What is auto immunity and what are its causes and triggers?
Sleep, ahhh, beautiful sleep..
It’s such a normal thing but can also be so elusive, and for many people, their sleep is only getting worse..
Scientists from Oxford University estimate that we are getting two hours less sleep per night than we were 60 years ago!!
In the modern world, we have so many distractions and a seemingly constant state of business. It seems our culture has associated this critical bodily function with laziness and weakness. We have so many things to do after all!
But sleep is crucial for you health!
Alongside food, movement and stress management, sleep is one of the Four Pillars of Health..
A fantastic night’s sleep is restorative for the mind, body and soul. Sleep also affects every system in the body, from the immune system, to your craving for particularly foods, to your blood pressure and blood sugar response to eating particular foods. A good night’s sleep is one of the foundations that has to be in place to recover from a chronic health condition.
To perform optimally and to heal, you need to focus on sleep as the number 1 priority for the day. And I mean that.. without making it your number 1 priority, there are always going to be things you want to do rather than focus on sleep.
If you are drinking caffeine after midday, or are drinking alcohol in the evenings, I suggest that you first do a little experiment and don’t do that for 2 weeks. Just 2 weeks! If it doesn’t make a difference than ok, you’ve done the self experiment. If it does make a difference, then you will be more motivated to make changes to the alcohol and caffeine you drink. Give it ago..
I also recommend avoiding blue light from phones, computers and TVs in the hour or 90 minutes before bed as this can also disrupt your sleep. You can read more about this sleep hygine here.
A Sleep Routine
Rather than just giving you a list of tips to improve your sleep (which you probably already know!), I want to help you do the one thing that can support your sleep, particularly falling asleep at a ‘good hour’ – that is a regular wind-down routine where you focus on self-care.
Like a baby, we find it easier to fall asleep if we have a regular wind-down routine before bed. Like a baby, the way to achieve this is through repetition of the routine and following it closely, until it becomes part of our natural daily rhythm (our circadian rhythm*), and doing it signals to our body that it’s time to prepare for sleep. So, yes, we do need to train ourselves to sleep like you would a baby..
At first, it may seem time consuming but after a few weeks, your sleep routine will be an automatic trigger for your body to start feeling sleepy, to wind down, preparing you for a good night’s sleep..
It’s vitally important that you follow the same routine each night, but that routine will be unique to you – a routine usually takes 45 minutes to an hour. You will do this routine every night (it’s ok to miss it once in a while if you have something in your calendar).
Remember this is your routine and not something that I’m telling you to do ;) You don’t have to do everyt step and you can also add in anything that helps you to wind down – you know what works for you better than me!
Choose 4 or 5 steps from the list below, modifying them to suit you. Write down your routine on paper so that you can follow it every night..
1) A highly recommended first step is to switch off your mobile phone, or turn it onto airplane mode, and then to journal and brain dump everything that is on your mind on to paper to clear your system for sleep.
2) A hot drink such as a turmeric latte, herbal tea such as chamomile, or bone broth. While the kettle/pan is boiling do some relaxing and soothing diaphragmatic breathing (such as 4-7-8- breathing) where the exhale is longer than the inhale (this calms the nervous system).
3) Sit quietly and drink your drink mindfully, feeling the heat in your hands (this also warms up your body)
4) In the bathroom, spend a few minutes dry body brushing. For details on how to do it, have a look at this website.
5) Have a hot bath with lavendar essential oils and epsom salts, again heating the body. Once out of the bath, you can also apply a Magnesium solution.
6) Do some stretching, yin yoga, meditation, breath or gratitude work
7) In bed, listen to an audio book in the dark, listen to a sleep story, read with a dim light or do some yoga nidra. This collection of free resources from Headspace also include meditation, sleep and movement exercises.
8) Lights out and sleep. Zzzzzz..
Remember, this routine is your time to indulge in self-care. The precious ‘campfire hours’ before, bed are for unwinding, rather than adding extra stress to our system.
This may be hard at first, especially if you are busy, but your self care is more important than the things that you have to do, that probably can be left till the morning.
What to do if you wake at night and can’t sleep?
If you wake up during the night, for longer than say 10 minutes (there’s no need to time this!), try getting up and leaving the bedroom. Do something really really boring instead of trying your hardest to sleep. Some people find reading the dictionary helps! Avoid bright lights, TV, stimulating music during this time.
You can also scan your body for any tension and just let it go using this wonderful exercise.
What to do if you still can’t sleep
If you have a nice sleep routine, your sleep hygiene is excellent and you aren’t overly stressed, it may be that there is something else going on in your body that is disturbing your sleep.
This is where working with a practitioner, such as myself, is useful. Together we can identify and treat any gut issues, infections, or inflammation in the body that could be stopping you from sleeping well. Any one of these issues can disturb your sleep, and you may need to address these causes before you can sleep well again.