Why is sleep so important?
Sleep has important homeostatic functions, and sleep deprivation is a stressor that has consequences for the brain, as well as many body systems. Whether sleep deprivation is due to anxiety, depression, or a hectic lifestyle, there are consequences of chronic sleep deprivation that impair brain functions and contribute to allostatic load throughout the body. Allostatic load refers to the cumulative wear and tear on body systems caused by too much stress and/or inefficient management of the systems.
Here are 10 tips to improve your sleep ritual.
1) Decide on a bedtime in advance, and start preparing for it 1–2 hours ahead. (Consider erring on the earlier side.) Just like you can't go from 0 to 100 in the morning, you can't instantly calm down from a busy day the moment your head hits the pillow. Create a transition period during which you tell your brain and body to start relaxing.
2) Limit your caffeine to the morning, and cut yourself off after 2 p.m. Caffeine is a stimulant that stays in your body for 8–10 hours after ingesting it. An afternoon coffee could still leave you tossing and turning at 10 p.m. Remember that caffeine sources include coffee, black and green tea, colas, energy drinks, yerba mate, and dark chocolate.
3) 1 to 2 hours before bed, do a "brain dump" on paper. Whether we're planning our next day, ruminating over stuff that happened earlier, or just thinking about nothing in particular, it's easy to let the "brain hamsters" run in their wheel as we lie there staring at the ceiling. Doing a brain dump is one way to get hyperactive thoughts under control. Keep a notebook next to your bed and write down everything that's in your head: To-dos, the meeting next Tuesday, remembering to pick up milk, stuff you're worried about, the meaning of life... Write it all down. The notebook holds on to that stuff for you, so your brain doesn't have to. Now your brain is clean, clear, calm, and ready to relax.
4) Turn off all electronic screens (TV, computer, etc.) an hour before bed. While you may swear that cruising Facebook or watching late-night reality TV are relaxing, electronic media are actually stimulating. They rev up our brain and body even if we don't realize it. Plus, the light from screens can mess up our circadian clocks.
5) Make yourself some decaf tea, listen to soft music, and read something light.
Reading light fiction while sipping on hot herbal tea gets you out of your mind and into a story. It regulates your breathing and signals to your body that you're "shutting down" for the evening.
6) Keep your bedroom a little cooler. Cooler temperatures tell the body it's hibernation time. And you won't wake up wrapped in sweaty, knotted sheets.
7) Take an Epsom salts bath before bed.
Epsom salts contain magnesium, which calms the body and promotes sleep. This also helps overall recovery and will ease aches and pains. Dump 1–2 cups into your bath and soak.
8) Dim the lights. Darken your bedroom. Darkness tells our body that it's time for sleep. Dim the lights an hour or two before bed—only as bright as they need to be to keep you from bumping into things. Make your bedroom as dark and quiet as possible: Get good drapes or blinds, block out ambient light, and cover any light sources (e.g., electronic displays).
9) Try some white noise. If you're bothered by outside noise, try leaving a fan or humidifier on in your bedroom. This will create a "white noise" or steady hum that will drown or level out distracting sounds, such as your neighbor deciding to sort his bottles and cans into the recycling bin by the light of the full moon.
10) Get chiropractic adjustments. Chiropractic care and wellness adjustments will help you get the sleep you need. This type of treatment improves the blood flow in the nervous system and it corrects any misalignments or subluxations in the spine. Subluxations compress the nerves causing the lack of communication between the spine and the brain. This can lead to stress response which puts the body out of balance and sleeping well becomes challenging. This can be easily treated with chiropractic care.
Regular chiropractic care can solve several problems that may be the cause of sleepless nights such as back pain, breathing problems, and restless leg syndrome. Many people report how well their sleep has improved after getting regular wellness adjustments. Regular chiropractic care can improve the symptoms and conditions of insomnia patients and helps them sleep better thus improving the quality of their day to day life.
Develop your own sleep plan
You don't have to try all these strategies tonight.
Pick one or two that you think might work for you.
Think of it as your own personal sleep experiment.
At the end of the experiment, you'll have a fool-proof sleep plan.