Sleep to me is a gift. Quite literally.
The clear, fresh healthy feeling that you get after waking up from a full night’s sleep, I am thankful for each time.
I struggled with sleep for years. At my worst, I remember going for 3 nights without sleep and still going to work. Yes, you can say that things were bad for me then and man was I unproductive.
The mind is a powerful thing. It was the day that I learned that sleep is as important as diet and exercise on the health spectrum, was the day that I unconsciously decided that I absolutely must sleep better! After that, it was introducing small incremental changes over time that made the difference.
I was listening to a webinar last weekend and heard leading neurologists, the Sherzai’s speak. They are offering the first comprehensive programme for preventing Alzheimer’s disease and reversing the symptoms.
Was really interesting stuff, especially the tips that they gave on how to improve sleep quality. They make clear that sleep was designed especially for the brain – Whenever we think about optimizing the brain, we should carefully consider the quality of our sleep.
In their book The Alzheimer’s Solution: A revolutionary guide to how you can prevent and reverse memory loss, they go into these techniques in lot more detail. They also list the many ways in which quality sleep protects and strengthens the brain.
Reading through their book, all I kept thinking was, I could not have been doing things more wrong.
How to improve Sleep Quality – 9 Techniques
1. Stop eating at least 3 hours before you go to sleep, stop drinking fluids- 2 hours
When your gastrointestinal system is working to digest food, you don’t sleep as deeply and are more likely to wake up.
2. Exercise in the morning
Exercise in many studies has been shown to increase the depth of sleep. Exercise in the morning is ideal, but also walking after dinner is a great option. Your brain reacts to the changing light outside and naturally prepares for sleep. Make sure to complete exercise (especially aerobic) at least 3 hours before bedtime.
3. Get natural light
Aim to get at least one to two hours of natural light during the day. Its great if you can get this early in the morning.Getting out into the light helps to set you circadian cycles and wakes you up for the day.
4. Low light at night, bright light during the day
Avoid electronic devices at least a half-hour before sleep(an hour is even better). Use dim lights in the bedroom and avoid stimulating films or music before sleep.
5. Avoid caffeine, sugar, chocolate, high-fat and spicy foods in the afternoon & evening
Sugary foods give your body quick energy and has a negative impact on your body’s preparation for sleep. High-fat foods can cause indigestion and heartburn. Spicy foods can irritate the stomach and also cause heartburn. Coffee contains caffeine – Drink no later than 2pm. Chocolate contains sugar and caffeine, both of which is bad for sleep.
6. Adhere to same sleep routine at weekends
Keeping to regular sleeping hours, weekend included is important. Sleeping in at weekends will disrupt the bodies sleeping patterns.
7. Optimize home environment
Think about making your home a restorative, calming place. The Sherzai’s have created a special sleep therapy room that is free from light and sound. Decorating your bedroom with calm colours is a simple practise which can transform your sleep.
8. Address dependence on medications
Stick to natural products that promote relaxation – lavendar essential oil is one. Avoid over-the-counter sleep medications. Many of these prevent you from entering into Stages 3 & 4 of sleep where the deeper, more restorative sleep occurs. This explains why the day after you take a sleeping tablet that you often feel a similar fogginess to how you would feel had you not slept at all. Stage 3 and 4 of sleep is also the time that the brain does the most important organizing and cleansing.
Work towards increasing relaxation before bed. You want to calm your brain down, rather than to rev it up.
Check out this article for more tips on how to get quality sleep.