Suggestions for Better Sleep

Suggestions for Better Sleep

We spend around a third of our lives asleep

Suggestions for Better Sleep

We spend around a third of our lives asleep, but what happens when we can't sleep? Your health can deteriorate at a rapid pace. 

Here is all you ever needed to know for a perfect nights sleep:

Minimise or Avoid Stimulants 

• Avoid alcohol (wine, beer, and hard liquor) within 3 hours of bedtime. 
• Avoid caffeine-containing beverages or foods after 2 pm; if sensitive to caffeine, avoid it after 12 noon. These items include Pepsi, Coke, tea, coffee, and chocolate; coffee- or espresso-containing ice creams or desserts). Read the labels of everything you eat and drink! 
• Avoid Sudafed or other decongestant cold medicines at night. 
• Some medications may have stimulating effects. Consult your pharmacist and doctor to determine whether any of them might be contributing to sleep problems. Do not discontinue them without permission from your doctor. 
• Complete any aerobic exercise before 6 pm (or at least 3 hours before bedtime).

Night time Tension and Anxiety 

Avoid anxiety-provoking activities close to bedtime: 
• Avoid watching the news before going to bed. 
• Avoid reading stimulating, exciting materials in bed. 
• Avoid paying bills before bed. 
• Avoid checking your financial reports or the stock market before bedtime. 
• Avoid arguments before bedtime. 
• Schedule difficult conversations well before bedtime—preferably at least 3 hours before. 
• Try to achieve some action plan or resolution of a discussion or argument before trying to go to sleep.

Sleep Planning and Bedroom Preparation 

• Plan your sleep by putting it into your schedule; plan for 8½ to 9 hours in bed. 
• As much as possible, go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. This will help train your biological clock. 
• Avoid getting in bed after midnight as late-hour sleep is not as helpful as earlier sleep. 
• Avoid late afternoon or evening naps. 
• Avoid naps longer than 45 minutes unless you are sick or quite sleep deprived. 
• Avoid large meals or spicy foods before bed. 
• Finish all eating 3 hours prior to going to sleep. 
• Avoid drinking more than 4-8 ounces of fluid before going to bed. 
• Take a hot salt/soda aromatherapy bath-Raising your body temperature before sleep helps induce sleep. A hot bath also relaxes muscles and reduces tension. Add 1-2 cups Epson salts (magnesium sulfate absorbed through the skin is very relaxing) and ½ to 1 cup baking soda (sodium bicarbonate which is alkalising to a stressed out acidic body) to 10 drops lavender oil (helps lower cortisol levels).

Strategies to use with Trouble Falling Asleep or Staying Asleep 

• Consider reading a good neutral book under low light to help with falling asleep. 
• Don’t stay in bed more than 20-30 minutes trying to fall asleep. Leave your bedroom and go to a relaxing room other than the bedroom and read or do a relaxation technique (e.g., meditation). 
• If you awaken early because of light, put a dark covering over your eyes. 
• If you awaken early because of recurrent thoughts, try writing them in a journal. If this does not help, consider counselling. Depression might be a factor.

•Try the 4-7-8 method. Exhale completely through your mouth, making 'whoosh' sound. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to mental count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to the count of eight. This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times or more.

•Restless leg syndrome is characterised by an aching, crawly or prickly sensation in the legs when lying still, or the urge to move them. This could be a magnesium deficiency. If so try the epsom salt bath as explained above, soaking for 20 to 30 minutes, three times a week. Alternatively you can buy over-the-counter magnesium, or sprays or oils that absorb directly onto your skin.

•Consider hypnosis or relaxation apps or CD's. Andrew Johnson and Glenn Harold are both great at relaxing you and letting you drift off. Also try Pzizz, Sleep Genius, aSleep and Headspace. Headspace in particular teaches you how to meditate.  

Bedroom Air Quality 

• Keep your bedroom air clean, especially if you have nasal congestion or are prone to snoring. Use HEPA or other types of air purifiers/filters to clean the air in your bedroom. Use the filter on a low setting at night if the noise is soothing. Otherwise use the filter on a medium setting for 4-6 hours during the day. 
• Consider cleaning the vents in your house once a year; change your furnace filters every 3 months. 
• Avoid toxic glues or other items producing an odour. 
• If you see mould or have a musty smell in your bedroom, have it checked or cultured for mould with culture plates. If there is mould, have the house evaluated for water leaks and air quality issues to be fixed and see that the mould is cleaned appropriately. 
• If your nose is blocked and you have trouble breathing through it, take the above steps and consider using a saline spray before bed. Also consider Breathe-Easy strips on your nose. Make sure you read the instructions and fit the strips over the lower third of your nose.

Light, Noise, Temperature, and Environmental Issues 

• Turn down the light in the bathroom and in rooms you are in 15 minutes before going to bed. 
• Decrease the light in your bedroom by using a dimmer or a reading light with a dimmer. 
• Use dark window shades or consider a set of eye shades or a black covering for your eyes when trying to sleep or if you awaken too early because of light. 
• Decrease irritating noises in your space by closing windows, using ear plugs, or using a white noise generator or a HEPA air filter. 
• Turn off or remove any appliances or clocks that make noise. 
• Make sure your sleeping area is the correct temperature range (not too hot or too cold). 
• Avoid sleeping near electric fields. Try to have your head at least 5 feet away from electric fields, if possible. Possible sources of electrical fields include: electrical outlets, clock radios, stereos, computers and monitors. Consider moving these devices or moving your bed or your position in the bed. Consider using a Tri Field or other meter to test for these fields. 
• Avoid sleeping on a water bed or an electric mattress because of the excessive heat and the electric fields. 
• Consider replacing your pillows with hypoallergenic pillows. Use ultrafine allergy pillow and mattress covers.

Further Strategies for Dealing with Night time Tension and Anxiety 

• Avoid repeated negative judgements about the fact that you are unable to sleep. 
• Use positive self-talk phrases regarding your ability to relax and fall asleep: “I can fall asleep.” “I can relax.” “Any amount of sleep I get is just fine.” 
• Try writing in your journal any disturbing thoughts that are running through your mind. 
• Schedule a time within the next few days to deal with whatever is troubling you. If you are having trouble managing your concerns for more than a few weeks, consult your healthcare provider for treatment suggestions or a counselling/therapy referral. 
• There are many relaxing yoga or stress reducing mindful breathing CDs or DVDs available to help you find a relaxing bedtime ritual that works for you. 
• Consider ½ hour exposure to a blue or 10,000 lux bright light (first thing in the morning) if you are going to bed too late and want to shift to an earlier bedtime.

Bedding and Pillows 
• Consider using a “side sleeper” pillow for under your neck when sleeping on your side 
• Consider using a body pillow to hug and put between your knees to align your back and shoulders at night. 
• Roll backwards at a slight angle onto a body pillow if you have hip bursitis. 
• Sleep on the highest quality bed linens you can afford.