Book Hub Monthly Blog by Giselle Marrinan
Author of Another Zero
(Published by Hub Publishing)
“Sleep is the golden chain that binds health and our bodies together” – Thomas Dekker
Sleep, what a wonderful gift to be able to fall asleep for 8 hours every night! How deeply nourishing and refreshing! Well this would be nice, wouldn’t it? Sadly, this is not the case for many of us.
There are people, who for medical reasons, this becomes a serious issue and there is a whole swathe of medications which may alter sleep patterns. For instance, there are medications which contain alcohol used for cough cold and flu and those which contain caffeine used to treat headaches . This article will not attempt to address sleep deprivation encompassed under the medical umbrella but rather, address the temporary problems most of us face in our lifetime and tips on how to support us during this time.
Many clients I see have sleep problems when they are stressed or going through personal changes/crossroads in their lives, so it is always an issue we address up front. Lack of sleep effects your energy levels and thus your daily functioning. If your energy is low, I liken it to hopping into the car and trying to start it when the tank is empty. No juice, no go. If it is a major ongoing problem for clients, I always advise them to get a check-up with their GP in case there is an underlying medical condition.
I remember as a Hypnosis student at Birkbeck College London, a lecturer telling us about a client who couldn’t sleep. He had no underlying health issue, but he would lie awake every night staring at the ceiling worrying about the fact that he couldn’t sleep. This turned into a recursive loop; the more he thought about not sleeping, the worse the problem got. So, our lecturer advised him to get up when he couldn’t sleep and do some chore around the house, thus breaking the cycle. Apparently, his wife came down one morning to find her husband blissfully asleep on the kitchen floor. He had started scrubbing the floors downstairs and had fallen asleep beside the bucket and brush. Sometimes when we halt a cycle of worry, the problem dissipates.
Think of what your bedroom’s main function is, sleep. OK, given this obvious connection, why are we surprised that if we clutter our sleeping area with stuff (TVs, mobile phones, iPad, pcs) which normally occupy other areas of the house, that we can’t nod off into a deep slumber every night
There are simple changes we can make to our bedrooms and in our preparation for sleep which may address our sleep challenges:
• Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible. Extraneous light may be keeping you awake. You can get black out roller blinds if you have curtains you like but need extra darkness at night. Eye- masks, can also help as a simple cheaper solution.
• Declutter your room. What ‘stuff’ is lying around, that could be tidied away in a drawer or cupboard?
• Make the room as noise free as possible. If there are other people in the house watching TV, get them to lower volume or us wireless Bluetooth headphones instead.
• Is it necessary to have a T.V in your room? Remember, you are trying to associate this space primarily with sleep.
• Mobile phones and other gadgets – do these need to be in the room? How about turning them on silent and charging them elsewhere. Whilst your phone is near you, your subconscious is constantly on alert. Also, if you wake early, you may be tempted to check your WhatsApp, but then this turns into emails, news, weather. You get the picture; it is a viscous cycle. Also, electromagnetic fields lower your levels of melatonin, thus interfering with your circadian rhythm. Why is melatonin so important? This is a natural hormone made by your body’s pineal gland. During the day the pineal gland is inactive but as night approaches, this gland switches on as the light outside fades – usually around 9pm. This in turn increases melatonin levels, which then make you feel less alert and more inclined to sleep. If you introduce artificial light via devices into the room, then guess what, the brain becomes alert again. Not rocket science!
• Open your windows and let fresh air circulate around the room. This may not be possible in a ground floor flat for safety reasons, but you can leave the bedroom door ajar. However, if you are in your bedroom during the day, for say half an hour, you may be able to let air in. Maybe consider an air purifier for your bedroom. In addition to the benefits of cleaning up the air and removing airborne allergens which may cause congestion and wake you at night, they also, have the added benefit of white noise being emitted which can lull you to sleep. These come in all shapes, sizes and prices, so do your research.
• Optimum temperature is between 60- and 67-degrees Fahrenheit for quality sleep, although this may differ for individuals. Apparently, when you get into bed and try to snooze, your body temperature drops to initiate sleep.
• Try a new pillow. I got a new one in Harvey Norman Belfast recently, after having measurements taken by their in-house sleep studio expert. Getting a great night’s sleep so far. I have always struggled with getting the perfect pillow for my neck specially after a whiplash accident years ago. Maybe I now have the perfect answer- time will tell.
• I also put a sprinkle of lavender oil on my pillows at night. Play around with different oils and see which relax you the most. I love May Chang Summer blend in my sitting room.
• Take a note of your diet- size, composition and time of consumption before bedtime. Experiment with this and see what suits you best. Dr Sidney Baker, author of ‘The Circadian Prescription’ , cites that, with specific timing of protein and carbohydrate consumption, we can optimise our circadian rhythm and improve our quality of sleep. In the book, one of the suggestions is: “Move most of your carbohydrates from breakfast, lunch and morning snacks to the evening. After 4pm, your goal is to cut back on protein and emphasize healthy carbohydrate-rich foods”. I guess it is worth experimenting with.
• Where possible, try and regulate your sleep times, e.g. 10pm – 7am. According to Dr Kulreet Chaudhary (neurologist) speaking on the Dr Oz show, the most restorative sleep is between 9pm and 2 am. She says (and I love this line);
“Timing your sleep is like timing an investment in the stock market – it doesn’t matter how much you invest; it matters when you invest”.
• Do not do anything too stimulating before going to bed. I am thinking here of watching horror shows, violent movies or the news – all stress inducing!
• I read a chapter of a good book an hour before sleep and invariably fall asleep within this time. My mum used to fall asleep with the radio on, but I don’t suggest this myself. Not sure what this would do to your subconscious mind!
• A warm shower or bath before you turn in may also help you wind down.
These are just a few suggestions, but the list is not exhaustive by any means. Experiment until you find what works for you.
As the old Irish proverb says:
“A good laugh and a long sleep, are the two best cures for anything”
*Giselle Marrinan is a Life Coach and Author.