Managing consistently restful sleep is unfortunately challenging for many. Despite constant lethargy and exhaustion, maintaining a healthy, long sleep very often feels unobtainable for some people.
There exist a wide variety of drugs and supplements on the market today that can help manage sleep, such as melatonin and benzodiazepines, but options to manage sleep without medication is very easy, and can prove more effective in the long wrong.
Many of the tips provided on this blog are related to the modification of habits and behaviours that can be adjusted, which means you won’t have to keep visiting doctors and managing the side effects of sleep medication.
Avoiding stimulants and similar chemicals that interfere with sleep
Avoiding certain foods, drinks, and other chemicals is one of the easiest ways to experience a good night’s rest. Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol all contribute to poor sleep in different ways.
With caffeine, it might seem obvious to avoid drinking tea and coffee in the evening, but these are not the sole contributors to sleepless caffeine nights. Food and drinks such as cola drinks, chocolate, and even some painkillers all contain caffeine and can impact sleep significantly.
Although alcohol might make you sleepy, the sleep you end up experiencing after it is quite poor. Alcohol affects rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is the deep sleep where dreams occur, and occurs approximately 90 minutes after sleep commences. When this sleep is interrupted, individuals are left much more tired in the morning, with daytime drowsiness and poor concentration highly likely.
Create an environment suited to sleeping
Ensuring your bedroom resembles a place for sleeping is an important way to start sleeping better. Because melatonin is released when the brain recognises darkness, removing distractions and bright lights such as televisions, illuminated alarm clocks, and curtains that let in too much light will result in you getting a better night’s sleep. For this reason, it is also very important that you don’t use your phone before bed, as the bright light will trick your brain into believing it’s day time, and melatonin will not be released.
By removing these objects, even the association of your bedroom as a place of sleep will encourage more restful slumber. Managing the temperature in your bedroom so that it is to your liking also goes a long way to providing comfort, making drifting off to sleep that little bit easier.
Eating specific foods
Specific foods are able to aid the brain in secreting melatonin, which is a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness in animals. The hormone itself is not found in food – instead, melatonin starts at tryptophan, which is converted to the neurotransmitter serotonin before being converted into melatonin. Foods that contain tryptophan include dairy products like milk and yogurt, chicken, seafood, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
Melatonin is also created from calcium, which is found in dairy products, green leafy vegetables, soybeans and sardines, among other things.
Magnesium is also a highly important mineral the brain requires to sleep properly. Magnesium is found naturally in many foods, and being unable to consume any of them regularly can easily contribute to poor sleep. Before you rush out to buy magnesium supplements, make sure you start eating foods like dark leafy greens, seeds and nuts, fish, soybeans and bananas.
Foods that should be avoided include spicy food, foods high in protein or fat, and large meals in general. These foods tend to be more difficult for the digestive system to break down, which leads to energy being diverted away from your focus on sleep.
Relaxing your mind
Performing activities designed to help ease your body and mind have a hugely positive effect on sleep. By engaging with relaxing, therapeutic activities like yoga or tai chi, feelings of stress are reduced quite significantly.
Similarly, practised meditation is able to lower levels of cortisol – a stress hormone. This in turn leads to a much more relaxed state of being and leads to quicker and longer sleep, which makes meditation the perfect pre-sleep ritual that those having trouble sleeping should regularly perform.
General exercise is also an excellent way to relax both your body and mind. It’s important not to exercise too close to bed, however, as exercising causes the secretion of the hormone cortisol, which increases alertness – the last thing you might want before bed!
Had trouble sleeping?
If you’ve not been sleeping well recently and you’d like to have some questions related to sleeping answered, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Team Med – we’d be happy to give you some pointers to get you a better night’s rest.