Sleep is an essential element to a healthy lifestyle and a crucial part of living with a chronic illness. It is important that you have good sleeping habits to promote good physical and mental health.
Extensive research shows that poor sleep has immediate negative effects on your: hormones, brain function, energy levels and both your physical and mental health. On the other hand, when you have a better night’s sleep, it can help you to: eat better, feel more alert, be able to manage pain more effectively, get less sick, reduce stress and improve your mood and much more.
There are so many frightening statistics bout sleep including: 36% of UK adults struggle to get to sleep at least once a week as well as half of the UK having trouble falling asleep at least once a month. Practising healthy sleeping habits consistently is an effective method of improving your sleep as well as the quality of the sleep you have.
Here are 8 healthy sleeping habits that will give you a better night’s sleep:
1. Use A Weighted Blanket
A weighted blanket is a heavy blanket that is used to aid sleep and reduce anxiety. They work by creating gentle pressure on your body. It feels like a hug and provides you with physical stimulation to calm your body and your mind. The hugging feeling helps to release serotonin and decreases the release of cortisol. The serotonin ignites other hormones that lower your heart rate and will decrease blood pressure.
The pros of having a weighted blanket:
- Can improve your sleep and general wellbeing
- Helps you to feel calm and relaxed
- Relieves stress and anxiety
- Proven to help restless legs
- Eases pain in your joints
- Helps calm people with ADHD and Autism
The cons of a weighted blanket:
- They can be expensive
- It may take a little time to get used to the weight
- Due to the weight, it makes it more difficult to travel with
- They can make you too warm
- You may find it difficult to wash and dry
I decided to purchase a weighted blanket because I heard about the positive reviews from other chronic pain sufferers and thought that I should try one for myself. The weighted blanket has changed how I sleep; the light pressure helps ease my painful joints and also helps me when I have restless legs. I definitely sleep less painfully each night with the blanket. Do not feel that this blanket is only beneficial for chronic pain – there are huge benefits for people with sleeping problems.
2. Drink Sleep Well Milk
Sleep Well was created by Sam and Allan Watts. Sam, who was a fearful flyer, bought a product at the airport that claimed to help you sleep, but it contained a lot of synthetic products. It was then they thought of making a more natural product, with quality ingredients for everyone to enjoy.
Sleep Well Milk uses Jersey milk, natural honey and Valerian. Valerian root has been aiding people to relax and sleep for nearly 2000 years! It helps to reduce nerve transmission in the brain, calming nervous energy and anxiety. Sleep Well is available in delicious oat, vanilla and chocolate milk in handy cartons, you simply drink it half an hour before bed to help you to enjoy a better night’s sleep. Not only do you have the benefit of Valerian root, but milk also contains Tryptophan, which is an amino acid that also aids sleep. Tryptophan converts into serotonin, which then increases melatonin your body and it is the hormone that is responsible for good sleep.
I have purchased Sleep Well Milk and it has been really helpful in helping me to introduce better sleep practices. I have the chocolate milk as part of my evening routine and it has made a big difference. Since my work accident, I have live with chronic pain and fatigue which has really disrupted my sleep and then when I don’t sleep, my pain and fatigue is harder to deal with. I would recommend these milk cartons as you can enjoy them either hot or cold. Please note that it is important if you are pregnant or breast feeding, you should NOT consume these drinks. You can check them out on Instagram.
3. Have A Cut Off Time For Caffeine
By stopping the intake of caffeine at least 6 hours before you go to bed, you can help to minimise sleep problems.
A huge consumption of caffeine can cause poor sleep quality, anxiety and frequent night time awakenings. High doses of caffeine can cause:
- An increased heart rate
- Muscle tremors
- An increased breathing rate
Well documented effects of caffeine on sleep are: shorter sleep time, increased light sleep and decreased deep sleep. This then leads to more daytime sleepiness. Ingesting caffeine makes you feel more alert and energetic; this is not how you want to feel before bed time.
4. Use An Eye Pillow
Using an eye pillow gives you the gentle pressure on your eyelids. This stimulates the Vagus nerve that helps to send calming messages down the back of the neck to the shoulders. It gives your body permission to relax. I find using an eye pillow really beneficial during meditation.
