Effects of Poor Sleep Patterns

Sleep Disturbance and Insomnia
Poor sleep patterns affect every aspect of our state of health and life experience. Feeling tired, drained and unfocused will affect the actions we take on a day to day basis such as dietary choices, exercise routines (or lack thereof), interactions with others and work performance. Specifically, lack of sleep is linked to:
  • Mood disorders
  • Impaired learning
  • Weight gain
  • Impaired decision making
  • Weakened immune response
Poor sleep is often an indicator that we are not honoring ourselves. This can occur when we are giving too much of ourselves, not setting clear personal boundaries, not feeling worthy in creating a restful sleep environment for ourselves, not feeling that worthy in setting aside personal time to wind down and get the hours of sleep our bodies need. Fear, worry and guilt are often the deep emotional states associated with poor sleep, but other lifestyle habits can also have a dramatic impact.
  • SLEEP ROUTINE: As much as possible, try to establish a regular sleep schedule including when you sleep and when you wake-up. I do this by setting clear boundaries around when I let go of my "to do" list and enjoy unwinding at night. Usually this includes dimming the lights, playing relaxing music, caffeine-free herbal tea and a relaxing activity such as reading, painting or knitting. I also try to get up at the same time everyday regardless of what my daily schedule is. I use any "free time" to go for a walk or jog outside and help to set my desired outcome and focus for the day. This morning ritual is as important as the evening one in terms of establishing sleep patterns and managing stress in my life. The more you take the time to set a clear intention for your day, the less likely you will waste time and energy doing things that don't serve you in being your best self.
      • Set a clear time frame for winding down. Set the rules with family, partners or roommates.
      • Allow at least 1 hour of winding down time before you get into bed
      • Have a hot shower or bath in the evening helps to release the events of the day
      • Mediation for 10 minutes lying or sitting to calm the nervous system
      • Deep breathing: count in to 4 to the inhale and 4 on the exhale
      • Consider setting a loud alarm across the room to help you get up at the same time
      • Bright natural light first thing in the morning can help reset cortisol release
  • SLEEP ENVIRONMENT: Use the power of atmosphere to help influence you state of being. Any good coffee shop, store, restaurant or spa will do this to create a very specific feeling the moment you walk into the space. Use this marketing technique to your advantage and create the perfect atmosphere for relaxation.
      • Your room should be completely dark. Consider black out blinds.
      • Consider using natural pure essential oils in a diffuser.
      • Control noise and stimulation by turning off the TV and listening to soft music
      • Clean up your sleep space. Get rid of anything that is not related to sleep.
      • Invest in good pillows and sheets. You spend close to half of your life in bed!
  • NUTRITION: Be mindful of what you eat and drink in the late afternoon and evening. Sugar, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol can dramatically influence hormones and neurotransmitters.
      • Use herbal tea blends to calm the nervous system: passionflower, chamomile
      • Avoid eating a large meal right before bed
      • Avoid high sugar foods and alcohol intake on a regular basis
      • Increase quality protein in the evening to help regulate blood sugar
      • Foods higher in the amino acid tryptophan may improve sleep: avocado, eggs, nuts, fish
  • RESET YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM: Chronic stress can overstimulate the nervous system and disrupt the production of stress hormones. Cortisol in particular, may remain elevated late into the evening in individuals with high levels of stress. Adapting the adrenal system and reducing cortisol production in the evening can be helpful in the effort to establish healthy sleep rituals. Herbal Medicine, aminoacids and vitamin therapies can be very beneficial in calming the nervous system, increasing melatonin, and supporting cortisol levels that are lower in the evening and higher in the morning (when we are waking up).
There are many natural and effective treatment options for sleep that will not lead to drug dependencies. Take control of your sleep and you will see the benefit in all areas of your life!
Article By: Dr Carrie Watkins, Victoria Naturopathic Doctor


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