Oh, the elusive sleep monster. It’s so frustrating - the harder you try to sleep the harder it is to get to sleep. ARG!
This is the most common issue I see day-to-day with my clients, AND, it’s the #1 cause of many health problems.
A lack of sleep is down-right exhausting, but it has also been connected to - sugar cravings, insulin resistance, and a higher incidence of heart disease and obesity.
…but telling you that didn’t make your sleep problem any better, did it?
So instead, let's focus on the what we CAN do instead of all of the problems. It’s just way nicer this way, being scared about the problems caused by a lack of sleep isn’t going to help you drift off to dreamland…
When it comes to sleep, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of answer (I really wish there was). Sometimes it can take many years and many experiments to find what works for you - but your solution is out there. I know it is!
A little story before we get started -
A colleague of mine worked with a woman who hadn’t slept well in more than 20 years. She had tried all of the sleeping pills, supplements, and every sleep technique but still, sleep eluded her. And then she tried just one more thing - she wore socks to bed. After 20 years of trying EVERYTHING, she finally got a great night of sleep, all she needed was warmer feet.
You never know what will work for you, so please please please, just keep trying :)
A few tips to get a great night of Zzzzzzz’s -
The first 3 tips live under a category called “Sleep Hygiene”. Our bright lights and screens wreak havoc on our sleep and these techniques help to bring back our natural light/dark cycle or circadian rhythm.
For some, you must do all of them for it to work…others can pick and choose 1 or 2 of them. Do a bit of experimenting to find what your body likes :)
1. Put a Night Shift program on your screens -
Our screens (phones, TVs, tablets, and computers) all emit a white/blue light that tricks our brain into thinking it’s still daylight.
Many operating systems now come with a Night Shift app that automatically shifts the blue/white light to a more eye-pleasing orange/red colour. You can set it for a specific time or you can link it to your time-zone so it changes at sunset and goes back to normal at sunrise. Usually, it’s gradual and it isn’t overly noticeable…but your eyes will be much happier.
If your electronics don't have this built-in - try the free app “f.lux” or pick up a pair of red, orange, or yellow glasses and wear them after sunset. They really work!
2. Better yet - dim the lights and turn off your screens -
For some, the bright back-lit screen is too stimulating, even with the colour-shift. An hour before bed dim the lights in your house and do something quiet and relaxing - like a epsom salt bath or curl up in bed with a good book (one with real pages instead of a power button).
Watching TV in bed can be a difficult habit if you’re struggling with sleep…especially if you turn it on in the middle of the night. It might feel soothing at the time but it stops your natural melatonin production. (sorry to all the TV lovers)
3. A cooler room with natural fibre sheets -
Our bodies tend to sleep better in a cooler room rather than a warmer one…but we each have our own preference.
If you wake up sweating in the middle of the night (even if it’s hormonal), then you’d probably sleep a bit better with a cooler room and natural fibre sheets that breathe nicely.
Experiment with your room temperature and look for one that feels the best. Like Goldilocks, we want it to be just right.
4. Try some natural sleep aids -
If you’ve been to your local health food store for a sleep supplement you’ve already seen the enormous amount of products that are available. It’s super confusing and hard to know where to start.
Melatonin - this is a low-cost, safe, and effective solution for some. Research has looked at the long-term use of a high dose of melatonin (4-20x higher than most supplements) and found them to be safe for long-term use. It works for a lot of people, but for some, it can cause sleepless nights or nightmares. If it works for you - keep it up!
Magnesium - Does your body have trouble relaxing when you try to go to sleep? Do you have restless legs and/or a lot of muscle tension? If so, you could benefit from some extra magnesium. 200 - 400mg per day (taken with dinner) and/or an epsom salt bath can help a lot :)
Passionflower - Do you wake up in the middle of the night with your brain spinning? If so, passionflower may be a great solution for you. It calms and relaxes the mind. My favourites are: Botanica’s Passionflower tincture or Sleep+ Time Release by Genuine Health (this is a combo of melatonin and passionflower)
Herbal blends - herbs like to work together, and there are some great blends on the market. My two favourites are -
Botanica’s Valerian Sleeptime Compound - this a great blend that includes hops, a GREAT sleep aid
U Dream - Everywhere I turn I hear another testimonial about this great new sleep product. If you’ve tried everything else, give this one a go. Everyone is raving about it!
5. Be in bed by 10pm -
Are you sleeping kinda okay but feeling groggy all day? Or, do you get more energy the longer you stay up? Both are signs that your body would like you to be in bed a bit sooner.
The hours between 10pm and midnight are particularly restful and beneficial. This is when your body is releasing melatonin as well as Human Growth Hormone (an amazing anti-aging natural hormone). Staying up past 10pm can trigger a bit of a cortisol release for some of us, giving that burst of energy…and making a good night sleep almost impossible.
Head to bed a bit earlier and you might find that solves a lot of your sleep problems.
Bonus - Just can’t sleep? Try Yoga Nidra -
Yoga Nidra is a type of guided meditation that brings you to a very VERY deep state of relaxation. Some will bring you to that relaxed state and then bring you back (for daytime), and others will leave you in that relaxed state (for nighttime).
One of my first experiences with the benefits of Yoga Nidra was on an overnight flight to Belize. I only had 4 days in Belize and I didn’t want to lose any precious time with the ocean trying to recover from a sleepless night on the plane.
I had enjoyed a yoga nidra class about a year earlier and loved how refreshed I had felt after the class, so I downloaded a few sessions online and hoped for the best.
And it worked like a charm!!
I spent most of the flight in a restful state and felt great the next day. A man sitting in the row in front of me even said; “Wow! You can SLEEP! I’ve never seen anyone sleep so deeply on a plane.” Now I always bring it with me on overnight flights and I use it whenever sleep is eluding me.
You can use Yoga Nidra right at bedtime, if you wake up in the middle of the night, or through the day to get some extra rest. They say that 45 mins of Yoga Nidra provides the same rest as 2 hours of sleep.
When it comes to sleep every minute counts, so try out some of these tips and hopefully you’ll be sleeping better very very VERY soon :)