Sleep – How to get a good night!

Scientists have gone to great lengths to fully understand sleep’s benefits. In studies of humans and other animals, they have discovered that sleep plays a critical role in immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, and other vital functions.

Most people do not realize that their pillows are one of the reasons why they wake up with sore backs in the morning,  back stiffness and pain in the morning. It is important to find a good pillow that provides the correct support.

Benefits of Neck Pillows

  • Provides good neck support. This is good news for those suffering from stiff neck constantly. Neck pillows are the tools that help you relieve the pressure from the neck because it  helps align your spine and head properly. It also gives proper traction,  as well as support, for your neck.
  • Prevents or reduces snoring.   Neck   pillows are one of your best bets to prevent and reduce snoring. Usually, a person snores because the air passages of their throats are blocked. If you use a  neck pillow, those blocked air passages will open up and make breathing  easier.
  • Promotes  proper posture. Having a neck pillow can help posture, which is essential so that you reduce the risk of developing conditions that affect your spine. The  neck pillow aligns the cervical spine so that you will naturally relax   your spinal cord and stretch the neck into its proper position.
  • Enhances blood circulation.  Neck pillows help the body to become naturally aligned.

TANU SANDU , MCTIMONEY CHIROPRACTOR AT THE CONSCIOUS HEALTH CENTRE TWICKENHAM SAYS- The pillow should sit comfortably between your shoulder and neck and not strain any neck muscles. You will have increased energy to perform your daily routine, since you have slept better during the night and you don’t wake up to stiff neck or sore backs in the morning. A good night’s sleep is essential to give you energy to do everything you have planned for the day. In addition she considers that you should also sleep with a pillow between your legs when sleeping on your side to help re-align your pelvis and to keep your pelvic floor stable. This ensures that your pelvic floor and you preterior pelvic muscles do not strain with an imbalance on one side.
MEMORY FOAM SENSATION PILLOWS for sale @ The Conscious Health Centre- Sale price £15

So how else can you improve your sleep? Poor sleep is a modern phenomenon with over 50% adults in the UK failing to get enough sleep. Did you know that for adults to remain healthy you need on average of 7 hours sleep a night with additional hours required after long haul flights, long distance travel, illness, infection, surgery, stress and exposure to the cold. Insomnia is classified as receiving less than 4 hours sleep for more than 3 nights per week. The impact of sleep disorders, including insomnia or poor quality sleep affects many people on a day to day basis leading to reduced capability and function both at work and home. Common symptoms include impaired reflexes, excessive clumsiness, increased irritability, mood swings, reduced work capacity and poor concentration. We know that the implications of chronically poor sleep to our health are far reaching including elevating the risk of developing new disease such as diabetes, heart disease, depression, obesity and even reducing life span. There are many factors that can impact on sleep including stress, snoring, sleep apnea, blood sugar imbalances  nightmares, vivid dreams, stress, and diseases like hyperthyroidism,  However for some, insomnia and poor sleep quality has just become a way of life.

What are the different forms of sleep? First we begin with the in-between phase  which equates to 15% as is the hypnotherapy stage, we then travel further into a combination of REM – 35% dream, sub-conscious relaxes. And non-REM  – 50% dream, conscious relax.  If we do not reach an REM phase we don’t get deep relaxation and this leads to a lack of the feel good hormone “serotonin” which makes melatonin.  There are remedies to support this using orthodox and naturopathic approaches.

Naturopathic Support:

Enjoy a lighter meal in the evening, avoiding very starchy foods (beans, potatoes, pasta) or carbonated drinks in the evening as they can cause flatulence and digestive disturbance. Avoid sugary food before going to bed. It contributes towards blood sugar imbalances (called hypoglycaemia)  – this includes waking between 2:00 am-4:00 am and can cause nightmares Remember smoking and caffeine increase blood pressure which reduces  REM sleep. Don’t go to bed hungry – a light snack one hour before is good – e.g rice cakes with mashed sardines. If you eat at 6pm you will need a snack at 9-10pm. Include:

A quiet time for relaxation and  meditation

No TV, lap top  or paperwork for at least 30 minutes before going to bed.

Use the bedroom for sleeping not for TV or work.

Ensure that the room is a comfortable temperature – no higher than 65 degrees .

Establish a normal sleeping time

Take a pre-bedtime bath to relax your muscles.  Thus helps to shift  the nervous system into the parasympathetic state and shifts your brain into sleep mode. Take a bath before about an hour before bedtime.

Drink a cup of herbal tea:

§  Chamomile flowers provide soothing relief for the nervous system.

§ Oatstraw gives us balance.

§  Valerian and hop flowers help us to relax and induce a deep, restful sleep.

§  Passionflower is believed to bring a sense of calm

So what are the contributory factors in sleep disorders and what can be done to overcome them? A recent study has linked the importance of dietary nutrients associated with short and long term sleep duration. This study has highlighted the crucial link of diet and sleep to long-term health. For nutritional support to support sleep we recommend a consultation with a qualified naturopath or nutritional therapist.  Here at The Conscious Health Centre  we provide such a service.  Please call to make an appointment.

Learn Meditation!  Meditation courses and classes begin again in  January.  In the meantime try these visualisations.

Sleep Awareness Breathing:

Does your mind race with thoughts and worries in bed? Are you playing the day’s activities in your mind? These  may increase anxiety and fuel insomnia. First  simmering your mind down, focusing on each breath and visualise how it travels through your body. This mindful form of meditation or “awareness breathing” is believed to  help you get to sleep faster. So, how does it work? By following the air as it moves in and out of your lungs, your mind, which generally can only focus on one thing at a time, will be occupied with your breath—not your anxieties.

Calming the Mind  

Lying in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Allow your breath to settle into a slow and natural rhythm. Bring your awareness to your brow centre and picture your mind as a lake.  At first, you may see many waves on the surface of your mind-lake.  These are your thoughts and current concerns. Now imagine that someone has dropped a large, beautiful diamond into the water.  Gently try to see this gemstone shining brightly on the lakebed.  If you try to hard you will stir up the waters which will become muddy and you will be unable to see the diamond.  So when thought interrupt so not drive them way – this only encourages them to return.  Try instead to gently focus all your attention on trying to see the diamond. Slow down the flow of your breath and allow it to become smooth.  Your mind, which  is closely connected to your breath will respond by becoming calmer and any ripples will gradually subside so that you can eventually see the diamond clearly. Holding on to the image of the diamond, notice how stilling your mind and focusing on the gem brings a silent, profound inner calm.  Let the image of the diamond fade and allow the silence to envelop you by focusing all your senses on it.  Imagine that you can see, smell and touch this silence.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This practice uses the mind and body simultaneously to induce sleep.  Begin  with the muscles in your feet and slowly moving up to your calves, thighs, pelvis, abdomen, chest, neck, head and face muscles, relax the muscles in each area, one group at a time clenching and releasing the muscle groups.  You can practice this technique in any sleep position; the key is to pick one you are most comfortable in, then relax your muscle groups from there.
Common misconceptions about sleep:  Sleep does not store.  You can’t catch up on it at the weekends. One hour’s sleep before midnight is not worth 2 after. Going to bed early is not a cure for tiredness/insomnia.