Tips for a good nights sleep

Getting a good nights sleep is one of those things we take for granted.  Until we find ourselves lying awake staring at the ceiling at 2am, unable to return to that peaceful place.

If you are finding yourself tossing and turning, waking a lot throughout the night, or having trouble drifting off to sleep, there are many simple things you can do to correct this and wake refreshed again in the morning after a deep, restful sleep. 

Avoid stimulation from bright television or computer screens in the evening for at least two hours before you want to go to sleep.  Bright lights communicate to the pineal gland in your brain that it is not night-time, but in fact day-time, and so starts to produce less melatonin.  Melatonin is your sleep-wake cycle hormone and is produced in larger quantities at night time to prepare you for sleep.  To help increase melatonin production, avoid these bright lights, and keep your room as dark as possible.  Invest in some heavy curtains if necessary (or an eye mask).

Although getting sufficient exercise is a great help in ensuring a good nights sleep, avoid strenuous exercise for at least two hours before you go to bed, as intense exercise increases cortisol levels in the body.  Cortisol is a stress hormone which increases energy levels and can leave you tossing and turning.

Avoid large meals in the evening, as this will cause your body to have to work at digesting all of the food sitting in your stomach, rather than resting and regenerating itself while you sleep.  Try eating a small snack before bed-time, focussing on foods which are rich in Tryptophan.  Tryptophan is converted to Serotonin by the body which is a feel-good neurotransmitter, good levels of which help to induce restful sleep.  Tryptophan-rich foods include cottage cheese, bananas, and turkey.

Avoid alcohol.  If you love to have a glass of wine in the evening, keep it to one if you want to have a good nights sleep, as alcohol acts as a depressant, and although it can send you off to sleep, it will cause you to wake during the night.  Also avoid caffeine after mid-afternoon.  Needless to say, it is a stimulant.  Caffeine increases cortisol and adrenaline in the body, putting your body into fight or flight mode and making it impossible to relax.

Magnesium is a very helpful mineral which works to relax the muscles and the nervous system.  Taking a nice high dose of Magnesium after dinner is an excellent way to induce relaxation, especially if you suffer from muscles cramps or twitches, or generally tight muscles.

Drink a nice soothing cup of herbal tea after dinner such as Valerian or Chamomile – but avoid a lot of fluid so that you’re not up in the night needing to visit the bathroom.

Upon going to bed, dab some lavender essential oil on your pulse points.  As well as being lovely and soothing, Lavender has anti-depressant, relaxing, sedative properties.

Reduce stress in your life wherever possible.  We live in busy times where a lot is expected of us in terms of responsibilities and committments.    It is vital to take time out.  If you continuously have stress hormones coarsing through your body, your mind is racing and re-playing the days events, and you don’t take time to slow down and make an effort to relax in the evening, then sleep is not going to come easily.  Try some deep belly breathing, or guided visualisation in addition to the tips above if relaxation doesn’t come easily.

If all else fails, try reading a boring book!  This should have the desired effect in no time 🙂