Sleep concerns are a common issue that bring patients into my office. Sometimes it is as simple as not having the right sleep environment, but often there is more at play. These are some tips and ideas for you to consider if you're looking to improve your sleep.
Having a consistent sleep schedule is very important. It allows your body and mind to have a predictable routine. Ideally you should go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day (for example 10pm to bed and 6 am to rise). Just adding this step can go a long way toward better sleep.
One of the common complaints that people have is that they wake to urinate through the night and have difficulty getting back to sleep. Try having your last drink of all liquids 2 hours before you go to bed. For example, if you go to bed at 10, have your last drink by 8pm.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed time.
This relates to the bedroom, the bed, and anyone that you are sharing your bed with. Is your environment comfortable? Is it warm or cool enough in the bedroom? Is it quiet enough? Is it dark enough? All of these things play a role in good sleep. Ideally, our bedrooms should be simple in design with no screens in the bedroom, no stress inducing items (work-related items, textbooks, etc), the temperature should be on the cooler side, it should be as dark as possible, and it should be very quiet through out the night.
When you go to bed are you ready to let go of the day and relax? Many people ruminate, worry, plan, and experience a very active mind, which keeps them awake. I recommend taking at least half an hour before you go to bed to spend time winding down. This means no screens (cell phones, ipads, computers, TVs etc) because the light from these devices gives our brain the signal for alertness. Some recommendations for winding down include: going for a leisurely walk after dinner, a bath with lavender essential oil and epsom salt, reading, meditation or a gentle yoga practice.
If you really struggle with an active mind, it's important to explore that more carefully. What sorts of thoughts keep you awake? Consider including some extra stress management or self-care techniques into your daily routine. Certain herbs are also very helpful in helping us to mentally relax. Some of these include: valerian, skullcap, passionflower, oats, california poppy, hops, chamomile and motherwort. I usually recommend it in tea or tincture format.
Other methods that I often use to help people improve their sleep: homeopathy and acupuncture. Both are effective and safe.
Get Enough Natural Light During the Day
Natural light actually helps keep our internal clock on a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Get generous amounts of daily natural light.
I hate to be a downer but this is important. Avoid long naps (if you feel the need to nap keep it to a maximum of 30 minutes), and time them so that you nap in the earlier afternoon. Naps that are too long tend to impact night-time sleep.
Adding physical exercise to your routine can help to improve sleep. If your exercise routine gets you outside, you get natural light and fresh air as well so that's a nice bonus! As a caution, some people find that exercising before bed time helps them to sleep but others find that it stimulates them too much so time your exercise in a way that best suits your individual needs.