With the holiday season fast-approaching, many of us are starting to feel the stress — our diets start to suffer and sleep is harder to come by.
Many of us simply kick into high gear to get everything — baking, parties and gift wrapping — done without realizing the toll it takes on our health. Add on cold weather and fewer daylight hours, and it’s no wonder many of us get sick this time of year.
One of the major concerns people have with their health is getting a better night’s sleep. I hear it so often: how can I fall asleep, or stay asleep, when I can’t relax? When I ask people how they sleep, very few reply with enthusiasm. Luckily, I have a few easy tips to improve those valued hours of rest.
1. Start with the basics: eating and exercise.
Choose healthy meals and snacks throughout the day, and avoid heavy meals at night. A recent study found that a diet with lots of variety (think fruits, veggies, protein, nuts) resulted in a healthier sleep.
I encourage people to eat a small, simple snack by mixing some carbohydrates with protein: an almond or peanut butter sandwich on hearty bread, or oats with milk. It’s also been shown that small amounts of exercise help promote better quality sleep and make you feel more rested, even if you have to cut into your sleep time to do it.
2. Set the scene for sleep.
A cool, dark, calm bedroom is key to a restful sleep. A room with comfortable sheets, a supportive mattress, blackout blinds, noisemakers and dimming lights maximizes comfort and relaxation.
Bedtime rituals can train your body to prepare for sleep. A cup of caffeine-free herbal tea or a warm bath with Epsom salts at least an hour before bed can relax and soothe the body. All electronic devices should be banned from the bedroom, as these devices stimulate your mind and produce light that affects your body’s production of sleep hormones. I turn off my computer and mobile phone at 10 p.m. every evening, read for about 20 to 30 minutes and go to bed.
3. Manage the noise.
When you feel like you’re doing all the right things, but still can’t sleep, it could be due to stress and anxiety. Herbal supplements, most notably passionflower*, can relax your mind and help you fall asleep.
This plant, native to North America and widely grown in Europe, is considered one of the safest herbs to help with sleep. It increases gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in our brains, which is responsible for calming your feelings of anxiety and running thoughts. “GABA lowers the activity of some brain cells, making you feel more relaxed,” reports the University of Maryland Medical Center. It’s also been shown to have fewer side effects than some over-the-counter sleep aids. I recommend talking to your doctor about adding this to your regimen as an all-natural way to get a better night’s sleep.
*Do not take passionflower if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
For more info on how passionflower can help you sleep better:
Five ways to boost sleep’s fat-burning effects
Nine eating tips to ensure a better sleep, tonight!
How hormonal changes affect the way you sleep
Robbin Coedy BSc MSc is managing director and product specialist for Pascoe Canada. She holds a Masters degree in nutrition and has written and spoken on the topic of natural health for major lifestyle publications, health care professionals, patient groups and the general public.