The topic of a good night's sleep has been analyzed and studied by poets, musicians, and medical practitioners for ages. The realm of rest and rejuvenation
is ever elusive for insomniacs while sleepaholics far too frequently choose to descend into a lethargic slumber state.
Statistics show that about 6 out of every 10 Canadians wake up feeling tired; while approximately 40 percent of us will have some sort of sleep disorder in our lifetime. What makes for a more restful sleep begins by a basic understanding of the typical sleep stages that create one full sleep cycle. For most of us, a sleep cycle progresses through five stages:
Very light resting sleep: muscle activity is slow, and one can be easily woken up.
Light sleep: breathing and heart rate slows down, our body temperature starts to drop and brain activity lowers.
Deep sleep: the body starts making repairs and the brain begins to generate delta waves.
Intense deep sleep: the brain produces slow delta waves and muscle activity is limited.
Rapid Eye Movement (REM): the blissful moment where dreams occur and eye movement, heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and brain waves begin to increase.
On average each sleep stage can take 5 to 20 minutes to complete, with the 5 stages creating one full sleep cycle. Adults typically sleep an average of 4 to 5 cycles per night, with the first sleep cycle taking about 90 minutes, then each cycle progressively adding ten minutes to become approximately 120 minutes in duration. People in good health typically need 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep, with a minimum of disruptions between each sleep cycle in order to feel fully rested in the morning.
If one stage is interrupted, your body must reset and begin at the first stage again. Essentially after being woken up, you are being deprived of the deep, restorative restful sleep that occurs in the later stages.Repeated interrupted sleep can impact one’s attention span, personality and may ultimately create havoc with your health if not quickly rectified.
A few sleeping strategies and bedtime tips can help to set the stage in your bedroom environment to induce a more restful night's sleep and ultimately support better health.
Establish a set routine before bedtime. Begin with vigorously de-stressing of your scalp by brushing your hair with a wood bristle brush (found in holistic health care departments). Brush your teeth and try taking a warm bath to cleanse away negative energy accumulated in your aura throughout the day. These initial steps trigger signals in your brain that you're preparing to go to sleep.
Neutralize and create your own personalized sleeping oasis by making your bedroom clutter free of clothing, televisions, cell phones and computer technology. Blue electronic lighting from technological gear can trick the brain into thinking its daytime and is detrimental to falling asleep. Limit your screen time before going to bed and opt for a paperback book instead of an e-book in order to help slow down your mind processes.
Start by keeping the bedroom cooler as a lower room temperature is more conducive for sleep. You sleep well when it's raining because of the cooler room temperature with the added bonus of natural white sound therapy and fresher air. Our feet help us to maintain a lower body temperature and sleep studies also show that one foot outside of your covers can help you get to sleep faster.
Light controls the circadian clock and sleep-wake cycle. Reduce light pollution in your bedroom with blackout drapes and wear a silk or flannel eye mask to avoid being woken up by straying light. Use low-wattage lamps and soften the materials on lampshades. Blue/white nightlights will disrupt the circadian clock so utilize red lighting instead. If reading, try using a telescoping dim light to shine directly onto your book, rather than flooding the area with light.
Balance the volume of food consumed at supper. Eating a large evening meal can create acid reflux and trigger blood sugars just as you are retiring for the night. Some people can sleep better with a light low-calorie snack before bedtime and several foods may help to induce sleep. The humble banana is rich in magnesium that helps to relax muscles and contains serotonin and melatonin, which encourages sleep. Or try a cup of warmed almond milk with honey, carrots and hummus, a boiled egg or lettuce wraps with turkey as tryptophan, magnesium and vitamin B-6 help to promote sleep. Avoid sugary and fatty junk food before bedtime, when you eat better, you also sleep better!
