Not only is a good night’s sleep critical to the functioning of all body systems, but research has proven that there is a direct correlation between learning, memory, performance and sleep. Studies clearly show that too little sleep can contribute to learning difficulties, problems retaining information, poor decision making, changes in personality and function, depression, high blood pressure and disease.
For these reasons and many more, sleep should be a huge priority as part of our pursuit of wellness in this modern era, says Cheryl Fingleson of Cheryl The Sleep Coach. “As life and work pressures increase, one of the simplest and most significant tools we have at our disposal to cope with the sheer volume of life is to find ways to sleep well.”
The good news is that with preparation, priority and practice a good night’s sleep is a very achievable thing for most people. Cheryl recommends that those wanting to improve quality and quantity of sleep do as much of the following as possible:
- Prioritise relaxation
In the evening hours, decrease stimulation. Dim the lights and slow things down. Do something relaxing, such as reading, practising yoga, taking a bath or initiating happy conversations. Explore options like essential oils, massage, meditation or craft, and find an activity that works for you and that you can commit to regularly.
- Drink and eat well
Caffeine can stay in your body for hours after consuming it. Whilst caffeine’s effects vary from person to person, for most people it’s a good idea to eliminate it from midday onwards, or better yet, cut it out altogether.
Alcohol, drugs and medication have an impact on sleep and critically, on the rapid eye movement or REM sleep which we know impacts brain function, creativity and memory, so its important to review the use of these and to try sleeping without them. Talk to your doctor about the impact of your regular medications on your sleep quality.
Eat foods containing nutrients that promote sleep, including tryptophan, melatonin and magnesium. At dinner, eat a combination of high-quality proteins and complex carbohydrates. The internet provides a plethora of delicious options to try!
- Commit to a firm bedtime, and to a ‘sacred’ sleeping space
Aim to go to bed around the same time every night. Cheryl recommends that most adults aim for a 10.30pm to 6am routine. Review your bedroom and bed, and de-clutter if necessary. A calm, inviting atmosphere helps eliminates anxieties and promotes confidence and calmness. Make your bed using natural linens and cottons, dim the lights and clear both your room and your head of any obstacles to sleeping. Practising meditation and gratitude can have incalculable results.
- Practice left-nostril breathing.
Block off your right nostril with your right thumb and take long slow deep breaths through your left nostril only. Left-nostril breathing has a soothing and relaxing effect on the body mind. In Kundalini Yoga, it’s suggested that you take 26 long, slow deep breaths in this manner to produce a relaxing effect on the mind and body.
- Shift your perspective
Examine any lingering fear-based beliefs about sleep. Fearful thoughts create tension, hindering deep sleep. Cheryl recommends the affirmation, “I choose to relax and let go now.”
- Take relaxation breaks during the day
As evening approaches, it’s imperative that you disconnect from your devices and switch of any blue light sources. This is perhaps one of the least-adopted practices Cheryl encounters, and yet it has such massive benefits.
“I think that a by-product of modern living is that we now live in a world where technology, work pressures and social media make it necessary for our brains to be ‘always on’ and that daytimes now almost never feature an opportunity to vague out, daydream, wonder or pursue simple curiosities. We are simply never truly idle. We are always browsing, checking emails, clicking likes or scrolling, we are constantly poised for the ping of an email or a call from the boss, no matter the day or time. This means our brains are losing their abilities to unclench, to welcome emptiness, or to understand a state that doesn’t include stimulation. It’s a critical biological function that is being overridden, with insomniac results.”
Try taking at least one short relaxation break per day so that you’re not in a state of overwhelm by evening time.
Cheryl Fingleson advises all her clients to take charge of their wellness and to review their approach to sleep and relaxation. By employing just a few of the techniques outlined above, people can notice a big change in their mental and physical health and sleep quality.