Are you struggling to get great sleep? Do you wake feeling like you’ve just run a marathon – unrefreshed and perhaps with a dry mouth? Sleep is one the most important times for your body to heal and yet many people find getting a great sleep a huge challenge. Here are 5 tips to help you on your way.
1.Give yourself 2 hours for your food to digest before bed time
Many people are in the habit of eating and drinking straight before bed time. Whilst this is sometimes necessary due to getting home late from a busy day, it is important to understand that you will not sleep as well if your body is having to digest food while you sleep. If you absolutely need to eat, or drink, keep the portions small and the content light. Be sure to avoid stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol before bed.
Why is eating before bed a problem? Your body is being asked to work harder than it needs to, in order to digest the food, and so your breathing volume will increase. This can lead to snoring a can even be a factor in sleep apnoea.
2. Turn the TV, tablet, or smart-phone off at least 2 hours before bed time
Screen technology is a huge reason why sleeping problems are on the rise, and culturally we are in a time when advising to cut down screen time is likely to be met with an emotional response. Whilst emotional responses are never a bad thing, if you are reading this and feeling in any way emotionally triggered, it is worth questioning whether you may be addicted to screen technology. I call this constant need for information and stimulation, “info-obesity”.
So what’s all the fuss about? Well, first off all we know that light emitted from screens suppresses your hormone melatonin. This is your sleep hormone and so it’s pretty important to get you into the land of Zzzzs.
Secondly, stimulation from anything before bed is sending a message to your brain that it is not time to wind down, switch off, and go to sleep. Try reading a book, playing cards, or doing a crossword. Or perhaps listen to a calming podcast, or gentle music.
3. Sleep on your left side
We know that the position you are in while you sleep can affect how you breathe. Ideally your breathing volume will actually reduce during sleep, compared to when you’re awake. However, if you’ve ever witnessed anybody snoring – you know they are breathing a huge volume of air. Lying on the left side appears to be better than the right, and any side is better than sleeping on your stomach or back. Sleeping on your back is the worst position, as your mouth is far more likely to open, which will in turn increase the volume of air which you are breathing. As well as the mouth coming open, when on your back, gravitational effects play a part in upping the volume of air you are breathing.
4. Get some exercise each day
Exercise is not just for losing weight, or cardiovascular health. By moving the body for 20 minutes each day, you will help to release endorphins and increase the flow of lymph. This helps to reduce pain and inflammation – both of which inhibit good sleep. So move, stretch, walk, jump, swim, or do whatever movement you like to do. It need not be a punishing 3 hour run. Simply moving the body every day will help you to sleep better.
5. Breathe through your nose all night long
Nose breathing is the best sleep medicine. When you nose breathe, the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen is more healthy. Furthermore, you will warm, filter and humidify the air. Add to that the fact that you will mix the air with an awesome gas, called nitric oxide (produced in your sinuses). This is antibacterial and opens up air passages, so nose breathing is a great recipe for healthy sleeping. If you struggle to nose breathe, don’t despair. There are many “breathing educators” like me, who can assist you to unblock stubborn nose, and help you to learn a new pattern of breathing, which in turn will keep your nose clear more often. Sounds crazy I know, but trust me – it works!