Two of the most common complaints I hear from workshop participants and clients are stress and problems sleeping. Stress is a huge problem in today’s society and one that I will certainly be going into further in the future. For today’s blog we’re going to be looking at ten top ways to improve the quality of sleep for your whole family.
As adults we need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night but a 2016 showed that unfortunately 94% of Australians are not getting enough quality sleep. The results also showed that on average Australians are getting just 6 and a half hours sleep per night. Research has also shown that people who sleep less than 6 hours a night have shorter lifespans than those who sleep for seven to eight hours. The immune system doesn’t work as effectively when we are tired and we become more prone to any bugs and infections that are going around. In 2014 it was estimated that more than $10 billion was spent on remedies to help people sleep.
In today’s society we are working longer hours, using more technology, and not taking as much time to relax. No wonder we have such a big sleep problem. There are some simple and safe natural remedies that could be worth trying before you head to the doctor. It’s also very important to look at the underlying issues too and to address these where possible.
1. Use essential oils
Essential oils are natural aromatic compounds from plants that can support the body emotionally, physically and spiritually.
My favourite dōTERRA essential oils to support a restful night are vetiver, marjoram, lavender peace (calming blend) and/or cedarwood. Add these to the diffuser or make up a spray bottle and scent your pillow. You can also make up a roller bottle. Mix the essential oils with a carrier oil (such as fractionated coconut oil) and roll onto your feet, wrists and spine.
You could also try adding something relaxing like lavender to an epsom salt bath prior to going to sleep.
This study showed that using lavender oil prior to going to sleep helps you have a deeper night’s sleep.
2. Turn off technology
Light from electronic devices stimulate the brain and we therefore find it much harder to switch off. Stop using all technology (computers, phones, ipads etc) at least an hour before you go to bed. Try reading instead as this will relax the mind. But do this on the sofa, not in the bedroom.
3. Set the Temperature
Ensure that the temperature of the bedroom is not too warm. According to Dr Christopher Winter, a neurologist and sleep expert 15-19 degrees centigrade is the optimal temperature for sleeping. He has also found that temperatures above 24 degrees and below 12 degrees causes sleep disruptions. 15-19 degrees seems cold to me! If you are someone who finds it difficult to warm their extremities (I always have cold feet), think about wearing socks to be. This study shows how this can help you fall asleep more easily.
Take time before bed to relax and do some deep belly breathing. Deep breathing stimulates the para-sympathetic nervous system allowing you to relax and unwind. A great free app that I love to use is called ‘insight timer’ which has many recorded meditations and relaxing music.
Process all thoughts over dinner (whilst talking with your family), writing a journal or planning the next day during the (early) evening. Therefore by the time you go to bed you will hopefully have cleared your head.
5. Develop a routine
If you want to go to bed and be asleep by 10pm, start to get ready by 9pm. Set an alarm an hour before you want to sleep and stick to it.
Our body’s love routine and rhythm so try to go to sleep at the same time every night and set an alarm to wake up at the same time.
Your bedroom should be your sleep sanctuary, not somewhere to work or watch television so respect the space and what it is intended for (sleep and sex!) The colour of your bedrooms can also have a calming effect so choose carefully and ensure that they are a matt finish.
Various studies have shown that aerobic exercise can improve the quality of sleep and help insomniacs to fall asleep. Do not exercise too close to bed time however as this can be over-stimulating for the body and mind.
7. Sleep in darkness
We now live in a 24/7 society and our bodies can often get confused when is the correct time to sleep. By ensuring that our bedroom is darkened, our bodies will sleep much better. If you have an alarm clock with a bright screen, cover it up. I bought one so bright a few years ago that I took it back to the shop because it illuminated half the bedroom!
If you think about nature, when we go camping we tend to go to bed much earlier (when it gets dark) and wake up earlier as the sun rises. You may also be surprised how much more energy you have if you follow more natural rhythms.
8. Review your drink
Both alcohol and caffeine can stimulate the body’s central nervous system resulting in a disturbed night’s sleep. You may think that they both help you sleep but once the alcohol and/or caffeine have worn off, you may potentially wake in the night and not be able to return to sleep easily. Over the counter sleep medications may sometimes contain caffeine so be aware of anything that you are using as a sleep aide. Chamomile tea on the other hand contains no caffeine and is a great to incorporate into your evening routine.
9. Review your food
Cherries contain melatonin, the sleep hormone which helps control the body’s internal clock. Research has shown that drinking tart cherry juice before bed can improve the quality and quantity of sleep.
Carbohydrates in the evening can also help people fall asleep according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Beware however of spicy foods which can lead to indigestion or heartburn. Sweet foods can also spike sugar levels making it difficult to fall asleep. However when the sugar levels later drop, this can cause you to wake and stay awake.
A magnesium deficiency can also cause problems sleeping so ensure that your intake is sufficient naturally, or through supplementation (check this with your doctor if you are unsure).
Remember that digestion slows to approximately 50% when you are sleeping so don’t go to bed on a full stomach, especially high protein foods.
10. Natural Supplements
Valerian and chamomile are two examples of teas that are caffeine free and would be a great addition to your night time routine. If you are concerned about drinking too much fluid before bed time, they can also be found in capsule form.
dōTERRA has also just released the serenity restful complex to promote healthy relaxation and sleep. It contains lavender essential oil as well as lemon balm, passionflower and chamomile. The initial reports that I am hearing are fantastic. Not only are people sleeping better but they are also waking up much more refreshed too.
In addition………Did you know also that 53% of pet owners who allow their dogs to sleep on their beds experience sleep disturbances every night. From personal experience I can vouch for this but I would find it hard after all these years not to allow my dogs to sleep on our bed. But paws for thought!
If you would like to discuss essential oils or other methods to help you sleep, contact me to find out more. Earlier in the year I had a lady come to me as last resort before going to the doctor and after an initial assessment we were able to work through her concerns and allow her to have the best sleep that she’s had in years. She never had to make the trip to the doctor. I work with the medical field closely and where necessary I will refer you on. But why not try natural solutions first ?