“If sleep does not serve an absolutely vital function, then it's the biggest mistake the evolutionary process has ever made” ~ Dr. Allen Rechtschaffen, Sleep Scientist.
Despite the evolving research around the benefits of sleep, many people are simply not getting enough. For some, it's not for lack of trying.
There are two main problems to getting enough sleep:
Sleep deprivation: where we have adequate ability to sleep, but inadequate opportunity to sleep. Meaning we can sleep, but cut our bodies short of the hours we need.
Insomnia: where we have inadequate ability to generate sleep, despite allowing oneself adequate opportunity to sleep. This means despite trying, but can't generate restorative sleep.
Sleep hygiene is a term that is used a lot to describe calming practices before bed. To me that sounds like a boring cleaning practice, so behold - your Restorative Sleep Rituals!
THE RESTORATIVE SLEEP RITUALS LIST
Go to bed and rise at the same time each day: This is by far the most important on the list, if you do just one thing - let this be it. Set a rise-time alarm and a bed-time alarm, and stick to this each day of the week, including weekends.
Get morning sunlight and dim lights in the evening: Aim to get out in the sunlight first thing in the morning as this helps to establish your circadian rhythm. Similarly, dim lights in the evenings to prepare yourself for bed. Think about the days before electricity, the body takes darkness as a cue and starts preparing you for sleep with the release of melatonin, our sleep hormone.
Avoid caffeine after 12pm: For some people this stays in your system for 8 hours, so ensure you have your last caffeinated cuppa by 12pm. Herbal teas are a lovely option for the afternoon.
Relax before bed-time: Ensure you have time to relax in the evenings. Allow yourself time to wind-down, perhaps reading, listening to music, or meditating. Rushing in the evenings is not conducive to restorative sleep.
Avoid electronics right before bed: Ideally switch off all electronics at least 1 hour before bed, as the blue light is disruptive to melatonin production.
Sleep in a cool, dark room: A cool room enables sleep onset, and your room should be so dark that you cannot see your outstretched hand. If your blinds dont allow for this, try a sleep mask.
Use calming essential oils: Lavender in a diffuser can be a wonderful way to set the tone for sleep. Lavender is well known for its relaxing properties.
Don't eat or drink too close to bed: A overly full belly makes getting to sleep a challenge. Not to mention drinking too many liquids before bed will result in night-time waking to use the bathroom.
Avoid alcohol in the evenings: Many use alcohol as a way to relax, but this actually contributes to nighttime wakings as the alcohol wears off, and it also reduces the amount or rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep the body gets.
Get daily exercise, but not too close to bed: Exercise has been shown to improve sleep, but exercising too close to bed can act as a stimulant. Aim to get at least 30 minutes daily, ideally 3 hours before bed-time or earlier in the day.
Have a hot bath before bed: Not only is the bath relaxing, but our body needs a drop in temperature to initiate sleep, and getting out of a hot bath can assist with this.
If you nap, ensure it's before 3pm: 20-30 minute naps can be a useful way to recharge the body, but napping too close to bed may disrupt your sleeping patterns.
Other tools to assist: Weighted blankets, blackout sleep masks, and blue light-blocking glasses may all be useful tools to try if you are struggling with sleep.
Use the above ideas to create your own evening ritual. If sleep is problematic for you, reach out to find out how we can assist. Sweet dreams friends x
Brooke Schiller, BHSc Nat & Nut ,BCom
Brooke is a qualified naturopath and nutritionist with a focus on digestive concerns, stress & adrenal dysregulation, fatigue, anxiety, and skin health.
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Walker, M. (2017). Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams. Penguin Random House, UK.