Along with being active, limiting sugar and eating fresh fruit and veg, sleep is one of the most important things you can do to maintain a healthy immune system. Good sleep is restorative, it lowers stress hormones in the body and can help your cells to fight off infection. Considering the health concerns posed by the pandemic, you’ll probably want to do everything you can to naturally boost your immunity so today I’m looking at ways you can get a better nights sleep.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, there may be many factors at play – anything from the room you’re sleeping in to the thoughts in your mind – so it’s important to look at all the possibilities to help you improve your sleep. One of the first things you can do is read my previous blog post about starting an evening routine, which may enable you to feel relaxed and sleep more soundly. Next, lets have a look at the underlying causes that might be contributing to your lack of sleep…
TAKE CARE OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
If you’re struggling to fall asleep at night, are experiencing broken sleep, or are waking early and are unable to get back to sleep, with thoughts and worries whirring around your mind, perhaps you need to analyse whether anything is bothering you and affecting your mental health. A great way to do this is to brain-dump all your concerns into a journal at night to clear your mind, and this list-making may be all you need in order to slip off to sleep. But if you’re suffering with ongoing mental health issues, or are struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder during the dark days of winter, you may find that it’s depression, stress or anxiety that is causing your sleepless nights.
If so, it is always better to talk to someone about your concerns rather than keeping it to yourself. Even just unloading your worries and talking them through can be enough to help you sleep more soundly. Or, if you want to get to the root of the problem and need help to get your mind and behaviour back on track, speaking with a counsellor can be beneficial. It’s especially easy to do so right now, as more and more therapists are taking their practice online. But what is psychotherapy and how can it help you sleep better? It’s commonly called ‘talking therapy’ and can give you techniques to cope day-to-day by developing healthy coping mechanisms, and can provide treatment for your specific condition, such as through cognitive behavioural therapy or thought records. Once you understand your thoughts and feelings, you can make steps towards strengthening your mental health which, in turn, will help you sleep better.
ENHANCE YOUR SLEEP ENVIRONMENT
Having trouble sleeping can be as simple as something being not quite right in your sleeping environment. Perhaps the room is too hot, too cold, too light or too dark? Think about how the temperature and light in the room was the last time you got a good night’s sleep and try to replicate it to see if that helps. If the road outside is too busy, maybe using a sleep sounds video on YouTube or listening to a white noise app may help block out the sounds. And while we’re on the subject of apps, you could always enjoy a bedtime ‘sleepcast’ story or a peaceful ‘back to sleep’ meditation using Headspace. Meditating is another technique that can also boost your immune system so it’s worth a try because it’ll at least lower your stress levels and boost your immunity, even if you don’t drift off to sleep afterwards.
If you’ve been sleeping on your mattress or pillows for many years it is possible that they’ve lost their bounce and are no longer supporting your body correctly. If you are constantly tossing and turning during the night or are waking up with aches and twinges, it’s probably time to start looking for some new bedding or a whole new bed. Opt for an eco-friendly mattress made from cotton or wool for a cooling chemical-free surface to sleep on and try natural fibres for your bedding too, such as linen or cotton, as these will wick moisture away from the body to keep you cool. Just imagine that feeling of sinking into a soft mattress with fresh sheets and plump pillows – ahhhh, it makes you want to snuggle down and go to sleep, doesn’t it?
TRACKING YOUR SLEEP
With more and more people using fitness trackers, it has become normal to analyse how much sleep you’re getting and, with all the worries and uncertainty of lockdown 3, it would be understandable if you’re lacking in quality sleep. But, if you find you’re not sleeping particularly well, it could actually be that the sleep tracker itself may be causing sleep anxiety. You might be trying to wake up to a positive tracker result and that effort may actually be disrupting your sleep. There’s no right or wrong sleep pattern or length of time you should sleep, so checking your tracker for ‘quality sleep’ when you wake up may be making you more worried than is necessary.
Instead, take off the tracker and listen to your body to let you know how much sleep you need; if you’re still tired during the day after 7 hours of sleep, go to bed earlier and try getting more shut-eye the next night. See if that makes you feel better the following day. Sleep cycles last around 1.5 hours so as long as you’re sleeping in multiples of this, you’ll find it easier to wake up feeling refreshed because your deep REM sleep has finished, so try sleeping for 7.5 hours or 9 hours rather than 8 and see how you feel after exploring either option.
I hope that you’ll give some of these ideas a try and that you’ll soon be able to sleep more soundly and enjoy the immunity boost that this brings. Please let me know your own tips for getting to sleep in the comments below, I’d love to hear what tricks you have to help you unwind and drift off to sleep 🙂
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