My 7 steps to a quiet mind and a great night sleep
How many times have you been exhausted all day, only to find once your head finally hits the pillow you brain goes crazy!
But it is a sign of bigger issues at play? Things that need to be managed better? Especially when it comes to sleep. Without good sleep you gain weight, you increase your risk of diabetes and dementia. Sleep is so crucial to our health it needs more value in our lives.
So here is the key things you need to look into.
What are your doing right before bed?
Are you drinking coffee?
Are you watching TV to fall asleep?
Or reading a kindle?
Are you playing games on your phone?
Our brains need to wind down. They have been active all day. They don't have a switch you can just turn off. Your brain needs time to slow down. So are you giving it the opportunity?
Step 1: Set up a consistent routine
Our brains like routine. It frees up space if we can set a few things into auto pilot. Your sleep is the same. This is why you wake up at 6am on the weekends even when your alarm is off. So set a new, consistent start to your bed time routine and a consistent wake up time. If there is a great program on TV, set it to record or iview it later. This will allow your mind to relax better knowing when sleep is coming consistently.
Step 2: About 30min before bed go for a shower.
This will help regulate your body temperature. If you are too hot or too cold before you go to bed it will delay the onset of sleep (hot flushes and night sweats are a chat for another blog). If you are able to, in the bathroom, decrease the light as well. Have a shower by candle light or use a low volt globe in a lamp. Taking this time to step away from the mental stimulus and regulate your body temperature will help communicate to your brain it's nearly time for bed rather than jumping in and expecting it to just stop.
Step 3: Keep away from blue and bright light
This goes back to suggestion 2. You can't take your phone in the shower... Your brain need to see darkness to trigger the release of melatonin (sleeping hormone). If you are exposed to the blue light found in computers, tv's, phones, tablets, and kindle readers before bed your brain won't release melatonin. It takes time for the levels of melatonin to increase high enough to suppress your cortisol and allow sleep. So after that 30min shower you need to leave the electronic devices alone. In fact leave them out of the bedroom completely. Reading an old fashioned book by warm light is fine. Watch out for "cool light" globes as these use blue light as well. You can purchase blue light cancelling glasses online and in pharmacy. These are great if you work on computer and other screens all day, deceasing your overall exposure. They don't remove it completely.
Step 4: Journaling - getting it out of your head and onto paper
Once you are out of that shower and in bed with low warm light you can get writing. The beauty of journaling is paper is the worlds greatest listener. It won't interrupt you and will never say you are over reacting or being silly. You can put it on paper any way you like. There doesn't need to be a pattern or story to it. It's not about keeping it either. Once you have finished writing you can shred, burn it, compost it, whatever makes you feel safe. It's the process that works. It allows your emotions and thoughts to have the time and space to freely express itself with out you telling yourself to "stop it" "don't be silly". Trust me. This is a game changer!
Step 5: Train your brain
Asking your brain to suddenly stop is like asking a 3 year old not to touch something.... It just won't happen. Your brain has spent the entire day thinking ahead, planning, looking back, reviewing, protecting, processing... You can't expect it to go from 1 million things to zero... Take a breath and be kind to your poor mind. Your brain is like any other muscle. It needs exercise and training. So thinking of just one thing takes practice.
The easiest way to start is counting your breath. Breathe in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 2, breathe out for the count of 6, hold for the count of 2. This is a technique snipers use to decrease their heart rate. 4-2-6-2. The first few times you try it will feel like you aren't getting enough air. It's ok. Make sure when you breathe in you take that air all the way to your belly button, not just your ribs. There are great meditations that use this technique. Look into apps, spotify and you-tube meditations to help you practice.
Every time you catch your mind wandering off thinking about the shopping you need to do tomorrow, don't punish yourself. Just acknowledge it and bring yourself back to breathing. Remember this takes training. Be patient with yourself.
Step 6: Exercise
There is no better way to quite your mind than to do some exercise. I can't stress to you enough, just how valuable this is! So many of us make excuses to not exercise. "I have knee pain" "It's raining" "I'm not a morning person" "I can't afford the gym or PT". Come on now... This is my loving gentle shove to get you moving. It has a massive impact on how quickly you fall asleep, how deep you sleep, how rested you feel when you wake up and your mental health throughout the day. If you spend from 9am-5am on a computer, Monday to Friday that is a LOT of time sitting on your butt. There are programs that can be created so you can exercise around all your aches and pains. Start gentle and build upon it. GET MOVING!
Step 7: Supplement support
So many think this is the answer. Supplements are the supporting act not the final answer. So make sure you use solution 1-6 first.
Magnesium is a muscle relaxant. It will stop you tossing and turning in bed, those cramps and relax your mind. There are a lot of different varieties on the market and some work better that others. Magnesium citrate and glycinate are great and powder is always better than tablets.
Hops is a fantastic herb that help with sleep, relaxation and hot flushes. As I mentioned before, hot flushes and night sweats affecting sleep is for a separate blog, but Hops is great for both. It often comes in sleep formulas so you need to be careful what other ingredients it is combined with and make sure it is safe for you to take.
Ashwagandha (Withania) is another amazing herb. It is getting a lot of media attention lately, and rightly so. It's been used for over 2000 years to help with stress and anxiety. While it is not a direct sedative it is great at relaxing the mind and body. Helping you get a better quality, great nights sleep.
Valerian, I have a mixed relationship with. While it is great at encouraging sleep it is not recommended to anyone with a liver condition and in some situations can keep people awake. While I do love it and it does work for sleep, I will always use with caution.
L-Theanine, you might not of heard of this one but its found in organic matcha, green and white tea and in supplements. Getting my geek on... L-Theanine increases GABA, Serotonin and Dopamine. These are brain chemicals that smooth out your mood and support sleep, and it's as simple as a cup of tea. The trick is to let it steep for quite a while. The longer the tea sits in the hot water the better.
There are lots of options in the world of supplements, but what works for you won't work or could even be dangerous for someone else. This is why I put supplements is step 7. For it to work well, it needs to be tailored specific to you.
So if you feel supplements is where you need the help then making an appointment with me will ensure you are getting advice that is safe and specific to your personal needs.
If you have tired all of this and you are still having a terrible nights sleep then we need to chat. There are still lots of options I haven't written about yet and I would love to help you get a great nights sleep. So lets chat.