Your comprehensive guide to restoring your natural sleep rhythms through the changing seasons.
As the seasons shift, the reduction of natural light and change of the clocks in October can disrupt our internal body rhythms, leaving us tired and out of sync. Making a few changes to your sleep routine and environment can help you get back to feeling renewed and restored.
Sleep is the foundation of good health: lack of sleep affects brain function and impairs decision making, increases vulnerability to stress, affects emotions, weakens the immune system and disrupts metabolism. Long term sleep deprivation has been linked to increased risk of health issues including obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. (www.sleepfoundation.org).
Now that you know why good sleep is so important for long term health, read on for a few simple tips to put you back in control of a great night's sleep.
Tip #1 - Get a Great Routine and Stick to it.
Your brain and body love the predictability of regular rhythm and routines. It is not just what you do at the end of the day that promotes healthy sleep, but how you manage the whole 24 hours. A bit of thought around your general routines can work wonders: be mindful of the times when you drink caffeine during the day. For example, restricting coffee intake after lunch can be a great way to enable the body to calm down, so you are more ready to sleep later. Remember that caffeine is not just in coffee - what else are you drinking, ad at what time of day? About 6 hours after you consume caffeine, half of it is still in your body. Caffeine may not completely clear your bloodstream until after 10 hours, so if you find it hard to unwind at the end of the day, it is worth tracking back to your caffeine intake during the day. Similarly, consider the timing of your evening meal. Eating heavily close to bedtime is detrimental to your body's digestion and negatively affects restful sleep. Wind down with a warm bath or shower and read before bed to trigger the sleep response in your brain. Set consistent times to go to bed and get up. If you work night shifts, this may be more tricky, but you can still adjust your sleep environment using the guidance below, and this can mitigate some of the changes you may have in routines if you work irregular hours.
Tip #2 - Hello Darkness My Old Friend!
At least an hour before you go to bed, dim the lights and stay away from phones and laptops. Use nighttime mode to reduce blue light from devices, which interferes with production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Ensure the bedroom is as dark as possible. Avoid clocks with lights by the bed – you don’t need to see the time in the night if you have an alarm set.
Tip #3 - Rise and Shine in the Light
Early morning light sets the circadian rhythm, promoting better sleep at night. Get out into the garden for your morning cuppa! Even in the winter or when it is cloudy, the natural light is so much stronger than indoor artificial lights.
Wrap up warm and give yourself that early natural outdoor light boost all year round.
Tip #4 - Keep it Cool.
Core body temperature needs to drop to for you to sleep well. An ideal average bedroom temperature is around 18.5 degrees C, along with a temperature of 27 – 31 degrees C under the bedclothes for optimum sleep. Opt for cotton layers instead of heavy duvets to prevent overheating.
Tip #5 - Quieten Your Mind
Release your mind of busy thoughts by jotting them in a notebook at the end of your day. Deep abdominal breathing and mindfulness techniques help the body release tension so you can drift off or manage an overactive mind if you wake in the night. Hypnotherapy aids relaxation and relieves stress for better sleep. Hypnotherapy can help you let go of anxieties which may be preventing you from sleeping. An experienced therapist will help you develop your own self-hypnotic practice to support you in drifting off and getting back to sleep if you wake between your sleep cycles in the night.
Tip #6 Acceptance - Let it Go!
Night waking is common: don’t fret. Avoid clock-watching. You don't need the clock or a sleep tracker to tell you if you are awake or asleep. You'll feel it! Tracking and timing your sleep can quickly become counter-productive, causing unnecessary anxiety around your ability to sleep well. Practice relaxation or use my free audio download to guide you through a simple mind management relaxation that mimics your brain's natural shift from waking to dreaming. With simple changes you can enjoy peaceful sleep. Sweet dreams!