“Sleep is the best meditation.” – The Dalai Lama
Sleep is one thing that everyone needs to give them the motivation to function fully and have a productive day. Some people will sleep all night and the following day too given the chance, while others can’t even get to sleep in the first place. This is known as ‘insomnia’.
There are several known reasons for which people may not be able to sleep and during the summer months, it can be even harder as the weather temperature is often erratic, leaving us sweating on some nights and shivering on others. Are you guilty of any of these traits? It might be time to rethink your nightly schedule…
1. Using electronic devices
The bright light that is produced by phones, laptops and tablets will affect your sleeping pattern. The light affects the ‘melatonin’ which is produced within the body (this is basically a hormone which induces sleep). Televisions can also affect this… or simply wake you up at random times. Have you ever fallen asleep with the TV on? Sometimes programs feature loud noises which may wake you during the night. So, how can you protect your melatonin? The best idea is simply to stop using technology a few hours before bed. And don’t fall asleep with your TV on! Swap it for a good book, magazine or podcast – but make sure it’s nothing too good or you won’t want to sleep and that totally defeats the point, doesn’t it?!
2. Taking sleeping tablets
Many people find that taking sleeping tablets before bed helps them get their much-needed rest. The only problem with this is that the body begins to rely on these quick fixes, meaning you will be unable to sleep without them. On the other hand, the body can eventually begin to get used to these fixes, stopping them from working properly. Find relaxing activities such as reading a book before bed with a mug of hot chocolate and if you must take a sleeping tablet, take half of your regular dose.
3. Drinking stimulating substances
It seems obvious, but many people do not think this through… At night time, try to avoid drinking caffeine. This can be found in coffee, Coca-Cola, and many other sugary and fizzy drinks. Caffeine can cause your hormones to fluctuate, meaning you might wake up irregularly during the night. Drinking a glass of alcohol before bed might help you get to sleep faster, however can affect sleeping patterns, leading to drowsiness the following day. Although better than a hangover, it is not the best method for getting to sleep… Another thing to avoid is cheese. Although unlikely to affect your sleeping cycle, cheese is said to promote nightmares, so you just might want to skip the cheese toast before bed. Opt for alternatives such as a hot chocolate, herbal tea or even just a glass of cold milk to calm your nerves after a long day. These options will help you to relax your body and hormones.
4. Drinking, well, anything actually
Eating meals and drinking fluids close to bedtime actually makes it more difficult for us to sleep. Our bodies have to work harder to process and digest food at night time, making us feel bloated in the morning due to us having put on weight overnight. When we drink before bed it can disrupt our sleep, leading us to wake up needing the toilet during the night. Professionals actually recommend not to drink anything within 90 minutes before we go to bed.
Update: there is so much to this subject that we have recently added a blog outlining the habits we should be in in regards to drinking fluids before bedtime. Find it here.
Many people complain that their minds ‘wake up’ when they are lying in bed. All of a sudden, their minds are full of unnecessary and irrelevant thoughts. Lying awake for hours can be stressful in itself. To combat this, try keeping a cheap notepad and pen by the bed and write down any important notes, so they aren’t forgotten by morning. Writing down your thoughts should allow your brain to be emptied and encourage a peaceful sleep.
Another way of combating stress is to practice yoga before bed. Have a good stretch, taking time to focus on breathing calmly and try to relax all of your muscles.
6. Trying to ‘catch up’ on sleep
If you lose out on sleep one night, it is a common misconception that you need to catch up on this the following evening. Try to stick to your regular sleeping pattern to feel better, happier and healthier.
7. Sharing the bedroom with pets
Animals have varied sleeping cycles. Ever been disturbed by animals jumping around the bed or a hamster running on his squeaky wheel at daft-o-clock in the morning? If so, it might be worth moving their pet beds or cages from the room for a few nights and see if your sleep pattern improves.
8. Being overly cold
We can’t all afford to heat our homes every night before bed and it can get very cold, even in the summer months! No one wants to shiver under their blankets before falling asleep… Invest in a good quality hot water bottle to keep you warm throughout the night. It may be tempting to curl up in a ball and begin hibernation, especially during colder nights, but stretching your legs out helps improve the circulation of blood, making your body warmer – plus, it’s healthier for your joints to stretch them.
Make a change to your pre-sleeping habits and hopefully you will notice a change in your quality of rest, giving you a new lease of life and a spike in energy levels during the daytime. Sweet dreams!