To shed light on how we can create a healthy, restorative sleep in our life, we can start by exploring our morning routine.
Chances are when that alarm goes off in the morning you wake up and switch over to auto-pilot. You can simultaneously brush your teeth, make breakfast and dry your hair. Brilliant right?! Think about how little thought or effort was required to complete these tasks.
Our human capability allows us to perform tasks unconsciously after repeating them enough.
I will emphasize this point as its importance will be key later on.
The reality is we generally have a plan for preparing ourselves for the day but when it comes to taking care of our own sleep, we often leave ourselves in the dark, tossing and turning. What we tend to forget is, just like the morning, the evening needs a good plan.
The key to a good night's rest is preparation.
What happens when we sleep?
Sleep is time for our body and mind to reset, recover and heal. Our brain gets to work unpacking all the information of the day, sorting and storing to create long term memories. Our immune system releases cytokines that help with inflammation. The levels of cortisol, the stress hormone are reduced in our body while your pituitary gland releases growth hormone which helps your body repair and grow.
The value of a good night sleep is evident in the function of your physical and mental capability the next day.
What causes bad sleep?
Poor quality sleep is generally caused by over stimulation, distraction, stress and anxiety. Things like coffee late in the day or watching movies right up until the point you head to bed are stimulating to the body and mind and potentially keeping you up longer.
Light also plays a large factor. Too much light in the bedroom at night or not getting enough natural light stimulation throughout the day, can interfere with the body's natural circadian rhythm, the response your brain has to light essentially telling your body when to sleep.
Food intake is another variable that can affect sleep health. Eating large, carbohydrate filled meals right before bed have been shown to disrupt the natural release of hormones. While stress and anxiety can impact your restful night by keeping you in a state of high alert or "fight or flight" unnecessarily.
Overstimulation, distraction and stress need to be carefully looked at before we begin to enjoy a good night's sleep.
What can i do to have good sleep?
We are habitual beings. We are also smart beings. We create habits and routines because once we have learned them they require less effort to carry out than learning a new task would. It is another brilliant human function that serves to save the mental energy, ready for when new challenges present themselves.
With that said, I would like to bring up the point I made earlier, that our human capability allows us to perform tasks unconsciously after repeating them enough.
By applying the same logic discussed earlier behind the results of our morning routine, we can begin to form a healthy and useful routine for our sleeping patterns.
Creating a consistent, easy to follow routine before bed allows our mind and body to form new, more helpful sleeping patterns.
For example, your routine could be as easy as a hot shower, a cup of tea, meditation then bed. The less complex the better. Over time you will be able to autopilot yourself into a deep and restful sleep.
Not having a routine and 'winging it' is a recipe for disaster. I found this out the hard way when I worked physically intensive night shifts for long periods of time.
My health rapidly declined. My sleep was broken. I became moody, short-tempered and apathetic when i was awake. I found it hard to commit to any activities outside of work and I ended up with some very poor diet choices.
During those times I saw first hand the damage poor sleep had on my health and on the men and women around me.
In fact during this time I saw the importance of a sleep routine as an integral part of overall health in mind and body.
Why is mindset important to sleep?
To make this even more effective I will also suggest adding an extra, often overlooked yet powerful dimension to the routine. Mindset.
Our thought patterns directly influence our physiology so when we go to bed feeling uptight or anxious it shows up in our body.
The importance of rituals like meditation and stillness should be included into your sleep routine, as it allows your body to effectively respond to the calmness of your mind, enhancing any other rituals you include in your routine.
External influences can and often do play havoc on our sleep health but we often overlook the importance of what goes on in our mind. Often we can mistake the influences of the external world as the results of our internal function and blame our body as the reason we cant sleep.
The power of negative thought towards your sleep is just as damaging to your sleep quality as any amount of blue light exposure before bed.
Instead of saying to yourself "I have trouble sleeping", begin to say to yourself "I look forward to a deep and restful nights sleep"
To create healthy sleeping patterns we need to begin to look at our thought and habits surrounding it.
Below I have created an example routine for sleep with some simple steps to follow. Feel free to add your own flavour to the mix but keep it simple and most importantly, relaxing. Remember the key here is to 'wind down'.
You could include things like a warm shower or a hot bath with your favourite essential oils and magnesium salts to relax the mind and body. Reading before bed can help to reduce stress, while improving memory and studies have shown that it even improves your empathy levels.
Enjoying a cup of herbal tea, while practicing mindfulness is a great way to calm the mind and soothe the nerves. Our Rest blend was designed for calming the nervous system, easing the mind and the body through the combination of soothing floral herbs. Rest contains organic lavender which clinical trials show can reduce anxiety levels by 45%.
Example Sleep Routine.
1. Preparation. (2 Hours Prior to Sleep)
During this time you can start turning off unnecessary lights, reduce screen time and limit stimulation from external sources. Now is a good time to finish any stimulating or distracting activities and release any stressful or negative thought patterns.
2. Rituals. (1 Hour Prior to Sleep)
Begin to wind down with rituals of your choice (shower, tea, reading, etc.) Now is a good time to prepare your bedroom or space for meditation or stillness.
3. Meditation or Stillness. (30 mins Prior to Sleep)
You can begin to let go of your attachments to the 'noise' of the day. Practice slow and deep breathing, this will signal to your body to to slow down and become ready for sleep.
4. Sleep. (zzz)
You allow your body to fully relax into deep and restful sleep.
Begin to practice your sleep routine nightly with consistency and you will begin to fall in love with your sleep.