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Alternative Health Supplies :: Get a Good Night's Sleep Article

Get a Good Night's Sleep Article

It is Time to Relax

For many of us being constantly stressed feels like just a fact of life.  But for most of us, it doesn’t need to be.  This article will outline what you can do to minimise the stress in your life.  It will also help you better handle the stress that is inevitable.

Stress manifests itself in humans in many obvious ways, but also in many pernicious ways.  Anxiety, sleep disorders and behavioural changes are all common and obvious results of stress. But hormonal changes caused by stress can also lead to heart disease, stroke and weight gain.

Minimising stress and leading a relaxed life is an ideal goal, but it is simply a dream for many.  Even if you can’t minimise the stressors in your life, there are some steps you can take to minimise the negative effect they have on your life.

In the coming weeks, we will be exploring some of the most common negative effects of stress and how best to combat them and get on with life.  Topics will include Getting a Good Night’s Sleep, dealing with anxiety and managing mood swings.

How to get a good night’s sleep

One of the first ways that stress manifests itself in humans is that we have trouble sleeping.  There are many physical changes which occur within the body close to bedtime and we need to help the body along.  There are two important hormonal changes.  First, stress causes the release of cortisol.  Cortisol has the title ‘The Stress Hormone’ because we release large amounts of it during stressful events.  But it is always present to some degree in the body, in higher amounts during the day and lower amounts at night.

Here are some simple tips to increase your likelihood of getting a good night’s rest.

1. Don’t work in the bedroom. That includes emailing and work phone calls. You want your body to associate the bedroom with relaxation and if you’re working in bed late at night, your stress hormone will remain high and your sleep hormone (melatonin) will not rise the way it should.

2. Melatonin levels are strongly influenced by bright light. If you want to be asleep by 11pm say, then you should start turning the lights down and surrounding yourself with softer light at least an hour earlier. Your body will naturally react to this by increasing melatonin levels. You’ll be surprised at how much easier it is to fall asleep when you do put your head on the pillow.

3. If there are major stressors in your life that play on your mind at night, it is no wonder you can’t get to sleep. But lying awake at night worried and tired isn’t going to solve anything. It is easy to say, but extremely hard to implement in practice. Fortunately there are some guide books and CD’s which can help. Rick Collingwood’s Insomnia Cure is an example as is Giovanni Lordi’s Toolbox 4 Life.

4. Cut out or cut down the alcohol.  Alcohol is a crutch for the stressed the world over.  It is easier to get to sleep after a few drinks but reputable studies have shown that your sleep quality is reduced as you sober up through the night. The effects are more pronounced the higher the intake.  One to two drinks doesn’t seem to have a particularly negative effect.  But in higher amounts the benefit of nodding off quickly is eaten up by a more disruptive second half of the night.  Additionally, the alcohol itself is doing you damage and in higher doses may leave you hung-over.

5. Make yourself physically tired. Many workers with sedentary jobs are mentally exhausted at the end of the day, but they’ve done very little physical exercise. So the body isn’t tired. This can lead to restlessness and trouble sleeping at night. Studies have shown that people who do regular exercise also sleep better.  This is important because it is counter-intuitive. If you aren’t sleeping well, then you wake up tired, the last thing on your mind is fitting in a workout. 

 Moreover, the prospect of cutting your already inadequate sleep even shorter by getting up early for a workout seems like insanity.  But it works and it will start working immediately. With improved quality of sleep, you can get the same amount or even slightly less, and yet start to feel more refreshed and energetic every day.

 There is a catch.  Vigorous exercise within a couple of hours of bedtime at night will stimulate the heart and muscles and increase core body temperature, which will make sleep more difficult. So the key is to time your exercise for earlier in the day.  All the other benefits of exercise will remain, and you’ll benefit from an easier night’s sleep.

 If you must occasionally exercise late at night, reverse the normal pattern and don’t exercise too intensely. Just go for a walk around the neighborhood. It will be better than doing nothing, but won’t negatively interfere with your sleep.

 

Get the right ingredients for sleep. The complex bio mechanics of the body require the right ingredients.  Here they are:

Vitamin B6.  We mentioned melatonin (‘the sleep hormone’) earlier.  The body needs Vitamin B6 in order to produce it, so consuming foods rich in Vitamin B6 will assist this process. Fish is a good source, particularly salmon and tuna. Vitamin B6 can also be supplemented either on its own or in a B Complex.

Calcium.  Research suggests that if someone is deficient in calcium, they may have trouble falling asleep.  Calcium is easily supplemented through dairy products or some excellent non-dairy options, such as Coral Calcium.

Magnesium.  Similarly to calcium, there is some research that magnesium deficiency adversely affects sleep. Cashews, beans, spinach and whole wheat are all good sources of magnesium and may assist sleep for those deficient in magnesium.  Of course it can also be supplemented with a product like Dr Cabot’s Magnesium Powder.

Carbohydrates.  This is a tricky one.  Consuming high Glycaemic Index (GI) carbohydrates increases the tryptophan in the brain. Tryptophan is a sleep-inducing amino-acid. The effect is more pronounced as the ratio of high GI food increases.  There is still some advantage gained when, for instance white rice is consumed with protein, as opposed to brown rice with protein.  But for those watching their weight, higher GI foods may contribute to weight gain.  A careful balancing act is required here and individuals may want to experiment with the foods they eat and their weight to decide what works for them.


Check our our new Anxiety, Stress & Insomnia Relief Section

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