Sleep. It’s something we all know that we need, and most of us know that we could be doing it better! So why is it so hard?
Not all sleep is created equal…8 hours doesn’t necessarily cut it. However, if you are like the resounding majority of people, you will be happy to know that it is a science and with constant healthy sleep hygiene habits you…Yes YOU can also have a great night’s sleep!
So how much sleep should you have? The National Sleep Foundation released the results of a world-class study that took more than two years of research to complete in 2015. They reviewed over 300 current scientific publications and concluded that an adult from between the ages of 26-64 years of age should be averaging between 7-9 hours per night.
Caveat – now we must mention that we are talking about your average person, without a medical condition.
It’s important to have a regular, healthy sleeping routine. We all have sleeping cues/routines that are formed early on which help us to achieve sleep. The more you create your habits around the following activities, the higher quality of sleep you will be able to achieve.
Your sleeping posture is so important. Replace your mattress after 7yrs of age and make sure you use one pillow which supports the natural curves and alignment of your spine. Regularly rotate and flip your mattress (if possible) every three months. If sleeping on your back, you can place a pillow underneath your knees and if on your side, you can place a pillow between your legs to support your low back.
Our body clocks are set with going to bed with the setting and rising of the sun. That is not possible for most people, however the earlier you go to bed the better your sleep will be. A good goal is from 10pm-6am. An hour before 12am is equivalent to 2 hours after 12am. Ideally our sleep should be dreamless and deep (no waking, bathroom visits, or tossing and turning).
Setting the Mood
It will be impossible for you to get to sleep if your mind is still switched on. Dim your lights once the sun has gone down. Remove anything from your bedroom that emits and artificial light and connects you to the external world (phone/TV/laptop etc.). The only activities allowed in your bedroom are sleeping and lovemaking! Some great tips to help improve your sleep quality are: A hot bath with lavender oil, a banana (potassium), a mug of warm water or herbal tea, reading a fiction book (do not fire your brain up with work books). Find what works for you and stick with it!
Be gentle with yourself when you wake up. Jumping out of bed and switching the lights on jolts your system. Set some nice music to wake you up, do your stretches and roll onto your side to get out of bed. Take some time to set your intentions for the day. How you start your day will set the mood for the rest of your day. See our earlier blog on morning rituals if you want some more tips on how to supercharge your morning.
You are what you eat
Your body will only perform as well as you treat it! We cannot emphasise this enough. Make sure you are well hydrated throughout the day and eat foods that will nourish your body. To stay hydrated we need to drink at least 1 litre of water per day for every 22kg of body weight. If you are in a heated/cooled environment (air-conditioning) you need to drink more. If you are thirsty you are already dehydrated. Our body works harder if we do not eat foods that are easy for it to digest. Your diet should mainly consist of fresh fruits and vegetables.
As human animals, our bodies are designed to walk miles per day, climb and forage. Therefore, daily routines such as sitting at a computer or in a car all day will significantly reduce your quality of sleep. Make sure you increase your heart rate at least 3-4 times per week with exercise that makes you sweat. Swimming, cycling, running, tennis, football, martial arts, gym… whatever you like! The more fun and sociable the activity, the more likely this will become a healthy habit for you.
We know how important exercise is for your body, however we neglect the mind. How many thoughts does your body have per day? We are constantly problem solving and live in a high paced, stressful world. Meditation is like taking the garbage out and clearing out your subconscious, so you can have more clarity, focus and a greater sense of wellbeing. Take control of your mind, don’t let your mind control you! Anywhere from 15-60 minutes of meditation a day is wonderful. The true benefit is felt with daily practice and we encourage you to build it into your routine. The best time to meditate is first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
A final note.
If you are experiencing symptoms such as sleepiness during the day or when you expect to be awake and alert, snoring, leg cramps or tingling, gasping or difficulty breathing during sleep, prolonged insomnia or another symptom that is preventing you from sleeping well, you should consult an integrative health professional to determine the underlying cause.
So there it is! Start integrating some of these healthy sleep habits into your daily routine and let us know how you go…and if you feel like you need some help, give us a call.
Here is to your best night’s sleep!
Dr A and Dr J