Use Your Five Senses To Improve Your Sleep7th Jun 2018
Sleep is our sanctuary from the challenges and activities of the day. Sleep is addictive for some of us. We love it and can't wait to get to bed. Others regard it as losing precious time when there's lots to do, and find that they can’t wait to get out of bed.
But many of us dread it, as we anticipate yet another sleepless night. Whatever our attitude to sleep though, we need it. It optimises our health, energy levels, hormones and mood, and it's our best investment in our self-care and wellness.
We all know how we are after a good night's sleep - rested, energetic, with zest for life. And when we don't sleep well - haggard appearance, dull eyes and skin, slouched shoulders, poor performance, no concentration, low or depressed.
During sleep our bodies revive, rejuvenate and repair tissue, muscles and wounds. Our conscious minds switch off and rest. It this did not happen, we would be on permanent alert, and the stress hormone cortisol that floods our bodily system when we're on the go, would have harmful effects on our body, mind and emotions.
Here's how we can use our five senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell, to improve our sleep quality, and wake up feeling on top of the world:
Light and Dark
At the heart of any good night’s sleep is a healthy balance in the hormones melatonin and serotonin. These are produced naturally in your body and flow around in your blood, to keep you sleepy (melatonin) or wakeful (serotonin). You can create the right balance by keeping your room dark for the night, allowing light to infiltrate the room when it's morning. So adjust your curtains and blinds to make this happen.
Blue Light Equipment
Mobile phones, computers, television, and even energy-saving lamps, give off blue light which sends alerting signals to the brain, interferes with your circadian rhythm, and stops melatonin production, so if you use these in the bedroom before sleeping, they may interfere with your sleep.
It can take some time for the body to calm down from electronic exposure, so try to spend an hour before bed away from your phone or computer.
Visually pleasant bedroom
Your bedroom is your haven. Just thinking about it should make you feel relaxed and calm. If it doesn't, check out what bothers you about the room and do something about it.
Declutter the room. Looking at piles of stuff, whether clothes, papers, ornaments and more, can overwhelm your mind, zap your morale, and make you restless. Re-arrange your furniture until it pleases you. Choose colours for curtains, bed linen and wall decor that soothe and relax you.
You may or may not be aware of noise, but even so, noise will be alerting your brain and disturbing your sleep pattern. It can also affect your heart rate and blood pressure.
You could mask noise pollution with a white noise machine. This creates a background hum which distracts from the unwanted noise. You could use good quality foam earplugs which expand gently in the ear and shut out the noise. And if you have a noisy family, try to persuade them to reduce the television sound, shut the door on any noisy equipment, and lower voices.
Ensure that you have a comfortable temperature in the room. During sleep the body cools and warms according to its natural homeostasis, but you may need a little help from more or fewer bed covers. Have pillows, bed linen and a mattress that are comfortable. Lumps and bumps can disturb your sleep as you move around. And make your bed! Climbing into a smooth, tidy bed rather than messy, rucked-up sheets will make a difference to your comfort.
What you eat and drink before bed and even during the day can affect your sleep. We all know that stimulants, such as caffeine and lots of alcohol, and foods that challenge the digestive system, such as fried or spicy foods, can interfere with sleep. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that the body needs to make proteins. It also has a calming effect and can help to induce sleep. Tryptophan-rich foods include turkey, eggs, chicken, fish, nuts, lettuce, milk, bananas, and carbohydrates such as whole wheat products.
When you eat is also important for good sleep. Don't eat just before sleep. Eat protein-based meals during the day and carbohydrate-based meals in the evening. And chew well, so that your stomach is not working overtime to digest food, when it should be calm and at rest.
Ensure that your bed clothes are changed regularly, so that you sleep within fresh, sweet-smelling linen. Sniff a hankie with a drop of sleep-inducing essential oil, such as lavender, cedarwood or jasmin. Or have a little cushion nearby filled with sleep-inducing herbs or flowers.
Above all, make time to sort out your sleep routine. Rushing home from work, grabbing a cracker, then crashing into bed, will not help your sleep. Try to establish a routine, even if you arrive home late. Be calm, eat a little tryptophan-rich food, switch off your phone and your mind with ten minutes of reading or meditating, do whatever else you need to do, calmly, and climb gently into bed for that good night's sleep.
Copyright © 2018 Brenda Martin