Updated: Nov 21, 2022
Insomnia is more than irritating, it can have a serious impact on your life and overall wellbeing. Follow these natural health and sleep hacks from Niki Gomez, which are scientifically validated by @drsatguru, a British NHS doctor and certified High Performance Health Coach, to help you get from A to Zzzzz.
Instead of asking ‘how’ do we improve our sleep, we instead need to ask ‘why’ can’t we get to sleep? The most common causes of sleep problems at Dr Satguru’s clinics include worrying thoughts, environment, and toxins. Are you one of those people that sleep has eluded? It might be you can’t fall asleep in the first place, or you might wake up during the night, or you might still feel tired in the morning?
Living in quarantine has probably meant you’ve realised the superpower of habits; the need to create a rhythm to your life to make sure you feel you’re progressing day by day. Once you get into a routine you can also see how hard it is to break it. So, here’re some tips to help you create some new habits that could seriously change your life!
1. Go to sleep and wake up at more or less the same time every day
Your brain, body and microbes love routine. It balances your circadian rhythms; the 24-hour sleep-wake cycle affects every cell in our body.
Sleeping in at the weekends can cause ‘social jetlag’ – meaning we feeling groggy on Monday morning. Changing your sleep-wake cycle is similar to shifting time zones. Instead, jump out of bed and greet the sun; the sun will also switch off melatonin, allowing you to wake up well.
2. Manage worrying thoughts
UK surveys report that 4 in 5 people struggle with their sleep because they’re thinking about past or future events. Ruminating often stimulates the fear centre in our brain – the amygdala. A hyperstimulated amygdala makes deep sleep a challenge as it makes it hard to switch off. Meditation has been scientifically proven to reduce the activation of your amygdala and as a result, improve your sleep quality.
Though meditation can seem even more elusive than sleep, think of it as a life skill and way of focusing on something other than what’s in your head. There are many different techniques and we suggest some apps below.
3. Fix your environment
Our brains are predicting machines that love to make associations. The most common way it associates is through a location. If you struggle with sleep and stay in your bedroom your brain will start to anticipate poor sleep in that spot. Next time you can’t sleep leave the bedroom, turn the lights down low and engage in a relaxing past-time. Play some chilled music, give yourself a well-deserved foot massage or read a book. Do something that makes you feel good. Only head back to the bedroom when you’re ready to sleep.
Light: Make sure you’re operating in romantic low-light environments for the two hours before bed. If you’re reading, use a lamp. Even brush your teeth in low light. This really tells your body you’re going into shut down mode.
Screens before bed: We find that if we do fall asleep to Netflix, we often feel tired in the morning. Don’t watch the news before bed as it can rev you up, giving you a dopamine and cortisol rush which may mean you wake up in the night looking for another hit. Instead, watch it at 6 pm.
If you really need to be on a screen before bed try a Kindle with lower light levels than an iPad. Use night shift mode on your iPhone (Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift) and blue light blockers to help dim the glare.
Ideally, place your phone outside the bedroom. We know that sounds scary, but you got this. This way you won’t be tempted to check it throughout the night. The phone’s alarm can still wake you up effectively, and you’ll have to get out of bed to turn it off so there’s no way of hitting snooze.
4. Get your toxins in early!
Caffeine’s half-life is six to eight hours. So if you drink a cup of coffee at 2 pm, by 2 am there’s still a quarter dose of the caffeine in your system. Caffeine blocks a messenger in our brain (adenosine) that helps with sleep. As @drchatterjee writes in his book ‘4 Pillar Plan’: “Enjoy your caffeine before noon”.
Alcohol also affects sleep quality. It may have sedative benefits, but sedation is not the same as sleep. Try to savour your drink early. The Sardinians have an excellent habit of “Wine at 5 pm”. Try this aperitivo habit, instead of a digestivo.
An hour before bed, rather than a glass of whisky, have herbal teas like camomile, lemongrass, mint, ginger or cinnamon. They help your digestion too. Or a cup of Golden Milk; this ancient-Ayurvedic-recipe-turned-hip and renamed Turmeric Latte does wonders for sleep. Follow the recipe below.
Build these muscles
1. Wake up and get to sleep at around the same time every day.
2. Join our live meditation sessions or try Meditation Apps like Calm, Buddhify or Insight Timer are really helpful or explore journaling to manage your thoughts. Be sure to use headphones with the apps, you don’t need to look at the screen throughout.
3. Leave the bedroom if you can’t sleep and dim the lights, listen to music, read or try some deep breathing exercises. You can download and print the instructions out so you’re not looking at a screen.
4. Caffeine before noon and wine at 5 pm. Sip caffeine-free tea or a Turmeric Latte for great sleep: here’s Vital Veda’s Recipe which we rate.
5. Dim the lights and avoid screens before bed, especially watching items like the news. Try reading or journaling instead.