Sleep is a beautiful thing. It recharges us, we detox while we sleep, our brain stores our memories, we process our emotions and we eliminate what we don’t want. If our sleep is poor, literally everything is affected. Which is why it brings up so much anxiety when we can’t sleep.
I have struggled with sleep for the past decade, on and off. For the most part, I sleep well now, but being sensitive, I need to get a lot of things right to make this happen. I hope this article helps you too, and has some new info you haven’t read anywhere else before, that has come from my experimentation, research and excellent advice.
Sensitive body… sensitive sleep
For sensitive people, sleep can be interrupted more easily. We are more sensitive to lights, noises, smells, supplements or medications we take, foods we’ve eaten, people we’ve seen that day, our emotions, other people’s energy… the list goes on. While we can’t manage everything around us, we can manage our environment and do our best to reduce our reactions.
Let’s take back some control, and do everything we can to get a decent night’s sleep.
Daytime activities are as important as night
It’s not that surprising that what we do during the day affects how we sleep at night. But did you know how much?
It is essential that we see natural light in the morning! We need to go outside and be in the sun, sometime in the morning, as this triggers our cortisol hormones to wake us up, which in turn helps us sleep at night. Using this time to exercise outdoors is great too.
Spending time during the day clearing our mind of stress, overwhelm and anxiety is also key. I find that it all catches up with me at bedtime if I don’t. If anything has upset you, make sure you work through those emotions well before bed. Meditations are ideal, tapping is excellent, yoga nidra is great too. Talking to a friend may just bring up the emotions again, and not actually help you clear them. You can experiment with what’s right for you, and check out all the links in my article on Emotional Health.
After dinner, we need to allow our body to naturally produce melatonin to help us sleep. This means, turn off the overhead lights early, dim them to low, or use lamps instead. And if you need to work at night, use a blue light blocking app, such as f.lux on your devices or wear blue light blocking glasses (google the term).
All these tips help our bodies naturally secrete the right hormones at different times of the day, to allow us to sleep well at night.
What about food and drinks?
What we eat and drink throughout the day is important too. Caffeine drinks after 2pm can affect sleep, and sleep-inducing teas like camomile are best at night. Don’t forget chocolate contains caffeine too, so our late night choccy snacks might be what’s derailing our sleep.
Eating too close to bedtime, or too long before, isn’t great either, as you’ll either still be digesting or hungry. Alcohol also plays a part in poor sleep, keeping us awake at night and adding to our body’s detox load. If you find you’re drinking too much, or finding it hard to stop, please reach out – there are lots of ways I can help.
And drink plenty of water, or non-caffeinated clear beverages, throughout the day – about 2-3L depending on your size and activity. But not all before you go to bed… for obvious reasons. Being hydrated helps all the bodily functions that go on while we sleep.
Creating an ideal sleep environment
Especially for us sensitive types, we need to create the perfect haven for relaxing sleep.
Firstly, our bodies only rest completely and allow deep sleep when we are in the dark. Create a dark bedroom, with no lights coming in from the street or even the beautiful moon. If you don’t have block out blinds, wear an eye mask instead. And if you are sometimes woken by little noises in the night, wear silicone ear plugs too – you’ll still be able to hear if you really need to, but they’ll block out the sharpness of noises.
Being too hot or cold can wake us up too. A heat pack may be lovely when you get into a cold bed, but toss it out (or turn off the electric blanket) before falling asleep. Our body temperature needs to cool down as we fall asleep. Another is to take a warm bath or shower right before bed (raising your body temp, so it can fall and send you off to sleep). We can also change the bedding every season to keep us at the right temperature for the weather. Save the doona for winter nights and try a woollen blanket in spring and autumn instead.
Another thing that affects a good night’s sleep is EMFs circulating. Turn off WiFi overnight and make sure you phone is on airplane mode and not too close to your bed. (If you want to read some research on the health effects of WiFi and EMFs, try this ScienceDirect article)
If you need an alarm, you could try something like the Sleep Cycle app to wake you within a natural light sleep rather than a deep one. They have a free version too.
Still having trouble sleeping?
There are many reasons we might not be sleeping well. Our hormones might be haywire – too much cortisol from stress, leading to not enough melatonin, is one example. Maybe we have a deficiency of key minerals, such as magnesium, which allows our muscles to relax. Or there could be a host of other reasons. But the good news is, our body does help to tell us what is wrong, and a good natural health therapist can help you decipher this. (See my article on why to see a nutritionist here)
One good sleep trick is to add a magnesium supplement. Make sure you check with me about which one to take. There are certain vitamins that are often in magnesium blends, that prevent sensitive people sleeping, if taken at night.
Try a micro-dose of melatonin or use a homeopathic melatonin remedy if you are still having great difficulty sleeping. The lower dose works better for anyone who is sensitive. It helps to remember that too much of any introduced hormone or enzyme will lead to the body no longer producing it – it’s called a negative feedback loop. If it’s being provided externally, the body doesn’t need to make it, and the problem (say, not enough melatonin) can get worse.
Finally, it may help to note what time you are lying awake in the night. Is it always the same time? So many of my female clients wake around 3am, which in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is when the liver should be working. So if your liver is overloaded with toxins, hormones, medications etc, it may need additional support to function optimally (while you sleep). I can help you navigate what waking at certain times means, and how to re-balance your body with the nutrients it needs. Attached is a diagram of the TCM body organ clock, showing which times correlate with the functioning of which organs.
Sum up of your sleep hacks
In summary, first look at your daily activities. Get some sunlight, exercise, clear away negative emotions and turn off the overhead lights at night. Then, create an ideal sleeping environment, that is quiet, dark, temperate and free from excess EMFs. Eat and drink well throughout the day, and go easy on the coffees and wine. Finally, if sleep is still alluding you, visit me or another health professional, for some guidance on what might need readjusting or rebalancing in your body.
Sweet dreams… and please let me know if you are still having trouble sleeping.