27 Apr Sometimes Sleep is the Best Medicine
Forget potions, pills and supplements – the world of healthcare has been buzzing about a new “wonder-drug” that’s actually as old as time – and not a drug at all! We’re talking about that oh-so elusive activity that most of us find it so hard to come by these days – namely, a good night’s sleep. Find out what makes that nightly “beauty rest” so important, and what you can do to keep your body and mind well-rested.
In a recent article for The Huffington Post, nutrition guru Lynne Dorner writes: “Scientists have discovered that sleep is not just important for the brain, but also for immune function, hormone balancing, learning and, my favourite, weight loss.” The time you spend sleeping is time your body gets to put all its energy towards healing and repairing itself. And of course naturally, while sleep is so good for us, lack of sleep is a gateway to all sorts of health problems. Chronic sleep deprivation doesn’t just leave you with bags under your eyes; it also increases your risk of conditions like depression, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.
Of course for many of us, getting a good night’s sleep is easier said than done! The National Sleep Foundation has a few handy tips for getting good quality rest every night, which we’ve used to put together this helpful list:
1. Stick to a schedule; it sounds simple, but it can be one of the biggest and most effective changes you make to your daily routine! Go to bed at the same time each evening, and wake up at the same time every day (yes, even the weekend); this will regulate your body clock, and will eventually help you to fall asleep with more ease. It will also start to make waking up that much easier.
2. Create a comfortable, quiet environment for sleep, and decide what you need in order to remove any distractions or discomfort. (This might mean an eye mask to keep out unwanted light; a humidifier to remove dust and allergens from the air; or a zen diffuser to add soothing scents and sounds to your bedroom.)
3. Invest in a good mattress; make sure it’s comfortable and supportive. Good quality mattresses have a life expectancy of about 9-10 years before you need to replace them.
4. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine in the evenings; all of these substances have a stimulating effect and can disrupt your sleep, or lower the quality of your sleep.
5. Light has a profound effect on your body’s natural circadian rhythms. Avoid bright light in the evenings, but give yourself a little time in the sunshine every morning; this will help to regulate the production of sleep hormones, and keep your circadian rhythms in check.
6. Watch what you eat in the evenings. A heavy or spicy dinner can lead to discomfort, indigestion or heart burn, making it hard to fall asleep.
7. Get some exercise every day, whether it’s a gym session, a yoga class, or just a brisk walk around the block.
8. Practice good “sleep hygiene”; something we’re all guilty of neglecting. Experts advise that your bed and bedroom should only be used for sleep and love-making; nothing else! That means no work, no laptop and no TV. With better sleep hygiene, your brain will create a strong natural association between “bed” and “sleep”. So if you can’t sleep, go into another room to read, knit or relax until you feel tired, rather than staying in bed tossing and turning.
9. When it comes to fighting insomnia and promoting better sleep, natural is always best! Choose organic cotton bedding for a healthy, allergen-free sleep environment that’s also really luxurious; and invest in some essential oils, herbal teas or a botanical insomnia remedy to make those sleepless nights a thing of the past. Then lie back, close your eyes and start counting those (free range) sheep…