It would appear that sleep is the mind’s way of getting rid of the day’s mental rubbish. Recent research into sleep has found that the nerve connections built up in the brain during a busy day are pruned back during the night in an attempt to keep the mind from overloading on junk information. A decent sleep helps to consolidate important memories from the day and clear out the junk that would otherwise clog up the brain. Thus the notion of ‘sleeping on it’ when dwelling on a problem would seem to be well founded.
Are you one of those people who struggle to get a decent night’s sleep because you are worrying about stuff? If so here are some tips that might help.
Write down all of the things that are currently bothering you and are likely to keep you awake. Then tell yourself you will worry about them tomorrow. If you regularly lie in bed thinking about your problems or all the things you need to do the next day then make sure you always have a notebook and pen beside your bed. By writing things down you can convince your mind to let go temporarily, allowing you to get some sleep.
Practice relaxation and mind clearing exercises before you go to bed. Let yourself relax with some soothing music, or take a warm bath. If you go to bed uptight then it will be more difficult to sleep. Engage your mind in something unimportant like spelling or counting backwards can help you relax. The secret is to numb your brain by making it perform a dull, boring task. For persistent, unwanted thoughts or mental arguments try the Bach flower remedy ‘White Chestnut’. This is a very gentle remedy with no side effects.
Eat yourself to sleep
Alternatively you can influence the quality of your sleep considerably with your diet, as certain foods actually help you induce slumber. The body needs two essential amino acids, Serotonin, and Melatonin, to enable it to fall into a ‘sleepy state’. By increasing the amount of these substances in your body, the more relaxed your brain will be, and the easier it will become to get off to sleep. These two sleep-promoting hormones are formed in the body from another amino acid known as Tryptophan. Certain foods are rich in tryptophan including the following:
Bananas, Baked potatoes with skin intact, Beans, Cheese, Eggs, Hummus, Lentils, Nuts, Milk, Oats, Peanuts, Rice, Sesame seeds , Soya milk, Sunflower seeds, Tofu Turkey.
So, if you are having some trouble sleeping, you might want to consider trying to eat some of these foods a couple of hours before you plan to fall asleep.
If you fall asleep only to wake a few hours later (and sometimes with a pounding heart) it can be a sign of low blood sugar. So eating meals rich in complex carbohydrates in the evening can also help sleep. So, the traditional remedy of a warm milky drink and a cookie has a good basis from the point of view of a good night’s rest. Healthier options could be a small bowl of oat porridge, a slice of wholemeal toast with peanut butter, or a handful of sunflower seeds with a cup of camomile tea.
Make sure you avoid caffeine and alcohol at night. Caffeine’s an obvious one, but alcohol might come as a bit of a surprise – tradition has it that an alcoholic nightcap is sedating. Initially it may be, but it seems it disrupts the second half of the night, either making you sleep fitfully or waking you up completely. Studies show that a moderate dose of alcohol as much as six hours before bedtime can increase wakefulness during the second half of the night.
Other not so obvious strategies include keeping electrical appliances at least 6 feet away from your head at night. Watches, clocks and the like all emit electromagnetic pulses that can interfere with your body’s own electromagnetic field. Often people will sleep better after moving their alarm clock and mobile phone away from the bedside table next to their head.