1. POSTURE IN BED
Last week we were focusing on how your sleep position might be affecting your ability to get more peaceful zz’d since you may be shifting positions to ease some of the inevitable aches and pains that come with some of those positions when the limbs aren’t properly supported and pulled out of alignment. I hope you’ve enjoyed titivating your bedtime posture to help you sleep better!
2. KEEP IN LINE WITH YOUR CIRCADIAN RHYTHM
This week we extend our search for a good night’s shut eye still further when we investigate other ways in which we may be consciously or unconsciously sabotaging ourselves and preventing a good rest. The body is set up perfectly to have a great night’s sleep and you have all the things in place to catch all the z’ds you need. There will be things you are doing in the day and behaviours that you are engaging in that will be taking away your ability to do what the body is designed to do naturally. If you are sleep deprived you will notice all sorts of side effects including bigger swings between sleepiness and alertness during the day. This is because your Circadium Rhythm is out of wack. Read a bit more about it here.
Many of you will have noticed that your Circadium Rhythm has changed as you have got older and your need for sleep differs from your younger years. To get maxiumum benefit from working WITH your own PERSONAL rhythm (and not that of your partner or your scheduled flight on holiday) you need to take notice of your dips in energy and notice what time you need to start your bedtime routine to help you get the most rest. If you’re a normal human being however, it is likely that you will be doing things to go against the natural rhythmns, body clocks and hormones that are in place to help you maximise your ability to sleep.
3. CUT DOWN ON THE SLEEP SABOTAGING BEHAVIOUR
I’m not going to list all the different ways you might be sabotaging your sleep hygiene here, because I’m going to be asking you to come up with them yourselves as a group as part of our sharing as a team together in class. It’s an interesting discussion also to investigate WHY we think we indulge in this type of self sabotaging behaviour, even though we are well educated and face the consequence of our indulgence every day.
It’s not all bad news though. Harping back to my old days as a Psychologist, I remember that Freud talks about the Thanatos or death instinct which explains our tendency to self destruct but he also theorises about the Life Instinct (Eros) and our knack of seeking pleasure and actually doing what works for ourselves. Most of our world religions encompass some sort of struggle between one side of our nature that works for our (and other’s) good and the other side that doesn’t!!!! So I know some of you will have things to share about how you’ve turned things around in the bedroom department (no…it’s not THAT sort of discussion we will be having) by following good advice about how you can improve your sleep hygiene and you have elements of an excellent bed time routine which really serve you well.
4. LIGHT UP YOUR LIFE BUT NOT YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE
I will be interested to find out how you ‘power down’ to prepare yourself for sleep. There is a lot of research regarding the brightness and colour of light and it’s effect on sleep. This is because sleep researchers have shown that Melatonin, which is produced by the pineal gland and is located near the center of the brain, is a highly light-sensitive hormone. It is turned on or off to a large degree by the presence of absence of light. Melatonin production instigates drowsiness and is switched on by darkness. It helps if you get outside in the light for a minimum of 20 minutes every day to help you waken up and become more alert, offering you the opportunity for better sleep at night also. However we can have too much of a good thing, late on ito the evening – the bright and blueish light, such as that omitted by smartphones, tablets and computers is the worst culprits for extending your body clock into the wee hours since the blue/whiteness mimics daylight hours and prepares the brain for waking up.
But what if you love falling asleep to your iPad showing a TV show or a game that helps you drift off….? There are no rules of course and you may not be as affected by the blue tinge wake up call, but be honest with yourself… could the programme be keeping you awake for longer than necessary and might you nod of quicker and fall into a deeper sleep if you played an audiobook or bodcast on the same machine with the light switched completely off.
On the other hand, using a red or orange-hued light, such as the lights that Dave brought to show you at the Christmas party (a himalayan salt lamp) will have a positive effect on preparing you for sleep since it is omiting the colour of rays that the brain processes as evening light. You can also look on your Smartphone to see if you can set evening mode to come on automatically when it senses darkness (I can on my Google Pixel phone and I’ll show you if you have one. Here is how to do it on an iPhone). The light it emits is then orange, rather than blue. You can also watch out for the light emitted by your bedside clock.
5. EAT & DRINK YOUR WAY TO A GOOD NIGHT’S REST
What you eat and how much you eat can obviously have a huge effect on the amount and quality of shut eye you are able to obtain. Avoiding alcohol in the evening is a number one priority if you are serious about getting enough sleep. Although it can seem to have a calming effect and help you to get off to sleep, because it is a stimulant, the effect is to wake you in the early hours, usually craving a drink since it has such dehydrating properties.
