Today we've got a guest post from Amy Highland over at SleepHelp.org. She's a sleep expert who "loves taking naps during thunderstorms, cuddling up with a good book and cats". Sounds a lot like me! Amy is sharing some tips with us on how to get a great night's sleep. Take it away, Amy!
Most people experience a night or two of sleeplessness every now and then, but chronic sleep deprivation can have long-term consequences for your health. Sleep deprivation has been linked to dementia, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
The average adult needs a full seven to eight hours of sleep but everything from your work schedule to stress could get in the way. If you find yourself tossing and turning more often than not, there are many ways you can help yourself get the sleep you need without the use of medication.
Start Out Right
Good sleep starts in a bedroom devoted to the primary purposes of the room—sleep and sex. That means a comfortable mattress that supports your preferred sleep position. While you might like the room to be light and airy during the day, at night it needs to be as dark as possible to help trigger the release of sleep hormones. Blackout curtains or heavy drapes might be needed if you live in an area with light pollution.
As you fall asleep, your body temperature drops. A room kept between 60 to 68 degrees helps maintain this lower body temperature. You’ll also want to keep it quiet. If you can’t block out all outside noise, consider using a white noise machine to muffle sounds and help lull the brain to sleep.
Naturally Improve Your Sleep
Our understanding of alternative forms of medicine continues to grow. Depending on your circumstances and needs, you might need to try a few different techniques or methods before you find a combination that works for you.
Mindfulness meditation is one of the easiest and most effective meditative methods for improving sleep. It causes a relaxation response in the body, wherein the heart rate and blood pressure both drop. Long-time practitioners are able to trigger this response fairly easily but even beginners can reap the benefits with time and practice.
Prolonged practice of meditation also changes the brain in fundamental ways that help you manage stress. Regular practitioners show a decrease in the size of the emotional center of their brain and a thickening of the reasoning/decision-making part of the brain. Meditation also causes the connection between these two parts of the brain to grow stronger. The improved connection helps you let negative thoughts move through and out of your mind rather than dwelling on them.
Like meditation, acupuncture has been used for centuries to treat many different ailments. It works by using tiny needles to stimulate certain pressure points to affect everything from insomnia to smoking cessation. Acupuncture can be used to improve relaxation while reducing stress.
Acupuncture also works well along with other interventions, such as herbs or meditation. When used in conjunction with another method, acupuncture improves the quantity and quality of sleep when compared to using one method alone.
It doesn’t take much yoga to make a big difference in the quality of your sleep. The participants in one study only did yoga for 12 minutes each day yet showed a measurable change in the number of inflammatory proteins (caused by stress) in the body. Another study monitored the stress levels of nurses who practiced yoga versus those who didn’t. Participants reported that yoga lowered stress and improved sleep quality.
The reduction in stress experienced with yoga also improves mood and reduces fatigue. Because yoga can be used as a form of exercise, it improves muscle tone, builds coordination, and improves your heart health.