5. Check Your Sleep Environment
Your bedroom environment plays a huge role in how well you sleep and the quality of our sleep. There are various elements you need to consider before you get into bed including: the lighting, the temperature, noise levels and how cluttered your room is.
Evidence has shown that an ideal bedroom temperature is around the 16 -18°C mark. Hot, cold or draughty rooms can hugely impact on your REM sleep. When your room temperature reaches over 24°C, it is likely to cause you to have a restless night while a cool room of 12°C or lower, will mean that you may find it difficult to fall asleep. Here are 5 tips t help keep your bedroom at the optimum temperature:
- Close your blinds or curtains during sunny weather to reduce the heat build-up during the day
- Use a fan or air conditioning in hot weather, or use a hot water bottle and blanket on colder nights
- Open your windows to help ventilation
- Take a warm bath an hour or two before you bedtime to induce a natural cool-down effect
- Make sure that you have breathable bedding and pyjamas to avoid over-heating
You also need to make sure that there are no noise distractions, so keep your phone on silent to avoid being intrigued by your notifications. You can consider using black-out blinds or curtains to make you room as dark as possible. Try to minimise artificial lights from devices such as an alarm clock or your Alexa.
Scents can be really influential in good quality sleep. This Works has a deep sleep pillow spray that contains a blend of lavender, Vetivert and Camomile. The aim of the spray is t help you fall asleep more quickly. I have been using this spray for a while now and it is such a soothing and relaxing scent. I spray it on my pillows every time I go to bed and it helps me to relax and fall asleep.
6. Set Up A Scheduled Wake And Sleep Time
Human bodies thrive on routine and your body’s circadian rhythm functions on a set loop, aligning itself with sunrise and sunset. So, by being consistent with your sleep and waking times, you can promote long-term sleep quality.
In science studies, it has been highlighted that irregular sleep patterns can alter your circadian and your levels of melatonin. Practising your sleep schedule regularly can help your bodily functions and cycles operate efficiently, keeping the system strong and energised.
You should establish a set bedtime that will give you a good 7 – 8 hours’ sleep every night. However, if a time doesn’t fit well with you, adjust it to fit on the time you usually feel most sleepy. It will not happen overnight… literally! Any habit takes a while to establish, so try not to give in to lie ins, naps or changing the times, even if you had a bad night’s sleep.
I have been making a conscious effort to sort my sleeping schedule. During the last month, I have managed to find a wake time that is working for me. However, I am still working out the best sleep time as with chronic pain, it can be harder to fall asleep.
7. Reduce Your Blue Light Exposure In The Evening
During the day, exposure to daylight is beneficial in order to keep you alert; however, having too much light exposure at night time can cause problems for your sleep. This is because it tricks your brain into thinking that it is daylight and then interferes with your circadian rhythm, which will reduce your melatonin, which normally helps you to relax and fall into a deep sleep.
Blue light, which comes from electronic devices like mobile phones, computers and tablets are the worst causes of this problem. Here are some methods you can use to reduce your blue light exposure:
- Wear glasses that block blue light
- Install an app that blocks blue light on your smart phone
- Download an app that blocks blue light on your laptop or computer
Turning off your TV, bright lights and coming off your phone before starting your evening routine will enable you to relax properly before you try to fall asleep.
8. Reduce Irregular Or Long Day Time Naps
Short, power naps are well-known to be beneficial; however, long and irregular naps can negatively impact your sleep quality.
When you sleep during the day, it can confuse your internal clock, which means this could make sleeping at night even more difficult. A study showed that napping for 30 minutes or less, can actually enhance day time brain function whereas longer naps can harm your sleep quality.
If, like me, you live with a chronic pain condition or other health condition that can cause fatigue, it may not be possible to reduce naps and that is OK; where possible, I have been using relaxation methods instead of naps. However, this isn’t always the case; I sometimes need to just listen to my body.
These are just some 8 small positive changes you can make to your sleeping habits to help your body feel rested and to improve your mental health, energy, motivation and much more.