Avoiding things that take a lot of digesting will be helpful such as complex carbs (white refined sugars). You can replace them with whole grains such as Oatmeal or whole wheat crackers with nut butter. Nuts contain lots of melatonin so eating almonds and walnuts in particular will help you sleep more soundly. Raspberries are also high in Melatonin. Foods rich in magnesium will help you get the much needed mineral required for quality sleep. It’s difficult to stay asleep if you don’t have enough magnesium. Almonds contain it luckily enough.
Walnuts are a good source of tryptophan, a sleep-enhancing amino acid that helps make serotonin and melatonin, the body clock hormone that sets you sleep-wake cycles. Lean protein, such as cottage cheese is also a winner since it is packed with the amino acid tryptophan also. Milk and Dairy a high in calcium as are other mild substitutes. Calcium helps the brain use the tryptophan found in dairy to manufacture sleep-triggering melatonin. Drinking a mug of warmed nut milk such as almond or cashew milk, maybe sweetened with dark chocolate (70%) will help you drift off (but not too much choc as it contains caffeine). Alternatively, if you can stomach herbal teas then chamomile, ginger and peppermint will be your friends as they have calming properties. Passion fruit tea is high in Harman Alkaloids which are the chemicals found in high levels in the flower that act on your nervous system and make you tired. Best drunk an hour before bed.
Cherry juice and whole tart cherries contain melatonin as do bananas, pineapple and oranges. Not too much though because of the sugar content which will have you wide a awake craving more sugar in a few hours. Many sleep disorders cause oxidative stress. This can be counteracted with fruits and veggies that are rich in antioxidants such as prunes, raisins and plums. Will you believe e when I say that lettuce contains lactucarium, which has a sedative effect on the brain similar to opium. Well… there is no harm in experimenting!
Other good sources of tryptophan are crustaceans like shrimp or lobster and chickpeas as well as green leafy veg that are loaded with calcium such as kale, spinach and mustard greens. Tuna, halibut and salmon along with raw garlic and pistachio nuts are high in Vitamin B6, which your body needs to make melatonin and serotonin. Honey also allows tryptophan to enter the brain more easily so you might want a spoonful in your chamomile tea!
We can probably all easily highlight the things we know we do to sabotage ourselves, however there may also be things that wreck your rest that you feel less in control of such as the onset of menopause, Restless Legs Syndrome, Thyroid Disease, Pain from Osteoarthritis, Night Muscle Cramps, side effects of medication, including Chemotherapy etc. Our options here are two fold – we can become less anxious about those things we can’t control, give up feelings of hopelessness and of being a victim of these type of circumstance. But we may also be surprised at how much we add to these conditions by not looking after ourselves well enough during the day and perhaps even putting things into our bodies that contribute to the worsening of the condition. Using an example from the week before last, we might be taking in alcohol, caffeine or fizzy drinks during the day and / or evening worsen many conditions such as osteoporosis.
6. POP YOGA INTO YOUR BEDTIME ROUTINE
Yoga can of course go a long way toward alleviating some of the rest wreckers and if you are inspired to bring some gentle Somatic Yoga practice into your bedtime preparation routine, this week’s classes will help you design one that is right for your body and the kind of rest wreckers that you are dealing with. Even if you have no physical ailments that might be disturbing your sleep, most active adults will have commonly tight muscles in the legs, bottom, back, shoulders and neck and we will be taking our practice to a new simple level this week so that you can take home easily remembered routines to help you get your shut eye. Here is the plan of what we got up too. It is complicated by a lot of arrows since I was trying to highlight which big muscles were being released as a result of this practice. Here is a link to some of the less well known movements led mostly by one of my favorite Somatic Educators, Susan Koenig (because of her obvious anatomical knowledge). We will also be practicing Chandra Bheda – the moon channel breath. This is said to help calm the nervous system and quieten the business of the mind. We breath in through the left nostril and out through the right.
7. YOGA NIDRA YOUR WAY TO PLEASANT DREAMS
In my opinion one of the most beautiful ways of drifting off into a wonderful deep sleep which will also stimulate all those delicious Theta brain waves that give you the most healing and peaceful experiences is listening and following the instructions of a Yoga Nidra. Here is a bit more about the different types of brainwaves and their affects on you if you’re interested. I have recorded what we did in class this week for you so that you can access it it via this link whenever you want too. Enjoy dear friends!