The Harvard Women’s Health Watch suggests six reasons to get enough sleep:
* a good night's sleep can help learning and memory;
* chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite;
* insufficient sleep can lead to poor performance and accidents;
* sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness;
* serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat;
* sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells.
Here are ways to get a better night's sleep:
1. Have a sleep routine
Going to bed and waking at the same time (even at weekends) helps to improve your ability to sleep and the quality of that sleep. Avoid evening naps by keeping active until bedtime.
2. Get out into natural light
Long days in the office under artificial light can make your brain sleepy, while hours in front of a TV or computer screen can suppress the body's production of melatonin, making it harder to sleep. Get out during the day - walk to or from work or go for a walk at lunchtime - even in winter when light levels are poor, this will help your sleep patterns. The exercise you get from your walk will also help you sleep better at night.
3. Make sure your bedroom is sleep friendly
Keep your bedroom cool and well ventilated. Keep your bedroom dark - use blackout blinds or a mask to keep light out. Have your bedroom as quiet as possible, and if you can't avoid noises from neighbours or barking dogs, use soothing sounds or earplugs to mask external noise. And, of course, make sure your bed is comfy. If you wake with a sore back or aching neck it may be a sign that you need a new mattress or a different pillow.
4. Prepare for bed
Have a bedtime routine: as well as brushing your teeth and getting ready for bed, incorporate relaxing activities into your bedtime routine: try doing a 15 minute relaxation, or some gentle yoga exercises. To allow you to be totally relaxed, empty your head: write down all the things that you want to do tomorrow, or anything that is worrying you, or anything that you need to think about, or anything that you need to remember to do. Get it all down on paper, so there's nothing for your mind to chew on as you try to get to sleep.
5. Eat yourself sleepy
For a better night's sleep avoid big meals and fatty food late at night, alcohol, caffeine, and smoking all of which will disrupt sleep patterns. If you find yourself waking at night for a snack, try having a light snack before bed - a handful of almonds or a couple of oatcakes with half a banana, honey, a slice of turkey or cheese may help keep your blood sugar stable throughout the night. You might also want to have a cup of chamomile tea or a glass of warm milk.
6. Get rid of anxiety
If worry keeps you awake at night, this is may be a stress problem, not a sleep problem and you need to address the source of your worry. You may benefit from meditation, or you may need to learn how to manage your thoughts, or perhaps enrol on a stress management course. If it's a problem and you're not sure what to do for the best, go to your GP for advice.
7. Try a Reflexology treatment
Sometimes it's nice not to have to do everything yourself, so consider getting support from a Reflexology treatment. Many clients talk about getting a great night's sleep after a treatment - it's almost as it a Reflexology session has the effect of pressing a reset button in the body. That's not to say that you won't need to take action yourself, but you know what they say about a problem shared is a problem halved!
If you're experiencing poor sleep and would like to try Reflexology to discover if it will help, click this link to email me and ask about my special discount for new clients.
Wishing you sweet dreams.