Every fall when the clock falls back, I notice my sleep is a little disrupted for a few days. This also happens to me if I travel or just when life gets hectic. Sleep is not only important for immune health, as discussed last week, but lack of sleep can cause weight gain and inflammation in the body – two things I know I don’t want! Things that promote good sleep can take a little planning but are so worth it.
· Always sleep in a dark room. Even a small amount of light can derail a good night’s sleep. This includes even those little LED lights that can blink away during the night. Good heavy black-out curtains work well or some people have resorted to using foil on the window for complete light block. This was a challenge for me when we lived in Alaska, but those eye masks really do work!
· Keep the room cooler than the living area. It’s common to wake frequently during the night when the room is too warm, and just a few degrees can make a difference.
· Avoid watching tv or working on a screen before sleep. There’s a rule of thumb in the sleep promotions literature; the bedroom is for 2 things only, sleep and…. This trains the brain to expect sleep (or the other activity) when you are in the bedroom.
· The screens on tvs and computers emit a blue light that can signal the brain that it is daytime and not allow melatonin hormone to rise, which induces sleep.
· Avoid napping if you are having trouble sleeping at night.
· Caffeine is notorious for interfering with sleep. Some people are slow metabolizers and can feel the effects of caffeine up to 15 hours following a cup of coffee, soda, or energy drink.
· Melatonin supplement can be very helpful for occasional sleep issues if you are under 40 or as a regular sleep supplement if you are older. Levels decline as we age and not having enough can cause too little sleep as well as restless sleep. It also is a powerful brain antioxidant to keep the brain healthy as we age. Women typically need less than men. Ladies, start with 1 mg an hour before bed and you can go up to 5mg, but if you take too much you may have vivid dreams. Guys can start at 3mg and go up to 5.
· Chamomile tea in the evening is very relaxing.
· Lavender is a classic sleep aid; you can spray a little on the end of your pillowcase or put it in your bath.
· Valerian also is a classic sleep aid, but you do not want to use this regularly as there are some side effects with regular use.
There are a number of other sleep strategies that can be helpful if you have tried the above and are still struggling.