32 ways to Naturally Improve Sleep Quality
Quality rest and Sleep is essential for optimal health! Quality sleep will bring enormous benefit to all functions of the body! Sleep enables our revitalising Parasynthetic nervous system to engage, facilitating anabolic repair and growth as well as balancing our hormones. We literally get recharged from the previous day’s activities and refreshed for the tasks of the coming day. Quality sleep will equate to better fitness and athletic performance (appropriate rest is 50% of training).
7 – 8 hours per night seems to be the optimal amount of sleep for most adults (more in the winter and less in the summer). Too much or too little can have adverse effects on our health. Lost sleep is lost forever and persistent lack of sleep has a negative cumulative effect.
32 ‘Natural techniques’ to help restore quality sleep:
Normally, your brain starts secreting melatonin between 9pm and 10pm, devices that emit light may stifle this process. After sundown, shift to a low-wattage bulbs with yellow, orange or red light if you need illumination.
- Sleep in complete darkness.
Even the tiniest glow of light can interfere with our sleep, disrupting our internal clock and our pineal gland’s production of melatonin and serotonin. Close your bedroom door and refrain from turning on any light at all during the night. Cover up your clock radio and cover your windows using blackout shades or drapes. . Any artificially street lighting from outside your window will have a detrimental sleep effect.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom between 15.5 – 20 °C
Optimal room temperature for sleep is quite cool. Keeping your room cooler or hotter can lead to restless sleep. When you sleep, your body’s internal temperature drops to its lowest level, generally about 4 hours after you fall asleep. A cooler bedroom may therefore be most conducive to sleep, harmoniously enabling your body’s temperature to drop.
- Check your bedroom for electro-magnetic fields (EMFs)
These can disrupt the pineal gland and the production of melatonin and serotonin, and may have other negative effects. EMF’s are alive in wires located behind walls that may be within close proximity to your sleeping area. A gauss meter can detect these. Move electrical devices away from your bed, preferably by at least 3 feet, including your alarm clock.
It is very stressful on your body to be suddenly jolted awake. If you are getting enough sleep regularly, an alarm may even be unnecessary. Exposure to bright morning sunlight hitting our retina stops the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and gently signals our body to wake, starting adrenaline production. Outdoor sunlight is best to wake us up, so you might even want to take a quick walk outside first thing.
- Daily Walks
This will increase our physical activity and help you sleep better, by increasing exposure to bright sunlight. The brightness of the light matters, because your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. Light intensity is measured in lux units, on any given day the outdoor lux units will be around 100,000 at noon. Indoors the typical value is somewhere between 100 to 2,000 lux. If you are in relative darkness all day long, you will not optimize your melatonin production!
- Reserve your bed for sleeping only.
If you are used to watching TV or doing work in bed, you may find it harder to relax and drift off to sleep. Only using your bedroom for sleep compartmentalises habitual psychosomatic activities so we don’t create any conflicting physiological states.
- Consider separate bedrooms.
For many people, sharing a bed with a partner (or pets) can significantly impair sleep, especially if the partner is a restless sleeper or consistently snores.
- Get to bed as early as possible.
Your body (particularly your adrenal system) does the majority of its recharging between the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. In addition, your gallbladder dumps toxins during this same period. If you are awake, the toxins back up into your liver, which can further disrupt your health. Prior to the widespread use of electricity, people would go to bed shortly after sundown, as most diurnal animals do.
Bedtime routines should wind down the mind, not stimulate it, signalling the body to prepare for sleep. This could include meditation, deep breathing, using aromatherapy/essential oils or indulging in a massage from your partner. The key is to find something that makes us feel relaxed, then repeat it each night to help release the tensions of the day. Go to bed and get up at the same time, 7 days a week 365 days of the year if possible.
- Don’t drink any fluids within 2 hours of going to bed.
This will reduce the likelihood of needing to get up and go to the bathroom, or at least minimize the frequency.
- Go to the bathroom right before bed.
This will reduce the chances that you’ll wake up to go in the middle of the night.
- Take a hot bath, shower or sauna before bed.
- Wear socks to bed.
