A great night's sleep has to be one of the best ways to really nourish and heal the mind, body and soul. But I'm not suggesting that you stay in bed all day! There are many secrets that make a good sleep sweet and powerful. Eight hours' sleep is an optimum amount that when deep offers many benefits that improve your quality and appreciation of life.
1. Improved learning capacity
"If you are trying to learn something, whether it’s physical or mental, you learn it to a certain point with practice," says Dr. Rapoport, who is an associate professor at NYU Langone Medical Center. "But something happens while you sleep that makes you learn it better - the mind becomes more focussed and memory improves too”. In other words, if you’re trying to learn something new, whether it’s French or learning to drive, you’ll perform better after sleeping.
2. The Ayurvedic approach
Ayurveda helps us understand why we may have difficulty sleeping. You may know that there are 3 main ‘doshas’ or constitution types in Ayurveda:
- Vata – outgoing , creative and fast moving
- Pitta – detailed, methodical and passionate
- Kapha – loyal, reliable and compassionate
These 3 constitutions are structured into the times of the day. Pitta time is 10 – 2, Vata time is 2 - 6 and kapha time is 6 – 10.
The evening time is Kapha – it is a time to start to relax and unwind. From 10pm in the evening, Pitta takes over and so the body begins to wake up again – watch out for that second wind! If we are not preparing for bed and switching off our computers, this is when we wake up and will have difficulty sleeping. The easy solution? Get to sleep before 11.00pm!
Find out more about ayurveda – click here.
3. Live longer
In a 2010 study of women aged 50 to 79, more deaths occurred in women who got less than five hours or more than six and a half hours of sleep per night. As you get older you need less sleep.
4. Curb inflammation
Inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature ageing. Research indicates that people who sleep for six hours or less in one night—have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins.
5. Weight loss
Great news, researchers at the University of Chicago found that dieters who were well rested lost more fat (56%) off their weight in comparison to those who were sleep deprived, who lost more muscle mass.
6. Stress levels
"Sleep can definitely reduce levels of stress and that helps people control their blood pressure," Dr. Jean says. "It helps to nourish the paras-sympathetic nervous system thus aiding the healing response of the mind and emotions."
Top tips to help you sleep better
- Progressive muscle relaxation - imagine that a ball of light is traveling along your body, beginning at the top of your head, going down to the tips of your toes, and then coming up again. As it passes your muscles, they fill with light and relaxation.
- Take a nap - if your sleep has been interrupted or there've been unavoidable late nights, an afternoon nap can help you catch up. Experts advise that naps should be taken earlier in the afternoon, rather than later, and that we should keep them to 30 minutes or less. This will avoid disturbing your sleep at night.
- Lavender bath - take a hot bath and add a couple of drops of lavender oil. Lavender has naturally occurring relaxing properties.
- Chamomile tea - helps calm the nervous system and helps to promote a restful sleep.
- Switch off yourself - try not to be too busy at night as this may affect your state of mind, therefore making it harder to drop off.
- Less electricity - switch off your computers after 8.00pm so that your nervous system can relax.
- Practice this introspection technique - this is a practice that you do at the end of your day. It allows you to let go of the business of the day and forge new habits that will help you relax and build new beneficial habits. Review the day from the start to the end, to the point where you are sitting now. Explore what worked for you and events that you know you would like to improve. Look at those for a moment and replay the event, creating the perfect solution. In other words, resolve the day’s activities. In this way you nourish your emotions and will sleep better.
- Meditation - take time to sit at the end of the day and enjoy this Sleep well meditation with Jane Clapham
- Self massage - take time daily to massage warm oil on your body. Sesame oil is a generally beneficial oil that suits all body types. Once you have completed this, step into the shower or the bath as this will allow the oil to go deeper.
- Yoga - The Moon Salutation is a great sequence to practice just before you sleep or if you have woken up and have trouble getting back to sleep. Enjoy this session with me on Balancing the Water Element which includes the Moon Salutation. Once you have mastered the Moon Salutation, you can perform it on its own when you need it.