Health & Lifestyle: How To Get A Good Night's Sleep - 3 Wellness Experts Share Their Top Tips #BestSleepEver

Thursday, 28 May 2020

best sleep ever top sleep tips
Getting a good night's sleep seems like an impossible task for many people and it's something that I've struggled with for years - I'm so envious of anyone who can just instantly fall asleep as soon as their head touches their pillow! To help those in the same boat, I decided to pick the brains of three wellness experts to see if they could share some words of wisdom so that we can all try to enjoy a good night's sleep at last.

My experience with poor sleep
For as long as I can remember, I've always been a terrible sleeper, especially since hitting puberty. After that, my early 20s were particularly stressful in many ways, and I fell into a lot of bad habits such as eating too much junk food, staying up too late, drinking too much alcohol before going to bed - all the standard hallmarks of early adult life some might say! The problem was that my sleep didn't improve that much when I began to clean up my lifestyle later on - I was still plagued with crippling insomnia that was causing me to fall asleep during the day as I was completely exhausted. 

I visited my GP who diagnosed insomnia and prescribed sleeping tablets which gave me horrific nightmares, so I sought a second opinion and was sent on a CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) course which helped a lot with my stress management, but it still didn't solve all of my sleeping problems. Frustrated by years of poor sleep, I've been going down the self-help route recently which has led me to contact some wellness experts via social media to see if they could share their knowledge on this tricky issue which affects nearly two-thirds of UK adults on a regular basis.

Aurimas Juodka
Meet AJ - The Health & Human Performance Expert
Aurimas Juodka is a Health and Human Performance Expert (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Nutrition Coach, High-Performance Coach - wellwithaj.com). In his career as an educator, speaker and coach, AJ has helped hundreds of his clients excel in life physically and mentally, after personally struggling with a range of health issues himself including insomnia, digestion problems, mental fog, low energy and a compromised immune system.

One of the key aspects of attaining good sleep comes through understanding the basics of the body's natural circadian rhythm. AJ explains that the circadian rhythm, "is an internal body clock that regulates sleep-wake cycles. Humans are ultimately still animals that thrive with the cycles of nature." This is why his top tip for better sleep is, "rising with the sun and blocking all artificial blue light". He recommends wearing blue light blocking glasses, installing f.lux or Iris app on your computer, using the night shift mode on your phone and having warm lighting in the house. AJ also advises that it's important to create a bedtime routine based on whatever helps you to wind down such as drinking tea, taking a bath before bed, turning your WiFi off, putting your phone onto aeroplane mode or his personal favourite, which is using an acupressure mat. 

The timing of your evening meal is another key factor as well - AJ recommends not eating within at least 3hrs before bedtime because "an overloaded digestive system makes your body focus on digestion rather than producing necessary sleep hormones. Pre-bedtime snack really isn't a great idea."

ursula james
Meet Professor Ursula James - Visiting Professor of Clinical Hypnosis at Robert Gordon University and a Visiting Teaching Fellow at Oxford University Medical School

Ursula James is a Hypnotherapist and Professor of Clinical Hypnosis (her company, Thames Medical Lectures, has lectured at most of the UK's medical schools including Oxford and Cambridge, and she is a Patron of Anxiety UK and the National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV). She is also a Foundation Member of the Academy of Medical Educators and a member of the Women of the Future Network - ursulajames.com). Ursula treats people with sleep problems and has a hypnotherapy mp3 called Better Sleep which you can listen to in bed to help you to fall asleep. To further aid those who are experiencing poor sleep due to the Coronavirus pandemic, she has created a weekly Covid Calmer session which is conducted over Zoom every Wednesday - you can check out previous sessions on her YouTube channel here.

With hypnotherapy being Ursula's area of expertise, I asked her how it can help my fellow readers with their sleep. She replied, "Sleep is more than physical rest, it is mental housekeeping, without which we can go crazy. Using hypnotherapy helps you to prioritise, compartmentalise and discard information so you optimise your sleep. It also helps you with creativity and letting go of the things which stress you.

Hypnotherapy is a brilliant process for improving your sleep, whether it is to get to sleep, get better quality sleep, or to eradicate disturbed sleep. It does this by keeping your mind occupied with a simple process which moves in tandem with your natural sleep processes. It helps you leave out the upsetting thoughts, so you don’t dwell on them as you sleep, and focus on the positives from the previous day, as well as creating something to look forward to in the next day."

Aside from hypnotherapy, Ursula also recommends trying these top tips for better sleep; "a warm bath, an orgasm (partner not required), and a warm milky drink. Do not attempt all at the same time, you will probably spill your drink."

Meet Joel Jolen from Reset Breathing and Fellow of Buteyko Professionals Intl institute (FBPI)
Meet Joel Jolen from Reset Breathing and Fellow of Buteyko Professionals Intl institute

Joel Jolen is a Fellow of Buteyko Professionals Intl institute (FBPI). (He holds a BA Hons in Health Econ and his area of specialism is focussed on breathing techniques - resetbreathing.com).

The benefits of improving breathing to someone who is struggling to sleep takes many forms, as Joel explains below, "the key is how you breathe during the day. That’s whilst eating, working, exercising and relaxing. The causes of poor sleep from a breathing education perspective include:
  • Mouth breathing by day – this has become common place and you might be surprised by how many people think it’s correct to mouth breathe. This puts you on fight or flight and can create a cascade of stress throughout your body without you being aware.
  • Your breathing being audible at rest – this basically means you are breathing a volume of air far bigger than required. It’s often out of habit following a change to your breathing pattern after a sustained period of stress.
  • Sighing, sniffing, and yawning with big breaths also creates over breathing and impairs sleep when you finally get your head on the pillow.
  • Large breaths prior to talking along with lots of visible upper chest movement have a similar effect."
Joel warns that those who have jobs which involve excessive talking, such as teachers and sales executives, should be particularly mindful as they can be at risk of fatigue due to a loss of CO2 and oxygen. He advises that drinking carbonated water can help if you have a lot of talkative days. Other things to watch out for which can upset your sleeping patterns include eating processed foods - Joel recommends to "stay away from beige food and don't overeat as both increase breathing rate beyond that of fresh food. Eat light to breathe right", and make sure the temperature in your house isn't too warm as, "high temperatures can impair breathing too".

My favourite piece of advice from Joel is when he says the following which I think anyone who struggles to sleep will appreciate; "The benefits are life-changing and the techniques and accompanying lifestyle advice are simple. Admittedly, they are not easy to commit to but all you need do is focus on those life-changing benefits and they act as a huge incentive...especially as drastic improvements in health/sleep can be experienced in 4-6 weeks."

Thank you to all of the experts who shared their knowledge for this feature!

Do you struggle with sleep?

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