Maybe this has happened to you? You go to bed, tired and determined to get a good night’s sleep because you’ve had such a busy day. You’re absolutely sure that you’re going to sleep like a log. And then BAM! as soon as your head hits the pillow you can’t sleep to save your life. You find your head racing with thoughts and the more and more you wish you could just fall asleep, the more anxious you become.
Or are you one of those people that managers to fall asleep but then wakes up in the middle of the night and it’s PING! you’re awake and you know you’re not going to get back to sleep for hours.
Either way, lack of sleep can leave you feeling anxious, irritated, frustrated and of course tired!
Well did you know that your diet, lifestyle and stress levels play such an important role in how well you sleep or not as the case may be?
Ideally you should be aiming for 7 – 8 hours sleep, any less than this and you’re not doing the best for your health. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that because you can easily sleep for 9 or more hours that you must be healthy. Sleeping too much can also show signs that there’s something not right.
So I have put together some advice on how you can overcome those sleepless, restless nights.
Did you know that poor diet could be causing your poor sleeping pattern? Researchers in Pennsylvania investigated how poor diet could cause poor sleep and from their research they came up with the following results:
Short sleepers (less than 5 hours per night) consumed the most calories, had the least variation in their diet, ate the least variation of different coloured fruits and vegetables especially red & orange ones, had the least intake of vitamin C, mainly ate green vegetables, ate less of the mineral selenium (found in nuts, meat & shellfish) and they drank the least water.
Normal sleepers (7 – 8 hours) consumed less calories than the short sleepers and had a good variety of different healthy foods in their diet and drank more water.
Long sleepers (9 or more hours) consumed the least calories, they consumed less theobromine which is found in tea and chocolate and also drank more alcohol.
The full report can be read HERE.
I'm sure from this it is easy to see that the best diet for a good night’s sleep is a good, healthy one with lots of variation in the fruits and vegetables consumed and to drink lots of water. You can read more about how to follow a healthy diet in my blog post HERE.
Manage your stress levels
It is well known that stress affects your ability to sleep properly. When you get stressed a number of hormones are produced including adrenaline, noradrenaline & cortisol.
These 3 hormones affect your body in many different ways including:
Increases heart rate & blood pressure to pump blood to the muscles quicker.
Increases the blood clotting capability in the blood to stop us bleeding to death should we be attacked.
Expands the air passages of the lungs & quickens our breathing so that we get more oxygen into our blood stream.
Alters the metabolism and increases the blood sugar level so that the cells of the muscles can produce more energy.
If you go to bed whilst stressed there will most probably be hundreds of thoughts racing around your head. These hormones will be having a field day as they run around your body causing you to become not only emotionally tense but also physically. Is it hardly surprising that you can’t sleep when you are in this state?
To overcome the stress response in the body you need to invoke the relaxation response and there are many different ways in which you can do this. The best way is by doing a mentally active process that quietens the mind and thus relaxes the body.
Methods such as meditation, mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), deep breathing and hypnosis can all help bring on the relaxation response. To get the most benefit out of them, however, they must be done on a daily basis. This daily practice will help you control those thoughts that are racing around your head and I’m sure you will find that you can cope much better with the daily stresses in life and sleep better at night.
Check out Youtube where you will find lots of different audio-visuals for meditation, mindfulness, PMR, deep breathing and hypnosis. I can’t stress enough, however, that for the most benefit you need to do them every day.
You can read more about how stress affects the body and what you can do about it in my blog post HERE.
Cut down on the stimulants
The definition of a stimulant is determined as something that raises levels of physiological or nervous activity in the body. I’m sure it makes sense that if you want to get a good night’s sleep the last thing that you need is something that is going to have that sort of effect on your body.
Stimulants can come in many different forms; caffeine and nicotine are two well known stimulants. Research undertaken at Rochester University showed that smoking disrupts the body clock and can cause sleep disturbance. Whilst caffeine has been shown to disrupt sleep even if it is drunk upto 6 hours before bed.
Having a busy lifestyle can also be classed as a stimulant. Is your life busy, busy, busy all the time? With work, home life and children, all putting the pressure on you? And then there's the constant noise from the T.V., internet and the phone. How often do you actually take time to slow down?
Cut down on the stimulants and you cut down on the production of those stress hormones.
So To Sum Up...
If you want to have a good night’s sleep then you should be looking at introducing the following into your lifestyle:
Eat a healthy diet
Reduce your caffeine intake.
Stop smoking. This is always going to be a massive step towards helping to improve your health and well-being and your sleeping patterns.
Slow the pace of your life down. Cut down on your commitments. Plan your day so that you take regular breaks and that you find time to relax properly on a daily basis.
2 hours before bed start winding down. Turn off the tv, put books away, turn off the wifi.
Have a relaxing bath and meditate or use some other stress management technique that is going to quieten your mind.
Try drinking some chamomile tea.
And sleep tight!...
Find out how I can help you improve your physical and emotional well-being here.
Disclaimer: Always consult with your GP before embarking on any health regime.