10 tips for getting a better sleep, according to a naturopath

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Getting a good sleep can be the difference between a productive day and one spent day dreaming about the sleep you didn’t get.

Despite that, a recent survey by Healthy Life found that one in four Australians can’t remember the last time they had a good night’s sleep.

With this in mind, the health retailer has released a sleep guide to help more people master the art of sleeping and reap the benefits of a well-rested mind and body.

“We’re all so busy and distracted, we no longer prioritise sleep but it’s absolutely vital for both the body and mind to rest and rejuvenate,” Healthy Life naturopath Rhian Phillips says.

“While the art of sleeping is getting lost in our fast-paced world where technology addiction, lazy food habits and over-working is common place, the good news is that it is possible to retrain the body to sleep well.”

Here are Phillips’ top ten tips on how to sleep better:

Go to sleep when you’re tired

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Listen to your body and go to sleep when you’re tired, if you can. The wave of tiredness that you feel at night is your circadian clock telling you it’s time for bed. This internal clock counts your sleep and wake cycles and because it’s your body’s natural rhythm, it’s good to be aware of its signals. You’ll really feel it when you’re sleep deprived. The circadian rhythm is controlled by the hypothalamus, a small area of the brain that influences things like hormones and your nervous system. There is a lot of information around about REM (rapid eye movement) cycles, and the best amount of time to be asleep and go to sleep, but it’s different for everybody so the best thing each individual can do, is get to know their circadian rhythm and move to the beat of their own sleep drum.

Avoid adrenal fatigue

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Being exhausted and run down might seem like an obvious start for sleep but people who suffer from adrenal fatigue often suffer from the infuriating dilemma of being tired but unable to rest. Sometimes the issue can be a deficiency in B12 so taking a supplement may help. With its ability to absorb into the body more efficiently, liposomal B12 is a vitamin that’s showing promising signs in the fight against fatigue.

If you’re experiencing adrenal fatigue, it means something is interrupting your natural body clock and it’s not working properly. If your body is unable to produce the normal amount of energy that it needs throughout the day, sleep can be harder at night. The feeling of tiredness during the day often results in us reaching for stimulants such as sugar, coffee and energy drinks, which can cause sugar spikes and blood sugar drops, leaving you feeling more exhausted and stuck in a cycle that doesn’t promote a healthy body clock. If you suffer from adrenal fatigue, it might be time to book into the doctor or see a health practitioner.

Eat breakfast

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It might sound like a no-brainer but a lot of people skip breakfast and don’t realise the effect it has on their body for the rest of the day, including all the way at the other end – sleep time.

Eating a healthy breakfast allows the body’s natural energy cycles to work properly during the day and can help combat sugar and caffeine cravings including the 3pm slump. This is a really simple lifestyle change that can have a big impact for insomniacs and those who suffer from poor sleep.

A high protein breakfast such as eggs, a protein shake, or a natural muesli with lots of nuts, will help blood sugar levels stay balanced and help you feel fuller for longer.

Have good sleep hygiene

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This isn’t about keeping your sheets clean, although that is always a good starting point. Sleep hygiene is about practicing a good pre-bed routine. This can include eating dinner between 5pm and 7pm to allow your food plenty of time to digest, having a shower or bath about an hour before bed to help the body relax naturally, and most importantly, banishing bright screens for at least half an hour before shut eye.

Putting the phone or tablet down after dinner can be a good habit to get into. It’s all about encouraging your brain to produce the “sleep drug”, melatonin, which reacts to darkness.

It’s wise to cut out caffeine, alcohol and sugar in the hours before bed – they are the enemies of sleep.

It’s also important not to put pressure on yourself to go to sleep at a certain time because you’re worried about how much sleep you’re going to get. If you’re stressing about how many hours’ sleep you’re going to get, try and distract yourself or sometimes it can help to get up and go through the sleep routine again.

Burning or diffusing essential oils such as lavender can also promote a relaxed state and form part of a good sleep routine.

Learn about the traditional Chinese organ body clock

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It’s not uncommon for people to wake up at the same time every night, and in these cases, the answer might lie in the traditional Chinese organ body clock. In traditional Chinese medicine, it’s believed that human bodies process different things at different times. For example, that glass of wine might help put you to sleep but it could also wake you up between 1am and 3am when your liver kicks into gear, according to the body clock.

Get sufficient REM sleep

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While it’s often said that seven or eight hours is the minimum amount of sleep required for a good night’s rest, it can be a case of quality over quantity. If you can only get a few hours’ sleep at night, it might be better to aim to sleep between 11pm and 3am when non-REM sleep is believed to be more abundant. If everything is working well, your brain should flow in and out of 90 minute cycles of deep non-REM sleep and REM sleep throughout the night. Non-REM sleep is the deep, restorative, slumber we’re all aiming for.

Try supplements

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There are usually two reasons people don’t get a good night’s rest – either they struggle to fall asleep in the first place, or they fall asleep and keep waking up so they don’t reap the full benefits of REM cycles.

While there isn’t a magic pill that can cure insomnia, there are a lot of options when it comes to naturally relaxing your mind and body.

A deficiency in magnesium can contribute to poor sleep, so taking a supplement containing magnesium can help. Soothing herbal remedies such as passionflower, kava and valerian can also help calm nerves, alleviate anxiety and promote deep sleep by triggering GABA, another slumber-friendly neurotransmitter. These can be found in supplements and herbal teas. It’s about finding what works for you.

Get professional help

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Sleep is vital for everyone’s health and wellbeing. If you’re having issues sleeping, ask a health practitioner for advice.

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