Our basic instinct is to hibernate during the darker, colder autumn and winter months. But we all know this is not possible – life and work must go on! So how can we ensure we cope better with the change of climate and daylight?
Follow these five easy steps and very soon you will see a difference in the way you sleep:
1. Eat well – sleep well…
What we eat in the day influences how we sleep at night. The fewer “sugar highs and lows” we experience, the more ready our body will be to embark on a restful, restorative sleep.
Wholegrain is a good food for sleep as it contains magnesium, which is responsible for muscle relaxation – so this is particularly helpful if you suffer from restless legs or muscle cramps.
Avoid the temptation to have a heavy meal in the evening to warm you up in the winter as this will keep you awake at night.
Make sure you allow at least four hours after your evening meal before you go to bed to allow full digestion.
2. Make a list…
At the end of the working day, make a to-do-list for tomorrow. Decide what’s important and prioritise your tasks, so you know exactly what you will do first, second, third and so on in the morning. Take those decisions today for tomorrow.
And take pen to bed with you – if you wake up thinking of something you can write it down and therefore free your mind.
3. Bedroom bliss…
Use your bedroom for sleeping, not for working or watching TV. The blue light emitted from electrical items can keep you awake by resetting your body-clock as it basically signals to your brain that it’s time to get up rather than go to sleep. This further compounds the fact that some of us are already at odds with the darker, winter days. Here the lack of bright sunlight keeps us feeling slightly sleepy during the day. Thus there isn’t a darkness signal telling us to go to bed to start with.
Also it’s very important that you get the temperature of your bedroom right. Too hot or too cold and it will keep you awake, ideally we should have a room temperature which is comfortable and static, and slightly cool to aid good sleep. That’s because it mimics what occurs inside the body when the body’s internal temperature drops during the night.
4. And breathe…
It is most important to breathe diaphragmatically – as you breathe in the belly should expand, and as you breathe out draw the belly back. It can be tricky at first but keep the breath smooth and comfortable. Equalise the length of the inhale and exhale, starting with a 3:3 ratio. And then gradually extend the exhale until it is twice as long as the exhale making a 3:6 ratio.
5. Remedy me…
Valerian which can be found in capsule, tea, tablet or liquid extract forms is a good natural aid for sleep when taken one hour before bed.
Recent research has found the a particular lignin (a natural chemical compound found in some plants) in valerian latches on to specific receptors in the brain which control the body’s sleeping and waking rhythms and helps you to sleep more easily. Caffeine affects the same type of receptor but has the opposite effect, making us more awake.
There is also some evidence that Lavender (sprinkled on clothes or pillows) can increase levels of deep sleep or slow-wave sleep.
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