Sleep difficulties are becoming increasingly common in today’s hectic, stressful world. A vicious cycle is often created, whereby increased anxiety and stress through the day make sleep elusive at night, and a lack of quality sleep contributes to stress and frayed nerves during the day. Over time this can take a significant toll on health and seriously undermine quality of life.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, these could be contributing factors:
Expecting to have difficulty sleeping and worrying about it
Ingesting excessive amounts of caffeine
Drinking alcohol before bedtime
Excessive napping in the afternoon or evening
Smoking cigarettes before bedtime
Irregular or continually disrupted sleep/wake schedules
If you have trouble falling asleep, or if you wake up early in the morning and can’t get back to sleep, you may have sleep disturbance or insomnia. It’s common and it’s a normal response to life’s stresses, including aging and illnesses that cause discomfort or anxiety during the night. While not usually dangerous, insomnia can make you feel tired, depressed, tense or anxious. The good news is, you don’t have to live with it.
Any of these tips could help reduce sleep problems:
Get into a regular sleep pattern. Get up at the same time each morning and go to bed at the same time each night to set your biological clock and maintain regular sleep.
Ensure your bedroom is comfortable for sleeping. Avoid temperature extremes, noise and light. These will disrupt sleep for almost everyone.
Wind down before going to sleep. A good 30 minutes relaxing before bedtime could get you in just the right mind-frame for a good night’s sleep.
Use your bedroom mainly for sleep. Eating, drinking, using your computer and watching TV may keep you from falling asleep.
If you are unable to sleep, don’t stay in bed. Get out of bed and stay up until you feel sleepy.
Avoid napping in the afternoon or for longer than 1 hour.
Avoid any stimulants such as black and green tea, alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine.
Try eating a light bedtime snack. Some people sleep better after snacking on foods that contain high amounts of tryptophan (an amino acid), which is found in milk and bananas. Other sources include avocado, dates, figs, grapefruit, oranges, papaya, peaches, pears, persimmon, pineapple, strawberries, and tomatoes. All vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts (except pistachio), seeds, meat, fish, eggs, chicken and cheese include tryptophan as well.
Exercise regularly. It’s a good idea to carry out 20-30 minutes of exercise after the evening meal (and at least three hours before trying to sleep), three to four times a week.
If you can’t sleep at night get up and try some light stretching exercises. Use meditation, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, or massage to prepare the mind and body for sleep.
Avoid strong sleeping pills if you can help it. Regular use of sleeping pills over a long period of time can actually make your insomnia worse or can lead to drug dependence. Excessive use of sleeping pills can also reduce your ability to function properly during the day. If you have to use them, these medicines should only be used for short periods, or less than twice a week.
The naturopathic approach to sleeping problems looks at overall lifestyle, diet and health issues that may be adversely affecting an individual’s well-being. Treating the nervous system with relaxing herbs and nutrients like magnesium, nourish and rebalance your nervous system, promoting a good night’s sleep and an overall positive impact on everyday life.
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