A naturopath’s guide: how to sleep better

Sleep is the foundation of good health. It may seem too simple (and obvious?), but it plays a vital role in our physical and psychological well-being.

Why is sleep important for health?

Just one night of poor sleep can affect memory, judgment, eating patterns, your mood and interfere with the normal circadian cycle of sleep. It is at night, between 10:00pm and 2:00am, that our organs get a chance to repair, metabolise waste and rejuvenate.

Sleep is restorative and enables your body to re-energise – no other activity delivers so many benefits with so little effort!

Sleep – what goes wrong?

With stimulating technology, devices, working from home and the open “mental tabs” that are our to-do lists, we often experience a second wind around 10:00pm. Therefore finding it increasingly difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep and wake feeling rejuvenated. In order to fall asleep, your nervous system has to calm down.

This is easier said than done in today’s fast-paced “always-on” world, where your nervous system is constantly thrown into overdrive. Simple night time rituals that honour the transition from activity to rest are a great way to shift down a gear.

While one night without sleep isn’t the end of the world, over time this slow accumulation of sleep debt can impact the quality of your waking life and increase your risk of more serious conditions, including chronic pain.

How does sleep deprivation affect your health?

Sleep deprivation can affect your:

  • Appearance
  • Immune system
  • Heart health
  • Hunger signals
  • Weight
  • Memory
  • Productivity and creativity
  • Mental well-being
  • Mood
  • Focus
  • Reaction
  • Fatigue and stamina

What Are Some Common Symptoms of Poor Sleep?

Do you:

  • Find it difficult to get to sleep
  • Wake frequently
  • Experience a restless sleep
  • Not allow yourself time for adequate sleep (e.g. going to bed too late)
  • Wake feeling tired
  • Feel tired or drowsy during the day

How Do Stress and Anxiety Affect Sleep?

Unfortunately in a vicious cycle, stress and anxiety can both contribute to and be caused or exacerbated by poor quality sleep. Among many other functions, sleep is essential for refreshing both the mind and the body, building up the mental, emotional and physical energy you need to get through each day. That’s why forming healthy sleeping patterns is an integral aspect of supporting your mental health and healing journey.

Sleep is restorative and enables your body to re-energise – no other activity delivers so many benefits with so little effort!

So how can you get a better night’s sleep? To have good quality sleep, make bedtime a priority by following healthy sleep rituals that support the transition from activity to rest. Set yourself up for better sleep by creating a home environment and daily lifestyle that’s conducive to healthy sleep. This is known as maintaining your ‘sleep hygiene’.

Here are my naturopathic top tips to get a better night’s sleep:

  • How to sleep better: Set A Regular Bedtime:
    • Choose a regular time to go to bed, ensuring you get at least 7-9 hours sleep (children may need up to 13 hours dependent on age). Tip: set a reminder for when to go to bed.
  • How to sleep better: Unplug:
    • How to Sleep better: Avoid TV, tablets, PCs or smartphones in the evening, as the ‘blue light’ disrupts your circadian rhythm, which is your sleep cycle. This is known as chrono-disruption. Other causes include shift work and jet lag. This may lead to detrimental effects to health in the long-term. You may also like to consider wearing blue-blocker glasses.
  • How to sleep better: Develop An Evening Ritual:
    • Repetition helps train your body to relax and prepare for sleep. Have a shower, drink a relaxing chamomile tea or read a book as you ease into bedtime.
  • How to sleep better: Avoid Stimulants:
    • Stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, exercise and even eating can disrupt your sleep cycle. Therefore, avoid these activities in the lead up to bedtime.
  • How to sleep better: Write It Down:
    • Keep a pen and paper or journal next to your bed and jot down your worries, thoughts and to-do list before going to bed. This helps prevent over-thinking and the 2 am ‘to-do list’ thoughts from waking you.

If you want to delve deeper, download my holistic guide to “better sleep, better health” to learn simple rituals to ensure you get a good night’s sleep.

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