According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, restorative sleep is an essential component of a healthy and resilient individual. Occupying a third of our lives, sleep is vital to our brain health, mood, and vitality.
How many of us can say that our sleep is excellent, and we awaken each day feeling revitalised?
There is a Chinese proverb that says: “The loss of one night’s sleep is followed by ten days of inconvenience.”
The flow-on effect from chronic poor-quality sleep is not pretty.
When we sleep badly (cannot fall asleep or wake up throughout the night) sleep too little, or when our night is overtaken by bad dreams and nightmares, the body’s restorative capabilities suffer. This impacts our mood, energy levels, our ability to focus, pain tolerance, immune function, and there is even evidence that if we sleep badly over a prolonged period, we even die earlier.
A sleep study in the UK, revealed that poorest sleepers were seven times more likely to feel helpless, have problems concentrating, struggle to be productive, have relationship problems and experience fatigue.
So why is it so hard to get a good night ‘sleep?
Well, the most common reason of insomnia, that I see in clinical practice is a racing mind.
What exactly is a racing mind? It is a state of overwhelm, where one’s mind is over stimulated, characterised by an inability to self-regulate and “switch off”. It is a mindset preoccupied with the past and /or future events. It is further characterised by emotional irritability, impatience and intolerance.
This state is not something that only happens to the busy executive archetype. It is happening to everyone, and most concerning, it is happening to our children. We are becoming a humanity of fragmented individuals: wired, cranky and tired.
I honestly don’t know for how long we can maintain this level of separation from our innate potential, as intelligent, divinely embodied, conscious human beings?
For all the benefits that we have gained from technology, it has also cost us our souls.
Research on the use of electronic media by children and adolescents has shown that having a TV in the bedroom or watching a computer for more then two hours a day, resulted in getting less sleep, having difficulties in both sleeping and waking, being tired in school and enjoying school less. What about all of us? How much time per day are we spending (wasting) scrolling mindlessly on social media, or even worse, some of us might be engaging, arguing, debating our points of view in the platforms of darkness, that lure you in and keep your neurotransmitters “hooked”. This is further cemented, by the exposure to the light of these electromagnetic screens, which greatly interfere with the production of our sleep inducing, powerful hormone, and antiaging antioxidant: melatonin.
What can we do to improve our sleep on a fundamental level?
1. Increase bright light exposure during the morning.
Every single human, just as soon as possible after waking up, should go outside and get at least 20 minutes of direct, natural light.
2. Don’t consume caffeine late in the day.
Like any stimulant, we need to be careful with the long negative term effect that these substances create for our adrenals. Caffeine can also stay elevated in your blood for 6–8 hours. Therefore, I don’t recommend drinking large amounts of coffee after 3- 4 p.m.
3. Stop all food at least 2 hours before bedtime and avoid large meals at night.
One recent study found that large calorie consumption and late night snacking, reduced REM sleep and increased the risk of sleep apnoea and hypopnea (both characterised by disturbed breathing) and decreased sleep efficiency
4. Avoid strenuous exercise in the evening.
Regular exercise during daylight hours is one of the best ways to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Exercising too late in the day, and you will create the opposite effect.
This is due to the stimulatory effect of exercise, which increases alertness and hormones like epinephrine and adrenaline.
5. Create an ideal bedroom environment.
To optimise your bedroom environment, try to minimise external noise, light, and artificial lights from devices like alarm clocks.
Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, relaxing, clean, uncluttered, and enjoyable place.
Your bed, mattress, and pillow can greatly affect sleep quality and joint or back pain. Try to buy a high-quality bedding — including a mattress — every 5–8 years.
A general rule of thumb is to replace your pillows once every 1-2 years.
6. Reduce blue light exposure in the evening and switch off the Wi-Fi before bed.
Yes, you can!
- wear glasses that block blue light.
- install apps that blocks blue light on your smartphone.
- stop watching TV and using social media 2 hours before heading to bed;
But the most important practice for me, is turning off the Wi-Fi and setting the phone to aeroplane mode. Also I like to keep the phone and other technology, out from the bedroom.
7. Create a regular de-stressing nightly ritual. My entire SOL for The SOUL range is based on this principle.
My favourite rituals include listening to relaxing music, hugging, reading a book, taking a magnesium rich bath or soaking the feet, putting a herbal face mask on ,massaging the face and neck, mindfully making our Sweet Surrender – Sleep and Relaxation Herbal Tea, or The Peaceful Warrior; reflecting, journaling, meditating, chanting, deep breathing, stretching, applying Magnesium oil on the soles of the feet.
8. Try to sleep and wake at consistent times
Your body’s circadian rhythm functions on a set loop, aligning itself with sunrise and sunset. Being consistent with your sleep and waking times can aid long-term sleep quality If you struggle with sleep, try to get in the habit of waking up and going to bed at similar times. After several weeks, you may not even need an alarm.
9. Supplement with minerals and herbs.
Rather than taking a sleeping tablet that can leave you with a ‘hangover’ the next morning, or serious side effects, a natural remedy to help calm you into quality sleep is highly valuable. It is important to address your individual presentation and be guided for efficiency by an experienced wellness practitioner.
10. Get Acupuncture!
This has been proven to be an effective method for insomnia in many clinical trials and so many of my patients have benefited from this wonderous modality. Book an Appointment.