These times have been when I have experienced depression or experienced burn out at work, when I did shift work and more recently earlier this year when my mum died.
We all have times in our lives when we can have problems sleeping, when we find it hard to fall asleep, find ourselves waking up in the night or have dreams that disturb our sleep. This is perfectly normal as these problems often resolve themselves after a short period of time.
However, if you have sleep problems that last weeks, months or years, this can have a huge impact on your day-to-day life. If you continue to sleep badly, this can affect your energy levels, moods and how much you are able to concentrate. It can also have an impact on your relationships, your work and social life. It may also affect your ability to carry out usual day-to-day tasks, such as studying, going to work and carrying out daily chores.
There are many reasons for sleep problems such as a poor sleep routine; a poor sleep environment; changes in sleep patterns; physical illness; medication; alcohol, street drugs and stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine; stress, worry and anxiety; trauma and mental health problems.
Mental health problems can affect our sleep and sleep can affect our mental health, for example, causing us to struggle with everyday life, feeling fatigue, exhaustion, negative thinking, anxiety, stress and depression.
There are lots of things we can do to help restore a nourishing sleep pattern. I would suggest trying some of these below before visiting your GP and possibly considering prescribed medication.
Establish a routine. You could try to establish a regular sleeping pattern by going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time every day. This will mean that your body starts to associate times of the day with sleeping. You may need to do this for several weeks in order to establish a regular pattern. If you are in a different time zone after a flight, do what you can to adjust to the new time. However tired you feel, go to bed close to the local bedtime, then get up reasonably early the next morning. Your body will hopefully then adjust to the new pattern quickly.
Your sleep environment. Before you go to bed, make sure that where you sleep is comfortable, your bed, bedding, your bedroom. That it is the right temperature, light and noise levels. We are all different but on the whole, dark, quiet and cool environments can make it easier to sleep.
Relax before bed. It’s important to relax and switch off from daily worries before you try to go to sleep. Stop any stimulating activities, such as working or doing exercise and avoid looking at screens, like your phone, a computer, the TV or a tablet, an hour before you go to bed. It may also help to do something calming before you go to bed, such as listening to relaxing music, meditating, praying, have a bath, reading, whatever helps you to relax.
Some foods that help. Protein foods that are rich in an amino acid called tryptophan – that helps boost the sleep inducing hormone melatonin. Chicken and turkey, milk and dairy, nuts i.e. walnuts and seeds are all good choices. Combine these with rice, pasta and potatoes to help the body get the most benefits from tryptophan. Green leafy vegetables help the brain use the tryptophan to manufacture melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland, which is a small gland in the brain, it has many benefits and helps to control our sleep and wake cycles. Lettuce contains lactucarium which has sedative properties and effects the brain like opium. Bananas have high levels of magnesium and tryptophan that can really help us to sleep for longer and get to sleep faster.
Some drinks that help. Chamomile tea is associated with an increase of glycine which is a chemical that relaxes nerves and muscles and acts like a mild sedative. Cherry juice is helpful because it is rich in melatonin and a warm milky drink with honey and a pinch of nutmeg contains tryptophan.
Try to resolve stresses and worries. What works for me is journaling, so most nights I write how I am feeling and what has happened in my day, particularly if there is anything worrying me. Doing this helps get it out of my head and onto the paper, which enables me to sleep better. Writing a list of things you need to do the following day can help. Keeping a sleep diary, it can help you to identify the factors that are affecting your sleep, there are many sleep diary templates available online, for example on the NHS Choices Live Well website nhs.uk/livewell
Natural remedies. I am a huge advocate for Bach Flower Remedies and they do a night time remedy Rescue Night liquid melts, they dissolve on your tongue for a natural sleep and these can be purchased at health food stores, or chemists. Valerian is a herb and its root is used as a sedative and sleep aid which helps regulate the action of nerve cells and has a calming effect. Aromatherapy can be really helpful, I personally use lavender. You could put 3 or 4 drops in your bath, use it in an oil burner or a couple of drops on your pillow. There are lots of other natural remedies available in health food shops and chemists, I suggest that before using any you check that they are safe to take with any prescribed mediation you are taking.
Create a bedtime ritual. Following a regular routine for sleep can become a ritual, a habit that tells your mind and body that it’s ‘time for bed’, preparing for a restful night’s sleep. Some of the things your bedtime ritual might include could be – starting to prepare an hour before getting into bed, by switching off all technology, have a bath and getting into some comfy pyjamas, have a favourite night time drink, read a bit, write a bit in your journal, mediate or pray and then drift off to sleep.
I wish you a future of nourishing night’s sleep and if you are interested in attending a sleep workshop or one to one coaching to obtain a good sleep routine please contact Janette at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.circleswork.co.uk