7 Ways to Improve your Sleep

Caribbean Yoga Retreat

“Sleep is essential, it is one of the key pillars of health” according to Dr. Frank Lipman from the Eleven Eleven Wellness Institute. However, we don’t need the good doctor to tell us this. Anyone who has suffered from sleep deprivation, or has had a rocky relationship with a good night’s sleep for whatever reason knows that without a good night’s sleep you are not you the fullest expression of yourself.

We were interested to find out what makes us feel so “zomby like” when we don’t get enough quality sleep- and so we dug a little deeper into the science of sleep. Dr. Lipman sheds some light on the topic when he says “When you are sleeping your body is cleared of all the breakdown particles and toxins at night…when you don’t sleep these chemicals and toxins build up in your brain and this affects you in the long term”. Sounds pretty scary right?  Lack of sleep is doing more damage than just leaving you feeling tired the next day.The Scientific American, an online publication, says that “change in sleep pattern shifts the body’s natural clock…that [also] dictates the body’s organ functions”.

How then can we reclaim our sleep and with it our sanity, good health and sense of wellness? The answer is not necessarily a habit forming drug that leaves so many dependant and anxious – the answer just possibly is in your daily habits – especially those around your bedtime.  Major contributors that stop many from sleeping well are feelings of anxiety, over stimulation from our hyper connected existence through electronic devices, constant notifications and simply the daily demands of modern life.

Here are 7 tips to help you sleep better at night

1.Go into nature and charge up on negative ions

Nature Meditation Retreat

Apart from promoting a relaxed feeling which is the ideal condition for falling asleep, negative ions also stimulate the autonomic nervous system, which promote deep sleep.

Despite their name negative ions, they are actually good for the body. They are concentrated in spaces like the seaside, beaches, in forests and waterfalls. They help the body to relax and bring about a feeling of general wellness and relaxation. Anyone who has spent a day at the beach or gone for a hike in nature can attest to the good vibes and an overall relaxed feeling. Incorporate a little nature time into your day to make sure you get your fill of negative ions regularly.

2. Get Cozy

Getting cozy, settling down and unwinding is key in preparing your body for a restful nights sleep. Before electricity, us humans organised our lives in better harmony with nature making use of daylight hours and winding down when the sun set. Without electrical lighting that often comes in extremely bright and fluorescent versions we used candles at night which emits a warm orange toned light. Just thinking of candle lit nights engenders warm fuzzy and relaxing feelings within us.

3. Drink Soothing Herbal Teas

Herbal Tea Workshop

The earth has generously gifted us with the allies we need for a good life- and it is pretty hard to refute the calming effect of a warm cup of herbal tea. However, not all herbs were created equal when it comes to helping you get a good night’s rest.  Ginger improves digestion and promotes muscle relaxation while mint is a stress reliever and relaxant-  both help the body unwind and prepare for sleep. On our island of Grenada a go to herbal sleep remedy is tea made from the leaves or the soursop tree. This plant has been getting a lot of hype as being a potential cure for cancer but it also does a good job of putting many of us to sleep. Of course with all things it is best to try these things in moderation or consult your physician before beginning a regimen.  

4. Gentle Stretching, Yoga and Meditation

Yoga Retreat

Often built up tension in the body keeps us from relaxing fully- over time this build up of tension can affect good sleep. Gently stretching the body or practicing yoga is a good way to release any built up tension. A consistent practice that becomes part of your daily routine does this best.

Meditating- oh the dreaded meditation has a terrible reputation of making our mind more busy than usual, doing the opposite of what we really intended! Try a guided meditation that prompts certain  positive and relaxing thoughts rather than sitting in silence and magically expecting the mind to become clear. When the mind calms down so does the body- and this is precisely what we are after.

5. Journal- write it down and let it go

Journalling is making a comeback from its previous incarnation which conjours us images of angsty teenage girls and the phrase “Dear Diary”. There is some magic in releasing all those thoughts we have swimming around in our head onto paper. When writing we get an opportunity to move from thought to thought until we hopefully reach some type of resolution, or, a better understanding of that which bothers us instead of mulling on one or two peace stealing thoughts over and over and over again.

6. Read a Book – A real one

Scientific research has discovered that the light emitted from our cell phone and laptop screens have a higher concentration of blue light than natural day light which has the effect of inhibiting the production of melatonin- the hormone that induces sleep and naturally increases in the body when it starts to get dark outside. In light (pun intended) of this it makes sense to stay away from our screens, that trick our brain into thinking it is still daytime, when bedtime draws closer. We suggest reading a physical book as part of your wind down entertainment. Some ebook programs have experimented with inverting text so that the majority of the screen is black and the writing is white- that may be something worth looking into. 

7. Avoid Stimulating Foods and Drinks

Beautiful Coffee

For a quality night’s rest avoid these at bedtime: caffeinated foods and beverages and alcohol. We all know coffee, which contains the stimulating substance caffeine, is a bad idea to drink before going to bed.  However, what about treats like dark chocolate that contain lots of sugar and high caffeine percentage that are in so many decadent after dinner treats.  Alcohol, although it may give us the initial sleepy feeling it does impact quality of sleep negatively and should be avoided at bedtime.

We hope that this blogpost helps you to rekindle your relationship with a rejuvenating night’s sleep. If you have any tips that are not in this blogpost  that have helped you sleep better please leave us a comment letting us know what worked and how you have been feeling.