We all long to sleep well but for many of us, disturbed sleep patterns start to become the norm. Restlessness, anxiousness or even nightmares often interrupt sleep. But, long term sleep issues are dangerous and if you want to avoid increasing the risk of some pretty serious health conditions, you may want to read on.
The quality of sleep
Although we tend to focus on the number of hours sleep we have each night, we must also remember the sleep cycle. There are two main stages of sleep. You have REM (rapid eye movement) and Non-REM sleep which has a further three stages. These are all linked to specific brain waves.
When you first start to drift to sleep, you are in stage one of Non-REM sleep. This is where you may feel awake but, are not quite so. If you are disturbed during this stage of sleep, it is very easy for you to wake up. If you remain asleep, your muscles start to relax, and you fall into a deeper stage of sleep although it is still easy to be disturbed.
Sleep and the brain
Sleep is so important because not only does it help you to wake up feeling energized and fully rested, your brain may be surprisingly busy during slumber. It helps to consolidate information, forming and maintaining memories, it aids the decision-making process and stores information too so to help the learning process. We know that nerve cells and neurons communicate and that when you fail to sleep well, this can interrupt this important communication system. Importantly, when you sleep well, you aid the debunking process, think of it as a way to process, to sort through and file some of those thousands of thoughts.
Stress and anxiousness
We are all so stressed these days. It seems to be impossible to shut down the mind and to just be able to relax once free time presents itself. But relaxation and a break from stress and anxiety issues are paramount to health. It may seem as if stress is overly-depicted as some evil entity and yes, some stress can be healthy, but, consistent, long-term stress is not. Over time, it can cause a great many health issues and even if you are not aware of them, it does not mean that your organs or immune system are not being impacted.
Learning to eradicate stressors as much as possible is important. You will find that some stressful situations can be avoided easily and by just dealing with these little issues as and when they occur, it can really help your brain to be able to switch off at night-time. By facing issues head-on, it’s empowering. You feel much better and, without a busy mind, it’s easier to wind down and relax at night. You could also try reading a book or, to take a warm bath prior to going to bed. Soothing music may also help you to fully relax.
Write it down
If your head feels as if it is going to explode with the number of thoughts that are churning around in your mind, it pays to write it down. When you start to develop a series of thoughts, get them out of your head and onto paper. These thoughts may be just reminders about something important the next day or, it may be that past regrets or mistakes are haunting you at night. By writing them down, you transfer them to another place, one where you can review and deal with them when ready. This helps you to sleep well because your mind is now clear.
Create a sleep journal
For many of us, the foggy-head and tiredness of insomnia or disrupted sleep can be very difficult to track. We don’t know what is causing it, but it exists anyway. Sleep becomes surprisingly evasive and it can help to write down all aspects of sleep and how many times you wake up. Note down exercise and eating habits and whether you are drinking alcohol too late at night. All this enables, you to identify any patterns and this can help you to make important changes where necessary.
Darken your room and sleep well
Going to bed in a darkened room can help to promote sleep and if you are able, you can also start to dim the lights as the evening progresses. This naturally leads to feelings of sleepiness. Alternatively, switch off electric lights and light a candle. This creates a soothing peaceful atmosphere and aids relaxation. If you have a street light directly outside your bedroom, you may find this less than relaxing, try hanging heavier curtains so that the light cannot penetrate into the room. You will notice the difference.
Aromatherapy oils for pure relaxation
Aromatherapy essential oils should be high on your list of sleep aids. Always opt for the pure essential oils simply because the less-expensive versions may contain unhealthy chemicals which are not conducive to health. There are some tried and tested favorite oils when it comes to sleeping but, it’s worth investing in a couple and seeing which ones work best for you.
Just add a few drops of the oil to bathwater and as you are relaxing, inhale deeply. You can also have a diffuser with a few drops of oil and this will have a calming effect. Do not add too many drops of oils especially if you have a small bedroom or like to close the bedroom door as they can be too strong and overwhelming depending on your chosen oil. To fully unwind, add a few drops to a good carrier oil and massage your neck and shoulders, this has a wonderful calming effect and helps to ease tension.
Try the following oils as a starting point.
Develop a regular sleep pattern
As adults, we often forget about the importance of developing a good sleep pattern. This means that ideally, we should go to bed at a similar time each night. We certainly know how well the routine works for both babies and children, ,so, why not give it a try? If your hours of turning in for the night are erratic, this may well be one of the causes of insomnia. Think of it as a way to re-program your mind and body so to start falling asleep instinctively. You can also create a wind-down routine, and this will also affirm your positive sleep pattern. Try to avoid using technology before you go to bed too. Avoid having a TV in the room or your mobile phone. These will only suppress the sleep hormone.
For a decent night’s sleep, you must make sure that your pillow supports the alignment of your neck and head. If your pillow is not right for you, this can easily create neck problem and stiffness and it will certainly impact sleep.
The old clock watching habit
Everyone experiences those frustrating nights where it is impossible to stop watching the hands of the clock turn. The minutes and hours pass by but, when you eventually fall asleep, you wake up feeling more tired than when you went to bed. Lying in bed and watching the clock is not conducive to sleep. Face the clock away from you if you can and try to forget about it. Instead, enjoy a visualization and transport yourself to a faraway place where it is peaceful, safe and welcoming.
If you want to sleep well at night, never underestimate the power of meditation. You don’t need to be an expert at meditation to make it work for you. Simply close your eyes and focus on your breathing. When you focus on the breath, you naturally distract your mind from worrying and you calm the mind. Once you have done so, let your breathing become rhythmic. Shut out all other thoughts, anxieties or issues that keep bombarding your mind. You can follow a guided meditation which has ambient music as well as a soothing narration. This leads you away from reality and immerses you in a scene that is gentle, nurturing and inviting.
Practice yoga and sleep well
Irrespective of your fitness levels, age or flexibility, by practicing yoga regularly, it will help you to sleep well. Try the Legs Up the Wall pose (Viparita Karani) as this helps to quieten the mind. You can also use this pose when practicing your meditation as it naturally evokes a meditative state of being. It is a relaxing pose and is perfect for aiding the nervous system. It will help to drain tension from the legs, it is also great for reversing the effects of gravity. Practice this pose for approximately ten minutes.
There are many things that you can do to improve your sleep patterns. Often, it is just a case of adjusting elements of your life. This way, you start to feel naturally tired as the evening progresses but with a clear mind, you can turn off troublesome thoughts. Sleep then becomes an integral and instinctive part of life. Importantly, you stop worrying about it. With sleep, comes clarity of mind, renewed energy and greater health and well-being. Small changes can boost your sleep patterns and as a result, life becomes easier.