Getting enough sleep

Our sleep quality diminishes as we age, when stress levels increase or, of course, when we have children.

There are just so many factors to getting a good night’s sleep!

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1) You lack routine. I honestly felt that I got more sleep when my children were babies. Now with my kids in activities, the “bath, book, sleep” routine is harder to enforce, but it’s still necessary.

The Sleep Foundation has a chart available (see inset).

For some of us though, it isn’t the timing. Some of us have problems falling asleep and staying asleep.

Exercise (preferably earlier in the day), your breath quality (read my article “The benefits of proper breathing”) throughout the day and through the night, your stress levels, hormones, mattress quality, and nutrition and meal timing all have to do with sleep quality. I used to believe feng shui was nonsense before I applied some simple techniques to my home that truly changed the way I felt. For instance, the head of your bed should always be across from the doorway to induce restful sleep. Try it out and see if it makes a difference.

2) If you are wide awake at night and find it really, really hard to get up in the morning, despite trying to establish good sleeping habits, you might want to see your doctor to get your cortisol levels checked. This rings true for people who watch every hour on the clock. Before seeing your doctor though, make a note on how much caffeine, nicotine or other stimulants you are putting into your body on a daily basis. These all alter your stress hormones affecting your sleep. Exercising earlier in the day will also help with increasing energy in the morning and hopefully get you in a rhythm of gradually feeling tired as evening approaches.

3) If you are waking up between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. every single night, your liver might need a detox. See my article on safe juice detoxing. I have and never will support quick fix or magic pills that advertise detoxing or rapid anything. Our bodies are meant to detox naturally. However gentle cleansing and eliminating stimulants, depressants and poor food choices are all involved in safe and effective detoxes that everyone can participate in with their doctor’s and/or pharmacist’s approval. Pregnant or breastfeeding women cannot participate in detoxing, nor can people on certain medications. This supports holistic health’s understanding that each person is biochemically unique and therefore every recommendation needs to be designed individually.

4) Are you snacking before bed? When you are asleep, your body is in a fasted state. (Thus the first meal after this is called breakfast – breaking the fast.) The fast helps provide rest and repair to our bodies. When we put food into our bodies during a time where the body is preparing for rest, you are robbing it of the time and ability to heal itself. Your digestive system will be working hard trying to digest food making it very hard to stay asleep. Give yourself at least three hours before you know you should be asleep, to cut the snacking.

5) If you’re like me and are involved in everything under the sun, you might want to consider doing a “brain dump” before bed. These are when all those rambling thoughts creep up at night. We can’t stop thinking about them. Grab a pen and notebook (not using your phone or laptop). Psychologists actually support writing to feel this release of anxiety or pressure when we write it down. Keep writing and writing until every task is written down. Then in the morning or whenever you have time next, sort the info into tasks that are first, second and third priority.

6) In the age of technology, a lot of us have our devices plugged in beside our bed. We use them as alarm clocks, and with most people moving away from having landlines, we use them as our primary phones. If you must have your phone in your bedroom, put it on airplane mode overnight so your sleep is not disturbed by the frequencies. This goes for TVs and computers. Turn them off when you go to sleep if you must have one in your bedroom. Read a real book before going to bed instead of reading or watching something on your smart phone, laptop or watching TV. Give yourself at least half an hour before you want to be asleep without these stimulants.

7) Applying yoga and meditation to your evening routine has proven to be beneficial. A few restorative yoga postures might help you to wind down before bed. Once in bed, place an eye pillow (this is as easy as using a clean sock filled with dry rice and mixed with 2-3 drops lavender essential oil) over your eyes for complete darkness. Place your hands on your low abdomen and deeply inhale through your nose as you feel the belly rise. As you exhale, feel it fall. Listen to your breath. Play a guided meditation or have someone read something out loud next to you.

Sleep is crucial to your well-being. We shouldn’t have to depend on coffee (but it’s so good!) to function in the morning, or pop or chocolate to get through the afternoon.

Sometimes all the sleep in the world won’t help you feel rested if you’re truly unhappy or sad. I would suggest seeing a counsellor or a therapist to help you get through some of these dark times, in conjunction with the above recommendations.

It’s a hard time of year for some of us. Take the best care you can for yourself.

As always, check with your doctor or health practitioner for any medical related questions. This information is to be used as a guide and not to replace medical advice.

Kylie Matechuk is a certified, experienced yoga teacher, registered in gold status with the Canadian Yoga Alliance, and director of teacher training at Mo Tus Nua Wellness, the yoga studio she owns and manages in Northern Manitoba. She is also a registered holistic nutritionist with a passion for pediatric and digestive health.

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