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Cultivating Sleep Hygiene Habits (in other words, "how to get good zzz's!")

Autumn is now upon us and if you are like me, you suddenly require more sleep than last month due to the mornings being darker, the days having less sunlight and the nights drawing in quickly to prepare us for winter hibernation.

Getting a good night’s sleep is vital for good health and mental wellbeing, it supports our brain and digestive system and has been shown to support our immune system.

Many adults and young people are struggling to get to sleep and erratic sleep pattens can leave us feeling more tired than when we went to bed!

There are things you can do to help yourself have more adequate quality and quantity of sleep. It helps if you get to know your own body and how much you need to sleep to feel energised and productive the following day. Personally, I need 8 hours of good quality sleep however, I know others that thrive on 4-6 hours of quality sleep.

Nowadays we all use electronic devices, many of us take them to bed so we don’t miss the gossip of social media, world news; that is generally negative and fear based, emails from across the world, and the latest ‘must have’ gadgets and gizmo’s.

Wifi can have a massive impact on sleeping patterns too and sleeping near the router can severely affect sleep patterns leading to longterm insomnia. Some research points out that the radiation produced by WiFi may be associated with a number of biological effects, including headaches, fatigue, irritability, stress, disruption of cell and brain glucose metabolism, high blood pressure, and fertility problems such as a low sperm count & testosterone levels.

There is strong scientific data documenting the role of light in promoting wakefulness. Photoreceptors in the retina sense light and dark signalling our brain about the outside world and aligning our circadian rhythms to the external day-night cycle. This signalling of light and dark helps us to wake in the morning and be able to fall asleep at the appropriate time at night and being on electronic devices until the early hours messes with this natural cycle. Studies have shown that wearing amber tinted spectacles helps with better slumber and also aids mood and irritability. I bought a pair of clip on amber lenses for my reading specs and so far, they have worked wonders!

Diet, a lack of exercise and a disruptive pre-bedtime routine will also play havoc on a good nights sleep.

Top Tips on how to get a good night’s sleep include:

  • Prioritise sleep - It might be tempting to skip sleep in order to work, study, socialise, or exercise, but it’s vital to treat sleep as a priority.

  • Sleep routines are important - Try to go to bed and get up each day at the same time and try a regular routine of using the bathroom, reading a book that isn’t too stimulating and writing down the things you need to do tomorrow or are worrying about. Listen to meditation music and turn the light down low, keep the bedroom cool and clean up the clutter around the room - a clear room provides a clear, relaxed mind.

  • A clean body - Avoid large meals, nicotine, alcohol and caffeine for at least 4 hours before bedtime.

  • Switch off the TV and electronic devices at least one hour before you want to sleep. I wear orange lenses on my spectacles from sundown until I sleep and this has massively improved the quality of my sleep.

If you are still tired and struggling to sleep try then consider raising your daily dose of natural melatonin. Studies show that melatonin; a powerful antioxidant which can protect against stroke, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity will also help if you are struggling to get your zzz.

Mother Nature has ensured that many natural, live food sources contain good amounts of melatonin. Good wholegrain sources include wholewheat, oats and especially black rice. Within the fruit varieties; cherries, strawberries and grapes contain the most with tomatoes and peppers being among the best vegetable sources. Mushrooms also contain high levels of melatonin and pulses and seeds provide a good source to add to your daily diet with mung beans, soya beans and mustard seeds being the best however if you germinate your seeds, you can increase their nutritional content by 400 per cent. Remember to try and buy and eat as much organic, local, toxic free food as possible!

I drink herbal teas, mainly from the leaves, flowers and fruit I harvest myself, this is a pleasurable activity which grounds me and connects me to Mother Nature. My favourite tea before bed is Lemon balm (Mellissa Officinalis), I feel calm and sleep peacefully when I drink this. Lemon balm is relaxing, tonifying for the nervous system and is mainly used today for anxiety, nervous tension & depression.

Sleep tight. Sweet dreams x

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