Good sleep is something divine and vital (I'm sure I don't have to tell that to any parents or students out there), and for some, it can be hard to achieve. There could be many reasons why someone experiences difficulties with sleep – physical and/or emotional stress, depression, anxiety, back-to-school, shift work, and disrupted hormonal cycles to name a few. These issues require some investigation to understand the root cause of the issue, but sometimes it could be simply a matter of improper sleep hygiene.
Evaluating your ‘sleep hygiene' – are you doing enough to promote zzz's?
Now, I'm not talking about showering before bed! Sleep hygiene refers to the habits and environment surrounding sleep. Creating the right set of conditions that promote sleep would result in a more wholesome sleep. Over several posts, I'll share my Naturopath's Guide To Better Sleep to help you see how your sleep hygiene stacks up.
If you start making changes to your sleep hygiene, be aware that it will take some time for your body to become re-accustomed, so give it time and be patient. Your reward would be a wholesome and satisfying sleep. If you continue having issues with insomnia, a naturopathic doctor can help you by treating the cause of your insomnia, and offering some remedies – such as herbs, supplements, or stress management techniques.
Your first step to improved sleep? Start with taking a look at what time you're heading to bed!
What time are you in bed by? What time do you wake up?
If you regularly hit the hay after midnight, chances are your regular cycle of melatonin and other hormones is disrupted resulting in an un-refreshing sleep, even if you get 8-9 hours. Every hour after midnight that you don't sleep is detrimental, whereas every hour you sleep before midnight is beneficial.
Before electricity, alarm clocks, and smart phones, human beings slept more or less with the sun – there's only so much that can be done by the firelight, so they went to bed shortly after dark and woke with the light of dawn.
Light is, in fact, the key. When our brain notices that it has gotten dark, the pineal gland in the brain is stimulated to release melatonin – a hormone that cycles with the day-night rhythm and, therefore, governs our own sleep-wake cycle. Rising melatonin levels make us feel drowsy. The presence of light in the morning starts suppressing melatonin, and we wake up.
Read part two of Dr. Jenny's healthy sleep space tune-up!