Sleep is as critical to our well-being as food, water, or shelter. Yet, as a society we don’t always treat it that way. Below are some ways to support your sleep including – monitoring the food and drink we consume, limiting late night TV viewing, and using relaxation methods to achieve your long-term sleep goals.
Many people in today’s world suffer from insomnia due to a variety of reasons including:
● Having a sleep environment that is not ideal (e.g., poor mattress, room too hot or too cold, etc.)
● Daily routines that disrupt sleep patterns such as drinking caffeine after a certain time
● Excessive food consumption and/or consuming too much food too close to when it is time to sleep, and
● Not getting adequate exercise for your body which affects overall health and the ability to attain high-quality sleep.
Not getting the proper amount and quality of sleep can be detrimental to our health in the long-term from the risk of serious medical conditions including heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Chronic sleep issues can even shorten your life expectancy. However, adequate sleep can improve your health in areas such as boosting your immune system and creating better eating habits.
For instance, most processed foods contain sugar, which give you a rush when eaten and can spike your blood sugar levels leading to bad digestion and poor quality sleep. Fresh food, on the other hand, can be digested more easily and so won’t disrupt your sleep. Coffee is a drink that can cause sleep problems depending on when it is consumed. If you are trying to go to sleep and have caffeine in your system, it will clash with your sleep cycle. It is important to know what food and drinks you can consume to get a good night’s rest. Listen to your body and its responses to food, drink, etc. and it will help guide you.
To enhance your sleep, switch off the TV at least one hour before going to sleep. This is because we have a self-protection mechanism that triggers a “fight or flight” response dating back to when we were cave dwellers. TV watching can trigger this response. When this happens, adrenaline is released into the bloodstream, blood is pumped to the major muscles, the heartbeat quickens, the digestive system stops, the immune system is suppressed, and everything tenses up. If your body is reacting to shock and excitement, it releases stress chemicals and for some that is too much excitement before going to bed. For this reason, it is important to turn off the TV at least one hour before going to sleep.
Often, our lives are filled with activities that need to be done making it difficult to find enough time for ourselves to relax and reflect on our lives. If you have been kept awake by a “too-busy” mind, take some time for yourself during the day to problem solve, go over priorities for the following day, and develop a plan to work through those priorities to achieve them. Taking the time to do that can give provide you with more peace and help transition toward a
nighttime mode of relaxation, reflection, meditation, all leading toward sleep. Sleep meditation helps to take you out of problem solving mode and move you more into a living in the present moment outlook with a reflective/meditative mindset that helps enable restful high quality sleep.
There are many methods that can improve your quality and quantity of sleep. These are just a few that have given people an easy, simple, and effective approach to help improve their sleep. Give them a try and see if they are beneficial for you too!
(NOTE: For a general reference on improving sleep, please see Paul McKenna’s excellent book: I Can Make You Sleep.