Posted by: Integra Massage | January 31, 2011

Five Steps to Better Sleep

 

1.  Deal with sleep busting health issues

Many common health issues can have an a negative impact on sleep.  In my experience some of the most common are: chronic musculoskeletal pain, menopausal night sweats, prostate problems and IBS. Dealing with these issues can as a first step make a big difference to sleep. Many of Integra’s therapies can provide natural solutions to these common problems.

There are many drugs too that disturb sleep patterns.  Check the side effects of any medications you are on and talk to your doctor about alternatives including natural approaches.

Finally there are of course mental and emotional issues associated with insomnia such as anxiety and depression.

2. Regulate your body clock

Our body has its own internal clock driven by hormonal and metabolic changes, exposure to daylight and other factors.  Learning to work with the body clock is one of the most powerful tools we have in encouraging good sleep patterns.  The body clock cycles between alertness and inactivity on a 24 hour cycle but also on a shorter cycle which in most people is about 90 minutes long.  The following steps will help to regulate your body clock.

Keep your getting up and going to bed times consistent even at weekends.  You may feel you deserve a lie in but it will not really help your energy levels.  If possible coordinate so you go to bed at the low point of your 90 minute cycle and get up at the high point.

Exercise in the morning and avoid stimulating activities in the evening.

If at all possible get a good half hour outside in full noon daylight to trigger the melatonin switch

Minimise your use of stimulants like coffee particularly after 6.00 pm.  Understand that alcohol may induce drowsiness but it makes it harder to reach deep sleep.

If you have a nap during the day keep it less than 30 minutes so you do not enter deep sleep.

3. Get the bedroom environment right

A room that is too hot or too cold may create problems. A modest drop in temperature will encourage sleep.  Around 18 degrees Celsius is ideal, just cool enough to trigger the sleep impulse.

The darker the better. If there is a lot of light pollution from street lamps then fit thick curtains or even blackout blinds.

If your partner’s snoring disturbs you,  negotiate to sleep in separate rooms at least some of the time.

It’s good to keep the bed room as in inner sanctum free from symbols of the busy outside world.  Computers and phones for example do not belong in bedrooms.

4. Make selective use of calming or sedative herbs or supplements

There are many herbs that are effective and safe sedatives and relaxants.  Most will not knock you out like a sleeping pill, but will help you into the mentally and physically relaxed state in which sleep will come more easily.  Overtime they can help your body to re-establish a healthy sleep cycle. I usually suggest that you do not use any one herb daily for a protracted length of time.

You will get the best results by consulting a herbalist who can prescribe an individually tailored blend or herbs to suit you constitution and condition.  However here are a few simple herbs and supplements to experiment with:

¼ to1/2 teaspoon of grated nutmeg in a cup of hot milk about an hour before bed (can make you drowsy the next day).

5-10 ml of Valerian Tincture about 30 minutes before bed.

1 mg pill of Melatonin about 30 minutes before bed.

5. Employ a range of effective “wind down” tools

Sleep will come when we are both physically and mentally relaxed. Physical relaxation means releasing unnecessary tension from the muscles of the body.  There are countless relaxation exercises available on books, CDs, classes etc.  Most involve systematically relaxing each part of the body in turn using some kind of imagery or suggestion.  Focused Active Relaxation Level 1 is a particularly powerful approach which has a number of unique features.  It will be available soon as an mp3 download from Integra’s website or can be learned in one to one sessions.

Mental  relaxation involves slowing or quieting the incessant inner chatter in our minds. Again there are many approaches, some based on traditional meditation techniques, some more modern.  Most of these techniques are sophisticated forms of “counting sheep”.  In other words they offer a neutral distraction from unwanted mental activity. Focused Active Relaxation employs a wide range of such techniques to suit individual need.  One of the simplest is to focus your attention on each of your senses in turn and slowly and calmly tell yourself what is going on:  “I can hear the ticking of the clock and the sound of a distant train….. I can see the pattern on the wall paper …… I can feel the duvet over my body…. and keep doing this until you find yourself becoming drowsy.  To really learn this and other relaxation techniques, I recommend one to one sessions.

You can use such relaxation techniques to prepare yourself for sleep or to settle yourself if you wake in the night.

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Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nick Hudis, Nick Hudis. Nick Hudis said: Study shows insomnia damages relationships http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12287535. See our 5 Steps to Better Sleep http://ow.ly/3Omo9 […]

  2. Also, if your sleep is disrupted by needing to get up and visit the bathroom in the night, have your last drink for the day 30-40 minutes before going to bed, rather than immediately before turning in.

    • Oliver, this is sound advice. Needing to pass water in the night may be a sign of irritable bowel syndrome, irritable bladder syndrome, pelvic floor weakness/bladder prolaspe or prostate problems. Dealing with these issues may help to improve sleep patterns.


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