Sleeping well is a skill, and an essential one at that. During sleep, our body does much of its cellular maintenance and repair work. Good sleep results in greeting the day in a good mood, energised, and brain-fog-free, refreshed by the restorative down time. Sleep poorly and you feel it all day long, fighting off brain fog and generally sleep-walking through the day, with a tendency to nod off at inopportune times.
Why is it that something that is so natural and so essential to good health can become so hard to do well? Has modern life taught us how not to sleep? In a way, yes. Various habits, over time, wind up teaching your body how to resist a good night’s sleep. The good news is that we can re-learn the art of sleep by day and set the stage for sleep success at night. Here’s what you need to know and how to help master the art:
- Review the classic sleep disturbances
To take back your nights and set them up for deep rest, start by getting familiar with a few of the classis sleep disturbances and see if they may be playing into your sleep issues…
Chronic stress and an over-stimulated nervous system
Chronic stress causes dysregulation of the sleep-wake cycle, the internal clock that tells the body when it is time to sleep and when it is time to be alert. Stress may reduce deep sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, both of which are important for mental and physical health.
Adrenal and thyroid hormones can wreck sleep if too much or too little is released at the wrong time.
Sugar, starchy foods, and processed carbohydrates correlate with poor sleep, in part because they’re metabolic disruptors, raising blood sugar and overstressing the organs responsible for regulating your hormones. This roller coaster can affect the sleep cycle by waking you up at odd times during the night, as hormone levels fluctuate.
Dairy and gluten, for some of us, can trigger sleep-disruptive digestive discomfort or even pain.
Difficulties with gas, bloating, constipation, acid reflux, and IBS not only disrupt your days but can also be uncomfortable enough to make staying asleep difficult.
Everyday chemicals like alcohol, caffeine, prescription medications, and recreational drugs can all have an energising effect and interfere with sleep.
This is a serious condition that develops when the tissues at the back of the throat relax, blocking the airways. The brain senses trouble, in the form of oxygen deprivation, and sends wake-up signals. It stimulates the release of “fight of flight” adrenaline and cortisol, aka the stress hormones.
- Be aware of the more subtle sleep disturbances
In addition, there are also several seemingly innocuous daytime habits that have a negative impact on our sleep, usually without us being aware of it…
Random bedtime schedules
A consistent sleep rhythm reminds the brain when to release sleep and wake hormones. You fall asleep and wake up more easily every day.
Spending uninterrupted hours in your desk chair
Not moving enough during the day will leave you with energy to burn – staring at the ceiling at night. Physically tiring yourself out with more movement throughout the day will help sleep come a lot sooner.
Night-time napping on the sofa
That too-late and too-long nap effectively throws off your internal body clock. But there’s nothing wrong with a short, sweet, refreshing power nap. Just make sure yours are 20 or 30 minutes maximum, and ideally before 4pm, so as not to interfere with your normal bedtime.
Brining your day to a screeching halt
Your body needs to produce the sleep neurotransmitters which signal the brain’s sleep headquarters that it’s time to start releasing sleep hormones. Start the shift after dinner by beginning to wind down: shut down your devices and screens and trade them for a book, dim the lights, take a hot bath, listen to calming music, take a few minutes to meditate, do some restorative yoga or relaxation exercises. The fewer physical and mental distractions, the better.
- Embrace a pro-sleep schedule
It is important not to obsess or increase your anxiety levels. Think of good sleep as a skill you’re working on – practice makes perfect, and some nights will be better than others. To help you get back in tune with your body’s internal clock and re-connected with the natural rhythms of light and dark, try Dr. Frank Lipman’s sleep-supportive prescription…
Enter your waking hours more naturally with light.
Get the blood flowing with a few yoga poses.
Follow that with 5-20 minutes of meditation for a calmer start to the day.
Settle into the workday but keep a pair of weights on your desk. Pump a little iron while waiting for your next meeting, or between calls.
Step into the morning light – sunlight improves our sleeping patterns, so make a half an hour of natural sunlight your daily goal. As light is being absorbed by our eyes, sunlight is helping to regulate and reset our biological clocks, triggering the release of specific chemicals and hormones that are vital to good sleep.
Get out of the office chair and take a quick powerwalk if you can, to add some movement to your morning.
If an outdoor Zoom call isn’t on the menu, then make sure an outdoor lunch is, to get that sleep-regulating boost. Craving that second cup of coffee? If it’s got caffeine in it, this should be your last jolt of the day.
Grab an afternoon cup of a naturally caffeine-free herbal tea. For some people, decaffeinated coffee in the afternoon may be fine, but keep in mind that there will be trace amounts of caffeine in it which may still be enough to interfere with night-time sleep. If you’re struggling with sleep, skip it.
Eat light at night, with few carbohydrates and plenty of vegetables to keep blood sugar levels on an even keel. This will lessen the stress on your liver and kidneys so they’re not working overtime trying to clear out all that excess sugar and salt from your bloodstream.
Put down your fork and close out the dinner hour, to be finished with food at least 3 hours prior to hitting the hay. Doing so will ensure that digestion is almost completely wound down by the time you’re ready to call it a night. Now should also be last call for liquids too.
Kick off your ‘electronic sundown’ by shutting down all screens – including TVs and phones – and switch over to screen-free activities like reading a book, to start downshifting body and mind.
Turn lights down, shut off anything with white, fluorescent, or LED light, all of which have a stimulating effect that’s good for day, but lousy for sleep at night.
With digestion close to complete, the final phases of your pro-sleep wind-down: with a hot bath or shower following by a few relaxing yoga poses or a short meditation.
Seal the deal with high-quality CBD, to encourage sleep.
Dreem recommends CBD Night Drops, containing potent broad-spectrum CBD enhanced with our proprietary Super Terpene Blend to further increase its sleep-inducing properties. With a natural peppermint flavour, the formula works swiftly to bring about a soothed, relaxed, and sleepy state just 30 minutes after ingesting.
Lights out – and enjoy your time in Dreamland!
Still awake? Then get up and out of the bedroom. Keep the lights low, all screens off, and do a half hour or so of reading or meditating, before returning to bed.