• I love a good night’s sleep! (part 2 of 3)

    An important trigger to stay asleep is that our core body temperature will drop. To allow this to happen, there are a number of issues to consider. Ideally do not over heat a bedroom in more temperate climates and use cooling when it is warmer. If you exercise late in the day, this can speed up metabolism and this can raise core body temperature. So exercise well in advance of bedtime. Similarly a large heavy meal will require a lot of energy to digest, so this may initially make you sleepy, but also keep you awake later. People have different metabolisms. A slimmer man will probably have a higher metabolism than a woman carrying more weight and he will potentially disturb her sleep if his higher temperature is felt under the covers. There are ways to deal with all of this. Our bodies manage our internal temperatures in a number of ways and you can assist this process by the conditions in which you sleep. Unfortunately as we get older many people find it more difficult to stay asleep.

    Darkness helps sleep. When you have your eyes closed, light can still be registered in light receptors in your eyes, even at low levels. So consider investing in block-out blinds or curtains. An eye patch can work beautifully to get a few hours more sleep at home in summer for example, or when travelling. Make sure that lights from electrical equipment are not in direct contact with your eyes. A digital clock right next to you can be a major disturbance and even a small power switch on a TV in a hotel room can be a problem, so cover them all up.

    Quietness helps with sleep. Consider a double glazed window in your bedroom to reduce noise from outside. In highly built up areas there can be a lot of noise from outside and in many parts of the world this is a standard feature of buildings however for some reason in Australia it is overlooked. Double-glazing assists with insulation and this may reduce your energy consumption too. I did this with my whole inner city apartment and I think that it’s the best investment that I have ever made.

    Be careful of stimulation! Our bodies are chemical factories so the excitement that results from many activities can cause lingering chemical reactions that will disturb sleep, long after the stimulation is gone. So prepare for sleep by winding down activities and settling the mind. Television often is very stimulating and it may be simply the snappy pace of a commercial designed with the exact purpose to grab our attention in a short amount of time and stay in our minds. Or it may be violence or devised tension in a thriller, or even something more exciting. So consider reading a book that relaxes you instead. Recently I have discovered that as I approach 50, even a cup of coffee in the morning is a stimulant that lingers. So now a strong cup of tea seems sufficient to wake me up. Food preservatives often used in some takeaway foods and wine can have an effect on me… and don’t be fooled folks, alcohol is a stimulant… lots of it may knock you out for a short while but will wake you prematurely and then consume your energy as your body fights the toxic invasion. I love a delicious glass of Barossa Shiraz but I also know that every glass is unquestionably poisoned. Every time you drink less, you improve your sleep and health.

    Bodyweight is also a consideration that affects sleep. If you are overeating, drinking and not exercising there will be many components that disturb sleep. Sleep apnea has strong links to being overweight, so fat around our breathing gear gets in the way so that we take in less oxygen… (and disturb partners too) The problem compounds in that when you are asleep, hunger is suppressed, so the more you wake up, the more that you will feel like midnight snacking…. Which is likely to result in more weight…. and this increased weight will affect your sleep…..and on and on. Please seek professional medical assistance available for this serious condition if you think that you or your partner stops breathing during the night. To keep airways open, consider your pillow in particular and your sleeping position. The right amount of support to allow a position that keeps your breathing easy is vital.

    Another good practice is to allow your mind some quiet time to review your day and process, before bringing this activity to bed. Many people’s lives are packed full and without some quiet time you can find that when getting into bed, your mind can race with thoughts of the day. Consider meditating. Scientifically proven to have massive benefits in a multitude of ways, I feel that meditation is the most powerful health technique that you can put into practice. Perhaps to start, find a technique that does not require any effort and will operate automatically. For “automatic” techniques the only discipline is to make the time to do it. For me once I settle, the technique is an effortless process. Perhaps consider a guided meditation that you can download from the internet. Meditating when you are close to sleep can be a conflict in activities, so meditate at the end of your working day prior to eating and in the morning as well if you can. You can always move on to higher techniques that involve a bit more mind control if you wish.

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