Ways to Improve Your Sleep
November 03, 2016 at 9:49 AM
"I love sleep. My life has a tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"
As much as we like to joke about sleep, or at times take it for granted, lack of sleep is no laughing matter and has a major impact on how we function. Adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night, however changes in routine, stress, health problems and screen use; can dramatically affect the duration and quality of our sleep. More alertness at night conversely equates to less alertness during the day (brain fatigue) and ultimately can lead to less life enjoyment. Of course getting a quality sleep can be extremely difficult if you are suffering from aches and pains in the body, or if your nervous system is on high alert. For this reason I have a number of sleep postures I recommend to patients, which I have shared below. You might also like to consider the following tips to improve your sleep:
- Include physical activity in your day. Regular daily exercise is proven to enhance sleep. Just make sure you are not doing it too close to your elected bed time, or the cortisol produced while exercising will keep you awake.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol for 4-6 hours before bed and make sure you are hydrated sufficiently before sleep, but not so much that you need to get up during the night.
- Choose a cool, quiet, dark sleeping environment to promote sleep.
- Establish a sleep routine, where you start to relax and prepare for sleep before bed - reading before bed is a good one to help you ease into sleep.
- Stick to a sleep schedule - going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time each day (even on weekends and holidays) will help enforce the body's natural sleep-cycle. However if you find yourself having trouble falling to sleep, don't try and force it, instead get up and do something relaxing until your eyes start to flutter.
- Where sleep is becoming an issue, try keeping a sleep diary. By logging the hours you are sleeping and the internal and environment factors affecting sleep you will soon see what helps your natural sleep rhythm and what doesn't.
Postures to Improve Sleep
The best position to sleep in is one where you can completely relax and have your body feel comfortable and safe.
I usually recommend to clients to sleep on their right side with their head in a neutral position (like if they were standing up) with not too much incline or decline. The right side helps to activate the parasympathetic part of the nervous system (rest and digest mode).
Using either a body pillow or 2 separate pillows with one between the arms and one either between the knees or in the "lap" area to keep the hips and shoulders from torquing forward.
Another good position is on your back with hardly any pillow so that your head is not propped up too much. You can place a pillow under your knees to ease the lower back if you would like.