There is an old Chinese proverb that states, “Only when one cannot sleep does one know how long the night is.”
If you have ever had problems sleeping, you can relate to this proverb. More than 100 million Americans report trouble falling and staying asleep. Because sleep is crucial to good health, lack of it is a very serious issue. During sleep our bodies are able to recharge our cells, renew DNA and heal any damage. Today we will discuss the many ways you can improve your ever so precious sleep.
1. Diet. The afternoon cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage that may taste good at the time could affect you later on. For some, even a small amount of caffeine early in the day can cause problems falling asleep 10 to 12 hours later. So, even if you think you’re used to your cup of coffee at a certain time, it wouldn’t hurt to try eliminating it.
Alcohol is classified as a sedative (a calming substance), which means shortly after consuming it you may feel sleepy and be able to easily fall asleep. Although the beginning of your sleep may be calm, drinking increases the number of times you will wake up in the latter half of the night. If you find yourself waking up and then have difficulty falling back to sleep, it’s time to nix the “night cap.” Eating dinner earlier in the evening is also a good idea. If you consume a larger meal after 6 p.m., the digestion process may interfere with your sleep. Try eating earlier, and then have a light snack just before bed.
2. Sleep environment. Since you spend more of your life on your mattress and pillow than anywhere else, it is worth the investment to have a high-quality mattress and pillow. Proper spinal alignment is essential to a good night’s rest, and also pain-free days. Make sure your bedroom is slightly cool and as dark as possible. Studies show that a warm sleeping environment leads to more wake time and lighter sleep. Avoid doing work, paying bills and so on in bed. These things tell your body to be alert in bed and do not promote relaxation.
3. The hectic mind. If you are one of those with a million thoughts on your brain when you are supposed to be sleeping, there is hope for you! Since I fall into this category, I’ve found there are two things that help tremendously. First, do some meditation and/or prayer before bed to settle down your nervous system. Second, you need to keep a pad of paper and a pen next to your bed. Put all your “can’t wait ’til morning” thoughts on this paper, and then WAIT ’TIL MORNING! It truly is liberating. For some reason, when your worries are written down, they don’t have a need to be floating con-stantly around your mind.
4. Pain. If this is your issue, it is important not to cover up your symptoms with pain killers or sleep medication. Your body is trying to tell you something imperative, and it’s your job to figure out the reason behind your pain. If your pain is musculoskeletal in nature, go to a specialist in this area, such as a chiropractor or physical therapist. If it is more of an internal or deep organ type pain, see a medical doctor. Either way, figure out the issue, because your sleep is too important to your health not to.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to improve your sleep. The cause of insomnia varies so much from person to person, that each of us needs to properly examine our diet, exercise patterns, sleep environment, personal habits, current concerns and pain conditions.
We have talked today about some of the more superficial sleep concerns. If none of these fit for you, it’s time to have your nervous system and nutrient deficiencies checked for discrepancies. Otherwise, as the lullaby goes, Good Night, Sleep Tight!