensations as your mind travels up and down from toe to head and everywhere in between. You can learn this technique from a yoga teacher, or tapes and CD’s are available.
Not sleeping well becomes it’s own stress. Try to calm yourself into thinking that you will eventually get to sleep. Alternatively, if you are the competitive type, there’s always the Guinness Book of records to consider.
Alcohol is a sedative, and a couple of stiff drinks may make you sleepy However, alcohol tends to disturb sleep patterns. Enjoy a maximum of two glasses of alcohol, some people find even this is will affect sleep.
- Don’t take B vitamins at night, they are too stimulating.
- Avoid caffeine after 12 noon.
- Exercise daily, but not 3 hours before sleep
- Night work is a disaster, even worse are rotating shifts. Avoid if at all possible.