Sleep is really important for our health; it is essential for healing and restoration. Research shows that adults require eight to eight and a half hours every night for good restorative sleep and the optimum hours are between 9 pm and 5 am. Delta wave sleep, which is the best restorative sleep, has been shown to occur mainly between 9 pm and 2 am. Restorative and healing hormones are produced in this time. Poor sleep patterns over the long term lead to an increased risk of degenerative diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Tips to establish a good sleep pattern
- Sleep is best between 9 pm and 5 am so establish a set time to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day and try to stick to this as much as possible
- Avoid caffeine after 12 noon
- Try to eat your evening meal 3-4 hours prior to sleep
- Avoid nicotine 2 hours before bed
- Limit alcohol consumption as night time alcohol leads to low blood sugar and waking up during the night
- Make sure you have at least 30 minutes exercise during the day
- Ensure your bedroom is dark, noise free and that there are no electrical appliances in the bedroom (including TV and electric blanket)
- Use a battery operated alarm rather than your mobile phone
- The sleep hormone melatonin is released diurnally in response to the light/dark cycle. Avoid watching TV or using computer for an hour prior to bedtime as this can suppress melatonin and increase cortisol (wakefulness hormone)
Extra things to try if you are a poor sleeper
- Turn off all bright lights 1-2 hours prior to going to bed; avoid computers and TV during this time
- Have a hot bath or shower before bed as warmth stimulates melatonin, the sleep hormone
- Half an hour before bed drink a herbal tea such as chamomile
- Try a low carbohydrate diet both day and night and make your evening meal the lightest of the day
- Avoid tyramine containing foods after 5 pm – processed and cured meats, aged cheese, chocolate, banana, avocado, soy products, pate and alcohol
If you still have problems despite practicing good sleep hygiene it is worth seeing your doctor for advice. It is possible to check cortisol and melatonin levels to see if your circadian cycle is really out of rhythm. Sometimes simple mineral supplements such as magnesium may be needed or herbs such as hops and valerian may be useful. It is generally best to avoid medications such as benzodiazepines as these are addictive and not a long term solution.
Disclaimer. This web site is for research and entertainment purposes only. The information given in this site is not intended to replace a therapeutic practitioner relationship.