Schedule your caffeine intake to the morning phase of the day, the well-known stimulants of both coffee and tea perk up your nervous system and keep you awake. Alcohol may make you feel drowsy initially, however, as alcohol metabolizes, blood sugars will spike. A few hours after consumption, both caffeine and alcohol could leave you wide awake in the wee hours of the morning.
Keeping your bedroom oasis quiet will improve the quality and quantity of your sleep cycles. Noise forces the mind to remain semi-alert and can hold you into the early stages of the sleep cycle. Earplugs can help to block noisy traffic and external sounds, while ambient music and natural sounds like ocean waves and crickets can help to induce sleep.
Sleeping attire and bedding are best when natural breathable fibres like cotton, bamboo, linen and silk are used. Synthetic materials like polyester or memory foam mattresses can entrap body heat. Opt to surround yourself with natural fibres over man-made materials, as they help to maintain and regulate body temperatures. Silk sleeping masks and hand woven Ikat blankets are pure bliss in the bedding realm as they are naturally cool in the summer and cozy warm for those chillier months.
All 5 senses have been studied for centuries, but the trend for smell is on the rise. Aromatherapy assists in inducing the sleep state; with scent being explored as the next frontier in sleep therapy. There is an abundance of quality essential oils that are best for sleep therapy.
Oils can help promote sleep and stave off insomnia as well as reduce
snoring and sleep apnea while helping to clear one’s airways.
LAVENDER: This primary essential oil, helps to calm the nervous system. Lavender is known to lower blood pressure, heart rate and skin temperature. Lavender's sedative effect assists the mind to transition to sleep; and improves both sleep quality and quantity.
VANILLA: Great for reducing restlessness and hyperactivity, vanilla lowers blood pressure while calming the nervous system. Known for uplifting moods, it can relieve both depression and anxiety.
ROSE: The floral rose scent, reduces stress and anxiety - individually or in combination with other essential oils.
JASMINE: Considered an exotic sweet floral scent - jasmine is great for promoting sleep and reducing restlessness. Some studies are showing that it may be even more effective than lavender.
SANDALWOOD: The intoxicating rich earthy smell of sandalwood has been used throughout ancient history to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. Its sedative qualities can help one in the early stages of the sleep cycle.
BERGAMOT OIL: As a member of the citrus family, bergamot reduces heart rate and blood pressure while easing thoughts that keep people up at night. By reducing stress and anxiety, bergamot oil can help to improve quality of sleep.
CLARY SAGE: (not the same as culinary sage) Excellent for sleep it possesses antidepressant effects for menopausal women while significantly reducing cortisol levels.
SWEET MARJORAM: It has a pleasant scent and is recommended specifically for insomnia due to its calming qualities.
ROMAN CHAMOMILE: The light floral oil is known to relieve nightmares, anxiety, depression and insomnia.
PEPPERMINT: An anti-inflammatory essential oil, a drop should be rubbed on the bottom or inside part of your nose and soles of your feet or try steam inhalation.
OLIVE OIL: An excellent tonic for both your hair and skin, a few drops should be taken orally before bedtime to help moisten and relax the muscle tissues in the palate, helping to reduce snoring.
Essential oils, in undiluted form, are highly concentrated and may irritate your skin or react with sun exposure known as photosensitivity. Undiluted or pure essential oil should not be applied directly onto your skin. If using essential oils topically on your body, purchase ones already diluted in carrier oil.
Make your own spray mist or atomizer by combining essential oil and water in a spray bottle. Lightly spritzing bed linens and the underside of your pillow can help to induce sleep and avoid skin irritation. For a ½ cup of warm water, add 4-5 drops of essential oil or create a blend to promote better sleep.
Aromatherapy is a highly personal experience as individuals respond differently to aroma and scent. Experimentation is a key factor in deciding which essential oils help you feel relaxed and support you into the transition of sleep. Other scents help to awaken one’s senses and create a state of alertness. Both alertness and relaxation are phases in one’s sleep-awake routine and essential oils can assist in establishing a healthier biorhythm and sleep cycle. W