It seems very few people actually get a good night's sleep anymore.
Most people I talk to either have trouble falling asleep, wake up several times in the night, or never sleep deeply. The result can be feeling sluggish and tired all the time, or even worse. For many years I woke up feeling like I'd been run over by a truck. My whole body ached, I was groggy, grumpy, and never felt like getting out of bed, no matter how late I slept. It wasn't fun.
Thankfully, my quality of sleep has vastly improved in recent years. I've learned some basic things I can to do work toward better sleep. I hope these tips will help you as well.
(Note: remember that poor sleep and poor health are intertwined. If you don't sleep well, that contributes to health problems. But if you already have health problems, that will often cause difficulty sleeping. So it's important to work on both sleeping better and improving overall health through other means as well.)
Anyway, here are a few ideas to help you sleep more sweetly. =)
1) Adjust your bedding -
All mattresses, sheets, blankets, and especially pillows contain flame retardants (also knows as PBDE's). It's required by law in the US, (I'm assuming in Canada as well, but not positive) that all bedding, and many other products, be treated with this chemical. I plan to devote another post to details about flame retardant, but suffice it to say it is highly toxic! Disrupting sleep is only one of the dangerous results of being exposed to flame retardants all night long.
So, if you can afford to invest in an organic mattress, that's a great way to go! If you can't, then I recommend purchasing an organic cotton "barrier cloth" to cover your mattress (providing at least a small "barrier" between you and the toxic mattress). Also use an organic cotton pillow and organic 100% cotton sheets. I've purchased these items from Janice's, but there are other companies that make them as well.
When you're sleeping on bedding that contains toxic chemicals, your body is in danger during a time when it should be safe and able to rest and recover. That's why investing in organic bedding (without the flame retardant) is so important. Sleep is God's gift to us. It's the time our bodies repair and heal. If we keep the body under physical stress from toxins while we sleep, it won't be able to heal properly.
Also, it's important to change your sheets often. Every 5 days is probably best for most people, but definitely at least once a week. And every 2-3 days is better if you're going through a detoxing phase.
2) New pajamas -
Along with bedding, the clothes you sleep in also can affect you. Anything polyester, nylon, or spandex actually contains petroleum products or by-products. It may sound strange, but these can also put stress on your body. The best material for pajamas is 100% cotton (organic if possible). Many stores now carry organic 100% cotton clothes, or at least 100% cotton, even if not organic.
I realize you probably can't change your whole wardrobe, but as much as possible try to chose pajamas that are 100% cotton. And make sure they are NOT made in China! (Anything made in China is highly toxic.)
3) Clear your environment -
It's really important that the room where you sleep is a non-toxic environment. That means:
First, no electronics in your room at night (computer, cell phone, TV, stereo, etc). These put off EMF's (electromagnetic fields) which can disrupt your sleep, so they are better left in another room. (If you must keep something, like a cell phone, in your room, then at least put it away from the bed. Many people sleep with their cell phones within inches of their head at night, and this is very bad for healthy sleep.)
Second, remove books, paper, notebooks, etc. to another room or at least across the room, away from your bed. These contain a certain amount of formaldehyde, petroleum products, etc.
Third, remove furniture that's not metal or real wood. If it's "pressed" wood, definitely move it out. (It's made of recycled material that has high levels of formaldehyde.)
These are the three main problem areas, but generally, whatever you can move out of your room is better for you. Keep closet doors closed and shoes & clothes inside. Dust frequently. If you have an air purifier you can run at night while you sleep, that's also good.
4) Protein snack -
Many people find it helpful to have a small protein snack in the evening, such as scrambled eggs, almonds butter on toast, a piece of boiled chicken, etc. - whatever is a healthy protein snack for your body. I definitely sleep better if I have a small evening snack.
5) Grounding -
A lot of people report sleeping much better if they spend 10-15 minutes a day "grounding" (basically it just means standing barefoot on the ground). This website explains the science behind this technique. I've been grounding a few days a week and it seems to help with my energy level.
6) Relax -
One very important detail for good sleep is to not be on the computer, cell phone or TV after 9pm (or at least an hour before you go to bed). Your body needs time away from the electronics to wind down so you'll be able to get to sleep. Many people who stay on their computers late actually get an artificial "boost" from the EMF's and end up staying up too late when their bodies are craving rest.
If you like to, try reading for 10-15 minutes before you go to bed. Reading is very relaxing and helps your brain send your body the message that it's time to slow down and get ready for sleep. (Of course, don't read a page-turning thriller novel or something that will start your adrenalin pumping.)
If you have a hard time falling asleep, try a relaxation technique. There are different ones I've heard of.
- You can take several slow, deep breaths while picturing a restful scene in your mind.
- You can close your eyes and tell all the various parts of your body "goodnight" (goodnight toes, goodnight feet, etc.). This one sounds a little funny, but I know parents often use it with kids when they're restless. =) Or a variation is to think to yourself calmly and slowly, "I'm relaxing my toes, I'm relaxing my feet, etc."
- You can try to slow your breathing to match your heart-rate.
This last one is what my physical therapist recommended I try and it really helped me at one point when I had trouble falling asleep or waking up a lot. Basically, I just closed my eyes and pictured the beach with waves gently rolling in. Then I tried to breath in and out as I pictured the waves rolling in and out. If you need a word to focus on, you can simply think "in" as you breathe in and picture the wave rolling in, then think "out" as you breathe out and picture the wave going out. Giving the brain something specific and simple to focus on helps it let go of all the other competing thoughts that often keep us awake.
When I first started doing this, I actually felt agitated after a few minutes. But I forced my mind to keep focusing, keep breathing, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up! So somewhere after the frustration, it actually worked and I fell asleep.
Scientifically I think this kind of thing would be called bio-feedback. For me, it helped my mind calm down and focus on something peaceful, which relaxed my brain and I fell asleep. After using this method a few times, my brain got the message and I've hardly had to use it since. I fall asleep easily now. =)
Well, those are my tips. I hope they're helpful!
What ideas do you have for improving sleep?