We spend over 30% of our lives sleeping. Sleep is when our mind and body repairs itself. We understand the importance of sleep for babies and kids, yet as adults we often neglect to value our own sleep. If you’ve ever pulled an all-nighter or suffered from any degree of insomnia or sleep disturbance, you know first hand that poor sleep has a detrimental impact on mood, performance, and general wellbeing. On the flip side, getting a good night’s rest can be rejuvenating for soul.
There is a Chinese adage that says replenishing health with medicine is not as good as replenishing health with diet, but that replenishing health with sleep is the best treatment of all.
So how can you judge if you have healthy sleep? If one or more of the following apply to you, you’ll want to read on for tips on how to improve your sleep hygiene:
- difficulty falling asleep
- shallow or dream-disturbed sleep
- waking up frequently during the night and difficulty returning to sleep
- waking up too early in the morning
- inability to sleep at all during the night
- waking feeling unrefreshed or as if you didn’t get a “good night’s sleep”
- sleeping less than 6 hours a night on a consistent basis
The term “sleep hygiene” refers to habits that help you promote healthy sleep patterns. Just as toddlers are taught hygiene when it comes to washing their hands after using the bathroom, there are recommended guidelines for establishing healthy sleep habits.
Let’s explore some techniques for improving sleep hygiene:
- Get your hours in. While you may need more or less sleep than another person of the same age, size, and activity level, the general guideline for adults is to aim for at least 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night.
- Keep a regular sleep and wake clock. Melatonin, which is a natural hormone created by the pineal gland in the brain, regulates sleep and wake cycles in the body. Melatonin levels tend to dip after sunset, signalling sleepiness, and rise around sunrise, stimulating wakefulness. To optimize the body’s circadian rhythms, go to bed at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning.
- Go to bed before 11pm. In Chinese medicine, between 11pm to 1am is considered the most yin part of the day. Yin is passive, nurturing energy that is nourished by stillness, darkness, and quiet. Sleeping is a yin activity. Therefore sleeping during this yin period helps the body regenerate and revive itself.
- Limit exposure to screens an hour before bed. Smartphones, laptops, and tablets emit “blue” light from their screens, and studies show that this blue light makes the brain think it’s morning time, or time to wake up. It is generally recommended to limit the use of electronic devices that emit blue light in the hours leading up to bedtime. A good rule of thumb is to stop using these devices 1 hour before bedtime. Check out this article from The Atlantic, “How Smartphones Hurt Sleep,” to learn more.
- Need to read? Pick up a book! If you enjoy the ritual of reading before falling asleep, open up a book or use an e-reader instead of reading off your tablet or smartphone. Choose an e-reader that utilizes e-ink and is not back-lit.
- Keep the bedroom dark. Dress your windows with proper shades or curtains, especially if you live in an urban area. Stay away from night lights that emit blue light. Instead, opt for night lights with a red or orange light.
- Keep the bedroom cool. The ideal temperature for sleeping may be lower than you think! Studies show that the best temperature to promote deep sleep is between 60 to 68 degrees Farenheit.
- Develop a bedtime ritual. This may include a hot shower, gentle stretches, a warm cup of herbal tea, or the use of essential oils to assist with relaxing and unwinding. Light stretches or yoga poses help ease the body into parasympathetic “rest and relax” mode. Herbal teas that are helpful in promoting sleep include chamomile and lemon balm (avoid black or green teas, as these contain caffeine). Good essential oils for relaxation include Lavender, Vetiver, Roman Chamomile, and Clary Sage. To enjoy the therapeutic effects of essential oils, you can either diffuse them aromatically (using an ultrasonic diffuser or nebulizer) or massage them into the soles of your feet using a carrier oil (like fractionated coconut oil or grapeseed oil).
- Empty your mind. To assist the mind with winding down for the night, avoid reviewing the events of the day or anticipating your plans for tomorrow. Make a to-do list if you need to, to get it all on paper so you can clear mental space to settle down peacefully.
- Lastly… Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime.
Also, did you know that acupuncture can be a useful modality for treating insomnia? Research supports the use of acupuncture to improve sleep quality and duration in people suffering from insomnia. There are minimal side effects, but numerous benefits. Not only can acupuncture aid with better sleep, it can also address some other concerns including hormonal imbalance, stress, anxiety, and depression, which may factor into insomnia.
To book an initial consultation and explore whether acupuncture would be a good fit for you, please contact us here.
Are You Getting Enough Sleep? (2016, July 30). Retrieved September 13, 2017, from http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/sleep-requirements
Cao, H., Pan, X., Li, H., & Liu, J. (2009). Acupuncture for Treatment of Insomnia: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(11), 1171–1186. http://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2009.0041
Circadian Rhythms Fact Sheet. (n.d.). Retrieved September 13, 2017, from https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/pages/Factsheet_CircadianRhythms.aspx
Fakkert, J. K. (2017, January 6). The Best Time for Bedtime. Retrieved September 13, 2017, from http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/2203613-the-best-time-for-bedtime/
Fuhr, L. (2017, September 05). This Yoga Sequence Is Even Better Than a Before-Bed Massage. Retrieved September 13, 2017, from https://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Before-Bed-Yoga-Sequence-25491816
Khazan, O. (2015, February 24). How Smartphones Hurt Sleep. Retrieved September 13, 2017, from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/02/how-smartphones-are-ruining-our-sleep/385792/
Melatonin – Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved September 13, 2017, from http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/tc/melatonin-overview#1
O’Connor, A. (2009, August 03). The Claim: Cold Temperatures Improve Sleep. Retrieved September 13, 2017, from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/04/health/04real.html?mcubz=0