Sleep can be one of those aspects of your life that works really well or not. Even if it does work well, there will be occasions when your sleep might not be as good as it could be.
At these times it can be handy to have some tricks up your sleeve to help you get back on track. Understand that our body loves it when there is routine. For this reason any dietary/lifestyle changes it is best if you stick to them for 1-2 months before you notice a major changes, especially if they are long standing.
This is a pretty long list of suggestions so perhaps the best approach would be to pick one or two and apply them for a fortnight and then add in more if needed. If you need direction as to which ones might make a bigger difference book in for an appointment.
1. Bedroom ambience/routine that promotes sleep:
Comfortable mattress - hard mattress for bad backs, slightly soft if you are tense and find it difficult to relax.
Use your bed for sleeping, not for study, watching TV, or other activities.
Create a space of harmony in your room (no clutter/chaos)
Remove sources of EMF (electromagnetic field) from your bedroom (computers, radio, mobile phone, turn off powerpoints at the switch, power meter box).
2. Reset the body clock – circadian rhythm
Regular patterns of eating, sleeping, exercise
Sleep from 10pm- 6am every night (retire and arise at the same time every day of the week until you have established a pattern).
Go to bed when sleepy (so as not to miss the sleep cycle)
Block out any light (make your room really dark – wear an eye mask if you need to).
Light therapy DSPS: expose yourself to ½ hour natural light in the morning (6am)
Light therapy ASPS: sit in front of light box for ½ hour at night
DSPS: stay awake for hours, wake unrefreshed, ASPS: go to sleep early but wake early and can’t get back to sleep
3. Learn to relax and “switch off” the mind and body
Receive counselling for problems affecting sleep
Relaxation activities every day
Adopt a routine of relaxing before bed (settle down and unwind in the evening – ‘flow activity’ – Not TV, movies or stimulating books). Put work away 1-2 hours before bed
Learn mental relaxation (relaxation music, meditation, breathing etc)
If you can not sleep for 30minutes get up and do something else until you feel sleepy again.
If you feel sleepy and it is bed time drop everything and head to bed (sleep comes in waves every
60-90mins, but each one may last only 5-10mins).
Journaling: esp. if mind is racing at bedtime – get thoughts out of head and onto paper.
Hot shower/bath before bed (you may like to add a few drops of a relaxing essential oil such as
lavender to the bath for more relaxation
Burn relaxing essential oils in bedroom or dap a few drops on your pillow.
Exercise: 30 minutes a day to help with stress, weight loss, worries, tension, mood.
4. Herbal medicine: See a herbalist who can direct you towards some sleep teas or herbal formulas that promote sleep – there are many effective natural medicines that promote sleep and your practitioner will match you with your own specific medicines.
Sleep diet: Deficiencies in many vitamins and minerals can lead to insomnia – these are the precursors to sleep hormones: serotonin and melatonin.
Avoid stimulants, at least none after lunch (coffee, black tea, green tea, coke, sports drinks, energy drinks, cocoa, chocolate.
Avoid excess alcohol, avoid nicotine
Avoid foods high in tyramine (deli meats, chocolate, coffee, red wine, sauerkraut, eggplant, cheese)
Opt for a low salicylate diet: potato, capsicum family, red wine, aspirin, NSAID (anti-inflammatory), chewing gum
Avoid refined sugar and MSG
Avoid potato, white rice, pasta and bread, particularly after 5pm.
Avoid eating/drinking 2 hours before bed – full stomach keeps you awake. Main meal at lunch and a lighter meal at dinner.
Include these foods as a snack/ meal before bed:
Foods high in tryptophan ( a protein that promotes sleep): oats, brown rice, chicken, turkey, soybeans, warm cows/goats milk, roast pumpkin, green leafy vegetables, seaweeds, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, spirulina.
Foods high in melatonin (resets body clock): oats, brown rice, sweet corn, banana, tomato, daikon radish.
A hot bath before bed dose the same thing.
Foods high in magnesium/ calcium (reduce restlessness/ gain deep sleep): nuts, salmon, chickpeas, tofu,
green vegetables, figs, sprouts, whole grains, parsley.
Balance blood sugar: protein snack before bed.
Complex carbohydrates (stimulates serotonin): oats, brown rice.