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29 March 2018

 Written by Taeko

 Let's Sleep Better from Today

     Our body heals and even loses weight while we are sleeping. Let’s find out if anything is causing problems for your sleeping. Are you too tired or busy to take care of yourself at the end of your day? Do you normally have time to cook something healthy for dinner or do you drive by a fast food restaurant? Do you multitask and squeeze too many activities in a short time? And do you keep pushing yourself to complete tasks without giving yourself time to recover? Do you have racing thoughts that cause problems like forgetting appointments, continually worrying, or are not able to engage with what you are doing? Can you fall asleep as soon as you hit the pillow? Do you enjoy regular exercise? Those are the questions I have asked myself when I had trouble sleeping.

     Do you take time to slow down at the end of your day? If your answer is no, let's start by approaching your lifestyle differently. Having a consistent bed time would help you fall asleep better. Find yourself some activities to calm your mind. This can be done gradually near the end of your day. Different activities work for different people, so take your time with trying out calming activities to find one that fits you the best. Some example activities are: listening to some classic music, meditating, taking a break from your computer or cellphone, taking a hot bath, reading a book, using breathing technique, gazing at the stars, dipping in a Jacuzzi, getting in a Sauna, soaking your feet, placing heat pads on shoulders, or going to get a massage in the evening. There are so many things you can try to calm yourself down. One of my nightly calming activities is reading articles. I also like to listen to calming water dripping sounds in caves. Sometimes, I fall asleep during a guided meditation.

     Giving yourself enough time to digest before your bed time? If you have large meals for dinner, it is a good idea to list out and study what you are having for dinner.

     Do you eat meat for dinner? Meat takes a longer time to digest than vegetables and fruits. Some meats take 3 hours or more to digest all the way. It is preferred to not go to bed with a full stomach because the brain will not rest if the stomach is still working. If you enjoy having heavy meals, you can consume them during day. Restricted diets can cause unneeded stress. I prefer high calorie meals during the day and have a light meal at night.

     Have too much going on in your day? Sure! We would like to get things done, but if you can control your daily schedule, let's make it easy on yourself. If you are exhausted, your sleep cycle may change and could take more effort to relax the body and mind. I usually like to organize to do lists the night before, so that I already know what my most important tasks are for the day and what else I might be able to fit in when I wake up. Asking people for help can also be a good idea.

     Have a busy mind and find it hard to let go of some thoughts? When our mind is overwhelmed, it is hard to control our thoughts and actions. This is when we must ensure that we are having positive self-talk and let go of negative thoughts. For some people, negative thoughts are not easy to let go. If you find yourself thinking the same things over and over, it would be best to act right away to stop the bad cycle. Whatever we practice, we will be good at. Practicing negative thinking repetitively is not healthy for your mind and body. What is my approach? First, I notice that I was thinking about something negative, then decide to redirect those thoughts from negative to positive. I also can simply focus on something else, take a deep breath and pay attention to other things, turn on music and focus on the enjoyment of listening, or guide my thoughts from negativity to gratitude.

     Is your bed comfortable for your body? Are you using adequate heights for your pillow? Are your sheets clean and feel fresh to you? The mattress can change its shape over time; some mattresses should be rotated several times a year. We can create a bedroom with a calming ambiance to sleep better. Start dimming the bed room lights, use a lavender aromatherapy diffuser, or any other oil that calms your mind, turn on soothing white noise, such as a fan, ocean waves, or your favorite soft music, keep air-purifying plants, use curtains that block out lights, remove any unneeded furniture, and surround yourself with decorations that provide a pleasant feeling. I had a cervical herniated disc before that caused pain during my sleep. Since then, I use a neck pillow to comfort myself.

     Do you do any regular exercise? Having high stress can increase secretion of cortisol and norepinephrine hormones which promote wakefulness. We can balance and optimize our endocrine system by practicing regular exercise. Start out with 10 minutes of cardio exercise to increase thyroid hormones to sleep better. Growth hormone is a necessity during sleep, and physical exercise such as strength training can increase growth hormone levels. To have a good night of sleep, it is best to avoid evening activities that raise metabolic rates. Conducting heavy resistance training, having strong emotions, such as fear or anger, can increase the hormone epinephrine to increase heart rate.

     At the end of your day, let’s take a moment to step back from a busy routine and have fun with your new relaxing activities. Choose and find yourself nutritious and easy-to-digest food for dinner. Set your priorities in a way that is healthy for your mind; it is okay not to do everything at one time. Pay attention to your mind and shift your attention to something positive. Use written notes to let your mind be free from worry. Make your bedroom your favorite place to be to relax and be at peace. Lastly, keep in mind that regular exercise helps balance your hormones to help you sleep better.