How to improve our sleep

Having trouble falling asleep or waking up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep?

What can we do to improve the quality of our sleep? 

  • Stick to a schedule: get up at the same time every morning no matter what your night’s sleep has been like.
  • Sunlight: get outside into the sunlight for 40 minutes when you get up, light is stimulating and one of the main time-givers to the body clock.
  • Exercise: do some kind of exercise/physical activity each day, but earlier rather than later in the day. Exercising too close to bedtime will make it even harder to fall asleep.
  • Hop in a bath: 1½ hours before bedtime. This raises the body’s core temperature which then causes it to cool, a biological signal that it is time to snooze.
  • Food and drink: eat early. Try and finish your meal by 6.30pm so your digestive processes will be at rest when you go to bed. If this is impossible, have your main meal at lunchtime and eat lightly at night.
  • Herbal remedies: herbal teas such as valerian or passionflower work well for some people.
  • Give up nicotine: it is a stimulant that contributes to insomnia.
  • Develop a bedtime ritual: follow the same routine every night.
  • Go to bed by 10pm: our bodies are designed to stay in sync with nature’s cycles, including daylight and darkness. We are ‘programmed’ to sleep at night.
  • Sleep sanctuary: make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary- somewhere you look forward to being.
  • Remove electronic gear: remove as much electronic equipment from your bedroom as possible. TV’s, computers, mobile phones are all symbols of activity, sources of anxiety and serious distractions from dreamland.
  • Cool and dark: keep your bedroom cool and dark. Being too hot in bed interferes with the necessary drop in body temperature needed to bring on sleep. A slight drop in temperature tells the brain it’s time to sleep.
  • Cover the clock: hide the face of your alarm clock. Looking at it every 5 minutes can make your insomnia become entrenched.
  • Music: having soft instrumental music playing with a slow or rhythmic beat can be helpful.
  • Essential Oils: use pure essential oils with therapeutic properties to assist you in sleeping. Lavender, Sweet Marjoram, Orange and Mandarin are just some that have proven to assist with disturbed sleep patterns.
  • Use the ¼ hour rule: if you haven’t been able to go to sleep within 15 minutes, get up and go in to another room which has minimal or no lighting and do something boring or non-stimulating (don’t watch TV or work on the computer).  When you feel relaxed, comfortable or a bit sleepy, go back to bed.
  • Focus on staying awake: ‘paradoxical intention’, where you concentrate on staying awake with your eyes open, is a proven technique based on the concept that performance anxiety helps prevent proper sleep. The technique involves persuading a person with insomnia to engage in the feared behaviour of “staying awake”. As you stop trying to fall asleep, the performance anxiety of trying to fall asleep slowly disappears and before you know it you are in the land of Nod.
  • Reduce stress and anxiety in your life: stress is one of the major causes of insomnia. Massage and aromatherapy are very effective in helping improve sleep patterns, reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.
  • Practice stress reduction techniques: meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, deep relaxation techniques such as relaxation response and progressive muscle relaxation.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This technique involves breathing in at the same time as tensing a particular muscle group, holding for 4 -8  seconds then breathing out and relaxing the muscle, staying in the relaxed state for 10 seconds before moving to the next muscle group. You can do this just before you go to bed or while lying in bed.

  • Start at your toes and work up to your head.
  • Starting with your toes, take a deep breath in and scrunch up your toes for 4-8 seconds, relax the toes as you breath out, hold this relaxed state for 10 seconds.
  • Legs + feet together. Squeeze all leg and foot muscles together as above.
  • Hands.
  • Hands + arms.
  • Buttocks.
  • Abdomen (pull in and hold).
  • Shoulders -roll your head gently from side to side then hunch your shoulders, lifting them off the bed as you breathe in, hold for 5 seconds, breathe out and relax.
  • Face –breath in, squeeze eyes tightly shut, wrinkle forehead, frown, clench teeth, purse lips hold 4 -8 seconds, breath out and relax.
  • Breathe in deeply and stretch out your body.