Can’t sleep through the night? Read our guide to getting a one-way ticket to dreamland.
It’s supposed to be easy, isn’t it? Your head hits the pillow, you fall asleep and wake up when the alarm rings. Right?
And yet… one in three people in the UK say they struggle to sleep at least once a week, with a fifth having trouble falling asleep every single night. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Google searches for sleep and insomnia almost doubled during the first year!
If you’re one of the many struggling to sleep through the night, here’s our guide to getting more Zz’s.
In this blog you’ll learn:
- Some common reasons why you can’t go to sleep or sleep through the night
- How much sleep is enough
- The importance of sleeping well every day
- The best ways to fall asleep faster
- Effective herbs for sleep
Some common reasons why you can’t get to sleep
Most people will experience sleep disruption at some stage; however, if insomnia becomes chronic, lasting 3 months or longer, it can interfere with your quality of life.
Stress is one of the commonest causes of insomnia. Stress puts the nervous system on ‘red alert’. Cortisol and adrenalin are ‘fight or flight’ hormones, and if these are released at night—when you should be relaxing—they play havoc with your body’s natural sleep signals.
Inflammation also causes cortisol levels to rise and may lead to higher levels interfering with sleep hormones such as melatonin.
Blue light from phones and laptop screens prevents the release of adequate melatonin.
Alcohol or other stimulants can disturb the REM sleep cycle and cause you to wake during the night. Alcohol is also dehydrating, which can cause wakefulness.
Hunger, fasting, or conversely eating a heavy meal can cause digestive issues and prevent sleep.
How much sleep is enough?
How much sleep you need a night will vary according to yourage and health status; however, the consensus is that most adults need between 7 – 9 hours’ sleep per night.
Did you know? Your grandmother had it right: what time you go to bed really does make a difference to your quality of sleep!Light levels regulate an area in the brain called the pineal gland which controls cellular functions linked to the body’s rest and repair. These ‘switch on’ in the first 90 minutes before midnight.
The importance of sleeping well every day
So, what are the health benefits of sleeping well? The brain requires sufficient sleep to organise all the information it’s learnt throughout the day, and to make memories. Your immune system needs sleep to enhance the activity of white blood cells to destroy infections and pathogens and to ‘clean house’ of old cells, bacteria, and other waste. Sleep helps to regulate your hormones and mood and improves concentration.
The best ways to fall asleep faster
The best ways to achieve a deep sleep will depend on the type of sleep disturbances you’re experiencing. For example:
Do you find it hard to switch off at night and wind down? Prepare for better sleep by practising good sleep hygiene.
- Use a filter on your screens to block blue light (like F.Lux for your computer and Twilight for your phone)
- Avoid loud or violent TV programmes. Opt for a documentary or comedy: laughter is great for bringing down cortisol!
- Have a warm bath with Epsom salts rather than a shower to relax you and keep your room at 18°C: the recommended ambient temperature for sleeping
- Listen to a gentle podcast or white noise/ocean sounds app and set a timer
- Get up and go to bed at the same time every night, regardless of whether you have had enough sleep. This will retrain your ‘sleep clock’.
Do you wake up through the night?
- Solve any hunger issues by having a nutritious snack before bed. Good choices include nut butter, bananas, wholegrain crackers, coconut yoghurt.
- If you’re waking up to use the toilet, reduce the amount you drink for 2 hours before bedtime.
- If you use caffeine to keep you ‘up’ through the day this can impact your sleep. Caffeine can have a half-life of up to 9 hours, so it’s best not to drink it after 1pm. Switch to decaf or try a latte made with functional mushrooms for a nutritious energy boost!
Other strategies to get a better night’s sleep:
Practise letting go of the day’s events. Try this exercise based on energy medicine techniques:
- When you recall a stressful event, notice where in your body you’re holding the tension
- Now take a deep breath into that area of tension and tell it to ‘soften’
- Continue to instruct it to soften until it begins to dissolve
- Now instruct it to ‘flow’
- Imagine your arms and legs as taps through which the tension can ‘flow’ down until it exits out into the bed
- Continue this process until all the tension ‘spots’ in your body have softened and flowed away
- You can use this technique any time you wake up.
Effective herbs for sleep
There are lots of herbs that have been used over the centuries to induce relaxation and sleep. Valerian and lemon balm are ideal for when you’re holding onto nervous tension. Passion flower can help to settle the mind before sleep. Hops has historically been used to improve sleep quality and to induce deep sleep. Lavender’s sensory compounds are calming and relaxing. Living Nutrition’s Organic Fermented Night Time contains 3 revered herbs including valerian, passion flower and hops to support a healthy sleep routine.
Did you know: Hops has been used in Europe for its sedative qualities since the 9th century. Agricultural workers who worked in the fields harvesting hops were noted for falling asleep on the job!
Finally, if you can’t fall asleep, don’t panic! Getting frustrated trying to ‘fix’ the problem can be counterproductive and make you feel more stressed. You will get through your day, and you will be OK. Move forward with positive changes, and you will change the cycle.