Ways to clean up your sleep hygiene and catch all the z's.
“Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and bodies together”
When was the last time you had at least 8 hrs, uninterrupted, deep, quality sleep?
For at least 22% of the population in UK, it was a long long time ago.
For almost all of the people I see in clinic they experience symptoms like trouble falling asleep, interrupted sleep, dream disturbed sleep that is shallow, and waking feeling exhausted.
So, why are people not sleeping well?
Common causes are:
Stress causing elevated cortisol levels which wreaks havoc on our natural sleep cycle.
Poor sleep hygiene
Medications (beta blockers, hypertensive medications, corticosteroids, pain medication)
Chronic conditions (chronic pain, cancer, diabetes, GERD, thyroid issues)
In my opinion, the majority of us also don’t prioritise it, we treat our bodies like our devices. We use it when we need it and when we have finished for the day we push a button and switch it off. Instantaneous.
For some rare individuals this is possible. They are like sleep unicorns (my mum). Out in 5 minutes and snoring soundly. But for the rest of us (me included), we lay awake, hearing their snores, getting increasingly frustrated, more aware of the contrast of sleep being had.
So the same way we prioritise exercise, and nutrition, we also have to prioritise sleep. In doing so we then create good sleep hygiene, which is what we are going to focus on in this blog.
What does sleep actually do?
Sleep is AS important as the food that we eat and the exercise we do.
Sleep allows the brain to consolidate memories, and literally clear out junk from the day. The brains glymphatic system amps up when we sleep to clear out toxins like beta-amyloid (which is associated with dementia). (1)
Allows better concentration, focus, decision making, and creativity when we are awake. (2)
Encourages repair and healing of cells, which is essential in the maintenance of the physical body and also for longevity.
Ensures optimal immune function. (3)
Good sleep is linked to maintaining a healthy weight as it can influence appetite, weight gain, and motivation to exercise. (4,5,6)
So now we know how important sleep is!
Here are ways to clean up your sleep routine, so you can catch all the Zs. Starting from 5:00 pm
Decrease your caffeine and don’t have any after 12. This is very obvious and self explanatory. Those having a cup of coffee before bed, I’m looking at you. Also aim to have your dinner between 5-7pm. According to the Chinese Medicine body clock this is best time for digesting a meal whilst leaving time for the body to wind down for sleep.
A time to switch off mentally. Ideally, non screen time would start from now. So find an activity that works for you, read a book, journal, drawing, knitting etc. If you are going to watch TV set yourself a time limit (eg 1-1.5 hrs), try and keep the tv out of your bedroom and just keep your bedroom for sleep and relaxation. Apply your blue light filter to all your devices.
I think it's time to take it into the bedroom. Set the scene. Think, warm lighting, scented candles, perfect temperature, clean sheets. Make your bedroom a place where you can leave all the day's problems and fears at the door. This is a great time to do a quick yoga/stretch. Here’s a link to my favourite bedtime vid. Or you could treat yourself to a nice neck/shoulder/face massage.
How amaze is this bedroom set up btw.
If you weren’t feeling sleepy before, your eyelids will definitely be getting heavy now. So don’t ignore those cues! To seal the deal, I like to do sleep visualisations, which is a form a guided meditation. For those Chris Hemsworth fans, he has done a few for “kids” but definitely suitable for adults too.
So, now you have the schedule, it’s all about discipline. Repeat until it forms a habit and you will be amazed at the difference a routine can make. However if you’re suffering from chronic sleep disturbance and have a complex medical history not to worry. Acupuncture and herbs are not only proven to be super effective, but I have also seen it clinically with my patients (7). Make quality sleep your priority and it can be transformative.
Franken, P, et al., (2009) The functions of sleep. Eur. J. Neurosci 29(9) 1739-1740 https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-9568.2009.06746.x
Poe, G. R., Walsh, C. M., & Bjorness, T. E. (2010). Cognitive neuroscience of sleep. Progress in brain research, 185, 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-444-53702-7.00001-4
Cohen, S, Doyle, W.J., Alper, C.M., Janicki-Deverts, D, Turner R.B., Sleep habits and susceptibility to the common cold. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Jan 12;169(1):62-7. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed
Cappuccio, F. P., Taggart, F. M., Kandala, N. B., Currie, A., Peile, E., Stranges, S., & Miller, M. A. (2008). Meta-analysis of short sleep duration and obesity in children and adults. Sleep, 31(5), 619–626. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/31.5.619
Di Milia, L, Vandelanotte, C, Duncan M.J., (2013) The association between short sleep and obesity after controlling for demographic, lifestyle, work and health related factors. Sleep Med. 14(4):319-23. doi: 10.1016/j.
Taheri, S, Lin, L, Austin, D, Young, T, Mignot, E (2004) Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index. PLoS Med. 2004 Dec;1(3):e62 doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0010062
Shergis, J.S., Ni, X.J., Jackson, M.L., Zhang, A.L., Guo, X,F., Li, Y, Lu, C. J., xue C.C., (2016) A systematic review of acupuncture for sleep quality in people with insomnia. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 26(6) 11-20 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2016.02.007