Feet often feel cold before the rest of the body because they have the poorest circulation. Wearing socks to bed can reduce night waking. As an alternative, you could place a hot water bottle near your feet at night.
- Wear an eye mask to block out light.
As discussed earlier, it is very important to sleep in as close to complete darkness as possible. However, it’s not always easy to block out every stream of light using curtains, blinds or drapes, particularly if you live in an urban area (though optimal). In these cases, an eye mask can be helpful.
- Put your work away at least one hour before bed (preferably two hours or more).
This will give your mind a chance to unwind so you can go to sleep feeling calm, not hyped up or anxious about tomorrow’s deadlines.
- No TV or electrical screens before bed.
Even better get the TV out of the bedroom. It’s too stimulating to the brain, preventing you from falling asleep quickly. Perpetual blue light exposure into the evening disrupts our pineal gland function & hormone production, tricking the body that it’s in summer (with long days and short nights). This man-made situation will increases stress hormones, increase fat loss resistance and carb cravings year round. If using a computer or smartphone, install blue light-blocking software like ‘Iris’. The program automatically alters the colour temperature of your screen as the day goes on, pulling out the blue wavelengths as it gets late. More practical is the purchase of amber lensed glasses that block blue light.
- Listen to relaxing music/sounds.
Some people find the sound of white noise or nature sounds, such as the ocean or forest, to be soothing for sleep.
- Read something spiritual or uplifting.
This may help you relax. Don’t read anything stimulating, such as a mystery or suspense novel, which has the opposite effect. In addition, if you are really enjoying a suspenseful book, you might be tempted to go on reading for hours, instead of going to sleep.
If you often lay in bed with your mind racing, it might be helpful to keep a journal and write down your thoughts before bed.
- Reduce or avoid recreational/pharmaceutical drugs if possible.
Many drugs, may adversely affect sleep. Always consult your health practitioner before changing prescriptions.
- Time Your Dinner.
Don’t go to bed feeling overly-full or starved. Our last meal should be about 3 hours before bed. This allows adequate digestion, reducing food decomposition and free radical production. Otherwise our body will have to devote energy to digesting your food when it should be recharging during sleep.
- Don’t Eat Erratically, Eat at regular times.
Regular Meal timings create natural biological rhymes that create efficiently harmonious homeostasis. Chaotic eating times can will disrupt hormone cycles and stress the nervous system impacting sleep.
Caffeine is not metabolised efficiently so takes hours to clear our system. It blocks a brain chemical called adenosine that would otherwise help you to fall asleep. Stop caffeine intake in the afternoon from 2am onwards to help you fall asleep at night. Be aware that some medications contain caffeine like some headache medication. Avoid nicotine (stop smoking) and other stimulants like artificial food colourings/ flavourings, refined carbs, sugar and energy drinks.
- Avoid alcohol.
Although alcohol will make us drowsy, the effect is short lived and we will often wake up several hours later, unable to fall back asleep. Alcohol will also keep you from entering the deeper stages of sleep, where your body does most of its healing.
Exercising for at least 30 minutes per day can improve your sleep. However don’t exercise too close to bedtime or it may keep you awake. If you don’t have time for a full workout, at least do some stretching or bodyweight exercises.
- Lose excess weight.
Being overweight can increase your risk of sleep apnoea, which can seriously impair your sleep.
- Avoid foods you may be Intolerant to.
Sensitive reactions can cause excess congestion, gastrointestinal upset, bloating and gas, and other problems that can impair sleep.
- Have your adrenals checked by a good medicine clinician.
Scientists have found that insomnia may be caused by adrenal stress/fatigue.
- If you are menopausal or premenopausal.
Get checked out by a good natural medicine physician. The hormonal changes at this time may cause sleep problems if not properly addressed.
- Set the right calming sleep environment
- Chronic usage of sleeping aid drugs is problematic.
The goal should always to be able to induce sleep unaided (ear plugs and eye masks are the exception). Even if the drug claims to be non-addictive a psychological dependency can result. Sleeping pills being sedatives typically slow your breathing and may cause you to breathe much shallower than normal.
Hope these practical tips are helpful.