Not being able to sleep is incredibly stressful, and damaging to the body. If you struggle to sleep, why not try some of our tips below to help you have a good night’s sleep! There is no cure all and getting a good nights sleep should be managed holistically - making changes to your environment, routine, supporting your mental and emotional wellbeing, assessing your nutrition and in some cases, herbal support. Let's begin!
Always switch off all computers, wi-fi, electrical items and plug sockets which can disturb sleep.
Avoid having a TV in your room - it is distracting. The bedroom should be a place for sex, relaxation and sleep only!
Unnatural light prevents melatonin release. Melatonin is our sleep hormone which is produced when it goes dark so it is a good idea to dim lights as it gets closer to bedtime; obviously avoid phones and computers in the evening, at least 2 hours before you go to bed too. I gradually turn off the lights one by one and then use candlelight to light the room. If you do use candlelight it is important to be safe; place them carefully and snuff any candles out before you go to sleep to avoid a fire risk.
Keep the room cool - no more than 20 degrees. The body cools down when we sleep so lowering the temperature can help. I personally keep a window open, just a little for fresh air too.
Sleep naked! Clothes can keep us artificially warm. Once you have tried it you will never turn back!
Have two quilts on the bed if you sleep with a partner - a quilt each keeps everyone warm and saves arguments! If you sleep on your own or suffer from anxiety a cuddly blanket can also help.
Consider your bed position. In Feng Shui (the Chinese art of placement) it is believed your head should be pointing to the North direction, as a general rule. It is also said that you should not sleep opposite a door as it is believed to be bad luck. It is also a good idea to cover any mirrors when you sleep, so that your energy is not dissipated!
Mental and Emotional Support
If you struggle to sleep due to anxiety or because you have a busy mind, the following tips can help:
Keep a book by your bed or a voice recorder (not the phone) so that you can note any worries or things that you have to do the next day then you can actually relax without constant thoughts.
Get prepared for bed - lock the doors, get a glass of water, turn the plug sockets off, put music on if it helps etc. But get everything ready so that once you are in bed you do not need to disturb your relaxation.
Busy minds can benefit from mediation or sleep hypnosis. I personally love Jody Whitely who is on You Tube but there are many to choose from, including The Five Minute Miracle. Silent Journey are a lovely online meditation company too.
Repeating mantras is a good way to entertain your conscious mind and help you to relax. It is important to focus ONLY on the words and let go of other thoughts. Repeat ‘So Ha’ or phrases like ‘I am safe’, ‘I am loved’, ‘I let go of my worries and feel tired’, ‘my body is a source of peace’ or even ‘I am asleep’ - whatever suits your situation. Or, there are lots of mantra sleep recordings on YouTube if you prefer to listen to them with music. I love these: https://youtu.be/zHDrHRmaQjQ , https://youtu.be/6XP-f7wPM0A , https://youtu.be/isXLBHCDo4Y.The first is a medicine chant and the last two are by Tina Turner repeating Buddhist peace mantras.
Each night before bed, I like to list 10 things I am grateful for so I can sleep with a good attitude. If you struggle to sleep you can think of those nice thoughts and focus on something familiar which is low level concentration.
Breathing exercises! Rest the tip of your tongue just behind your upper teeth and exhale through your mouth making a ‘wooshing’ noise and focus on the noises you make. Breathe in for 4 seconds and out for 7 seconds. Focus on nothing but the breathing. Feel your diaphragm lift up fully and reduce fully which lowers your heart rate and is beneficial for sleep.
The Importance of Routine.
Wake up at the same time and make the bed - even if you do not sleep. It helps to keep your circadian rhythm healthy.
Get up early and get out in the sunshine! Natural sunlight or bright light during the day helps you to sleep better at night, at least 2 hours of sunshine are recommended at a minimum.
Make sure you do some exercise in the day so you are actually tired by the evening - walking, gardening, the gym, dancing, whatever suits. Exercise in the day and not in the evening though. It recommended to exercise at least three hours before bed; exercise creates endorphins which make you fell energised and might keep you awake.
Finally, if you do wake up in the middle of the night, don’t look at the time as it just creates more anxiety. Just learn to simply lay there until you drift back off to sleep.
Have a warm hot bath in Epsom salts around an one and a half hours before bed, then get in a cool bed. Epsom salts contain magnesium, it has many roles in the body but known as the ‘relaxer’ mineral. Heating your body temperature and then getting into a cool bed will then reduce your temperature tricking it into sleep, as our body naturally cools down when we sleep.
Freezing pillow cases for a few minutes can be useful as it is nice and soothing and again, can help to reduce your temperature - great if you are menopausal and suffering from hot flushes, as are breathable fabrics. If you suffer from headaches then cooling your feet can also help!
Readers are more than welcome to get in touch for a herbal consultation, formulas and dosages but consider herbs which support sleep such as Valerian root. Relaxing nervines which as the name suggests, help to relax the body, can also be supportive. Examples include: Scutellaria lateriflora, (great for anxiety), Tilia Cordata (super if you need some additional love), Eschscholzia californica (a mild sedative/pain relief), calendula officinalis (super around period time or for emotional healing). With all herbs it is best to seek advice as there can be contraindications, especially if you are taking prescribed medications.
