SLEEP – What’s my take on it?
For as long as I’ve been a chiropractor I’ve been asked about sleep issues. Here is my take on dealing with an inability to get to sleep and/or stay asleep.
First off, getting to sleep is riddled with habit. Just like soothing an infant to sleep. There are cues we give our mindbody to prepare it for the act of sleeping.
1) Do all of your busy work at least 90 minutes before you plan on going to bed. This means that you tidy the kitchen, feed the dog, check the doors, change into your pyjamas, make lunches, and sign the homework agendas well before you go to bed.
2.) Do not eat two hours before you head off to bed. Digestion interferes with your body’s ability to settle.
3) Avoid any stimulants. The obvious things to avoid in the afternoon and evening are caffeinated drinks such as coffee/tea/pop/redbull/energydrinks. Also be aware that certain medications contain caffeine: Vivarin, No-Doz, Midol, Anacin and Dristan (to name a few). This is just an FYI because, really, you should be avoiding everything in this category anyways. Right? (say right … or I’m going to launch into a rather lengthy monologue on nervous system health). 🙂
4) Avoid alcohol. Although it seems like alcohol makes you drowsy, it actually significantly interferes with falling asleep and the ability to get quality sleep.
5) Avoid intense cardiovascular exercise after 8 pm. Nothing quite says sleep like a 10 km run. Sarcasm. Yoga, on the other hand, might be something you can integrate into your evening ritual – especially if it’s a restorative class.
6) Limit the use of computers, cell phones and electronics. These things rev you up when you are really trying to do quite the opposite. Have you ever typed like mad for 2 hours then jumped into bed … only to realize you are buzzing? (or is that just me?)
7) Doing homework or office work in the evening is overstimulating. If you need to do this ensure its done well before you need to get to bed.
8) Computers, homework and tv watching should NEVER happen in your bedroom. Again, this is all part of the cues you give your mindbody for ‘sleep’.
Strategies to induce a quality sleep:
1) Consider soothing herbal teas and a warm bath before bed. Both of these habits relax the body and put it into a state of relaxation. Put a few drops of lavender in the bath water or 1/2 cup epsom salts.
2) Invest in the best linens, mattress and pillows you can afford. Have you ever got into a bed that has 400 thread count crisp white sheets, the most comfortable mattress and a perfect pillow? It’s divine and since I’ve done my best to mimic that, going to bed is something I seriously look forward to. Slipping into bed and pulling the crisp white sheets up to my chin settles me right down. If you can’t imagine that, imagine scratchy cheap sheets and a flat pillow … ug. Get my point?
3) Keep your room cool and extremely dark. Again, this is about creating the right cues for sleep. Turning your alarm clock down or angling it away from you to avoid sources of light. Minimize electronic sources in your bedroom as it energetically interferes with sleep quality. Laptops and cell phones with chargers should be OUT of the bedroom.
4) IF you are going to read before bed, ensure that its something that is low key and easy to put down. Now would not be the best time for a best selling horror book.
5) Get to bed by 10 pm. Research has shown that the ‘quality’ of your sleep is affected by synchronizing your body with the rhythms of the environment. Being in bed and eyes closed well before 11 pm will greatly enhance your body’s ability to rest and rejuvenate itself. Eight hours of sleep that begins at 10 pm has significantly greater health benefits than the same number of hours of sleep that begins at 1 a.m. Something to consider and your adrenal glands will thank you for this.
6) Meditate. A few minutes of relaxed breathing will go a long way towards preparing your body for sleep.
7) Avoid suppressing your mindbody. Pills, potions and lotions (of the pharmaceutical and herbal variety) will often override your body’s messages. If you find your mind racing with information when you go to lay your head down, pull out a journal and write it away. If you find you are not ‘dealing’ with a situation in your life … DEAL WITH IT. If you know something that needs to be taken care of and you are avoiding it at all costs … DO IT. Often times insomnia is the end result of ignoring vital messages from your body.
You get what you expect. Insomnia and issues with quality sleep have the potential to make one feel like they are having an out-of-body experience. Its easy to obsess about it and consistently anticipate the night ahead. ‘Try’ and let it go. Approach each night with a sense of ease. This list is not comprehensive. I haven’t touched on the herbal and supplementation approach. For now, unwind the story for yourself and see if you can ease back on some detrimental habits around sleep and add in some supportive habits. Let me know how it goes.