Ah sleep… we all crave that good quality, deep healing sleep. Yet for many of us, it’s a rare experience. There are many reasons for this; pain or discomfort in our body, late nights on our devices, and of course stress – leading to a busy, overactive “monkey mind” churning through all the events of the day gone and the list of things for the days ahead.
Less and less people are getting deep healing sleep which is proving to be linked to a number of health concerns such as mood disorders, migraines, heart disease and obesity. You might be surprised to learn that we need at least 1-2 hours per night of deep delta sleep; and while you may be “sleeping through” the night, the deep restorative sleep may not be there (if you’re curious, try measure your sleep using a Fitbit or Apple watch, you’re looking for the sleep that measures from 1-4Hz).
So, what can we do to deepen our sleep? You may have heard the term sleep hygiene (I certainly have since trying to master my daughter’s sleep), which is all about creating the optimal sleep environment, for example:
· Minimal light in the bedroom – as dark as you can get it (block out curtains, or eye masks can help)
· No screens in the bedroom, turn off WIFI in the evening if possible
· Try to go to bed and wake at the same time each day – even on weekends
· Access to fresh air – tricky in Melbourne winter, so an air purifier could be a good option (did you know indoor plants are great air purifiers!?)
· Decrease screen time from 7pm, if you plan to be on screens in the evening, look into using blue blocker glasses
· Expose yourself to sunlight upon waking, and get outdoors as much as you can during the day
· Regular exercise – morning is best as it can increase cortisol and interfere with melatonin levels (the sleepy hormone).
Your sleep posture could also be an issue that could be keeping you awake. If you tend to sleep on your tummy, you may find that neck pain is a recurrent issue for you. Sleeping on your back or side is usually best for your spine. You may also find sleeping with a pillow under your knees or between your knees can help with comfort and spinal alignment. Having the right pillow and mattress to support your spine is also essential – feel free to discuss this with me at your next consultation.
Many of my clients find they are clenching or grinding their teeth during then night, leading to headaches and disrupted sleep. I find this can be an underlying sign of stress. If you’re not aware of what stress you’re experiencing, it could be subconscious, in which case Neuro Emotional Technique (NET) may be a great treatment modality for you to try. NET helps to identify and alleviate stress that may be manifesting physically. Other stress management strategies include meditation, mindfulness, yoga and tai chi. Lots of free resources are available through phone apps or YouTube. My personal favourites:
· Smiling Mind
· 1 Giant Mind
· Insight Timer
· Chopra Meditation & Well-being
· Yoga with Adriene
Nutritional support and herbal teas can also be helpful to improve sleep:
· Magnesium – found in green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, avocados. You can also buy magnesium in topical form (oil or gel) to rub onto the soles of the feet at night. Magnesium or Epsom salt bath is also a nice way to wind down in the evening
· Eating smaller protein rich meals in the evening at least 3 hours before bed time lengthens the bodies “down time” as it does not have to digest and metabolise food.
· Herbal teas – chamomile, lemon balm, lavender, passionflower
· Further nutritional advice and supplementation can be tested for through your healthcare practitioner
Sleep allows the body to rejuvenate, both physically and mentally, to ensure you wake refreshed to make the most of your day. Your practitioner understands the vital role that sleep can play in your health and wellbeing. If you’re unsure if sleep quality is impacting you, use this Sleep Quality Tracker. If you’re finding that sleep is becoming more of a problem for you, reach out for support from your practitioner for guidance on how to get your sleep back on track.