Matricaria recutita, better known as Chamomile, is very calming and versatile. You can drink the tea or add the dried herb to bath water. It contains a flavonoid called apigenin which attaches to brain receptors (benzodiazepine receptors), which are involved in the sleep-wake transition and may help to make you feel sleepy. Generally considered a safe herb but allergies /contraindications can exist, so always do your research to see if it is suitable for you.
Add a drop of lavender oil on your pillow, in an a fragrance burner or dilute with some oil and add it to your pulse points as it is great for relaxation. With Essential oils you get what you pay for, and best to avoid cheap, dirty, synthetic ones, which will not have the same effect.
An Ayurvedic remedy is hot milk and a little turmeric powder; not suitable for those that are lactose intolerant however, it is nourishing, soothing and can support sleep.
A magnesium deficiency is very common, especially if you eat few green vegetables, nuts, wholegrain or seeds. And, even if you do include vegetables and other foods that contain magnesium it is likely you could have low levels; sadly our vegetables are intensively farmed and therefore much lower in minerals when compared to foods grown in the 1940s. You could consider a magnesium spray or a supplement abe doctors can test your magnesium levels by means of a blood test, if you are worried. In the first instance try adding more organic vegetables and healthy grains, such as brown rice, quinoa or buckwheat into your diet and then take advice for supplementation, as quality and dosages vary.
Low levels of vitamin D have also been associated with poor sleep. As has iron, calcium and B vitamins, including B12. B vitamins and B12 are perhaps the most common. They relax the nervous system and are required for our energy making processes. Numbness and/or tinging in your legs can be signs of low B12. And calcium, while not commonly low, is needed to make tryptophan which is our happy hormone. Always best to seek help from a nutritionist before taking supplements and start with diet changes - a simple search on Google such as ‘foods highest in magnesium’ should help!
Dehydration creates the stress hormone cortisol and is often overlooked. Trying sipping a pint of blood temperature water before bed. If you think you will wake up and wee, then drink it 2 hours before bed.
Caffeine also produces cortisol (as well as being dehydrating), so stop drinking coffee by 2pm in the afternoon. If you drink alcohol, drink it early after dinner rather than at night as this can keep you awake.
Consider a little Tart Cherry juice in the evening when it is getting dark as it can help to support melatonin production, which is our sleep hormone.
Melatonin supplements exist on the market. I wouldn’t supplement unless it was necessary, perhaps a good idea if you are a night shift worker. Melatonin supplements are still unregulated and therefore quality, safety, dosage varies so always seek advice.
Eat the amino-acid Tryptophan which makes 5-HTP (the precursor to our happy hormone). Tryptophan is found in turkey, turkey, eggs, salmon. And don’t forget a little raw chocolate (Cacao) or dark chocolate is good for you too!
Eat when it is daylight and not in darkness. The body can’t sleep well and digest food at the same time. In Winter I like to eat a bigger lunch and enjoy a highly digestible snack at night; something like oats, or a light carbohydrate / protein snack to keep your blood sugar steady through the night so you don’t wake up.
Don’t watch films and eat, especially something scary like a horror film. You will be producing cortisol (fright of flight) and that means your body is ready to run away - not digesting food, so you will end up with disrupted sleep due to a full stomach.
The Impact of the Full Moon
The moon is lit by the sun. The light of the full moon is associated with poor sleep. It seems our sleep cycle keeps in time with the 29.5 day lunar cycle and sleep studies have shown it can take 30 minutes longer to get to sleep and we sleep less with a delayed time to reach REM sleep, under the full moon.
The most common theory is that the light of the moon reduces melatonin production, however it is low in intensity and artificial light is far more intense so some scientist suggest other factors are at work! Could it be due to the electromagnetic activity of the moon which becomes negatively charged and influence the Earth’s field? Geomagnetic variations have also been blamed and linked to a variety of health effects including headaches and changes in blood pressure. Gravity might also affect human health as the body is mainly made of water and the moon as noticeable effects on tides, however it is the same in the full and new moon so cannot be down to gravity alone - we need more research!
Either way, full moons are all about releasing and completeness. I tend to use the sleep disruption positively and meditate when I can’t sleep. I speak my to guides and ask for help completing things - at least if I can’t sleep I am being productive. I also make sure to wake up at the same time anyway so I am tired for the next night.
And, finally if you wake up at a specific time frequently, maybe check out the Chinese Five Elements Clock. It is rooted in ancient Chinese observations. Eg, 2am is the time of the liver - in which case your body may be telling you to have a little detox. It’s very interesting and I’d recommend having a little research - you will be surprised at what you can learn!
Well, I hope you enjoyed reading this blog. I would love to know if you have any success with the points mentioned, so do let us know! Happy Sleeping!
Thank you Jade Price for the lovely photo collage :)