Most of us know we should all be getting 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.

Our body and mind needs this time to recover, reset and recharge for a new day. When we are getting an optimal amount of sleep, we should wake up every morning feeling refreshed and energized.

But how many of us can say this is the case?

Most of my clients speak of broken sleep, late nights, and restless nights. This can be to do with children, hormones, menopause, busy lifestyles, racing thoughts – there are a myriad of reasons.

There are two truths though: we can get by on less sleep if the quality of our sleep is good, but going without sleep can lead to health issues and affect our longevity. So if you have problems sleeping, it’s worth addressing them and getting yourself back into good habits to improve your rhythm.

Let’s start by looking at creating a good bedtime routine.

This begins much earlier in the day than we would think. Getting a good night’s sleep actually starts in the morning. Research shows that an hour of natural sunlight in the morning will help you sleep better. This is because sunshine regulates your circadian rhythm by telling your body when to increase and decrease its melatonin levels. (Sunlight will boost your vitamin D stores too!). Don’t let an overcast, cloudy day stop you either, you will still be getting the benefits.

The hormone melatonin is released by the pineal gland and has a number of health benefits for the immune system as well as helping with our sleep. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger and helps combat inflammation. It may even have a role in slowing the aging of our brain.

Best of all there are things we can do to support its production.

If you like a cup of coffee, then aim to stop all caffeine after midday as it interferes with melatonin production.

The blue light from screens also affects our body’s ability to produce melatonin. Try to come off all screens at least two hours before bed. Studies show that meditating using an app like Headspace or Calm or listening to a relaxing yoga nidra (a special guided meditation) will help the pineal gland naturally release melatonin.

Sour cherry juice is the one foodstuff we know that helps enhance the production of melatonin so add a tablespoonful of concentrated juice to some warm water an hour or two before bedtime as a tasty and helpful treat. There’s a 50 euro discount with the code WONDERHORSEHEALTH.

Another tip is to avoid eating large meals late in the evening. If your system is still in digestion mood this is likely to disturb your sleep and have you waking at what I call Weird O’Clock. Try to have eaten by 7pm and have your sour cherry juice around 9pm.

Alcohol can help us fall asleep, but is likely to have us awake again at 3am. Red wine and rose are particularly stimulating for the adrenal glands. Try natural wines as these are both organic & free of sulphates & other nasties that can disturb the digestion.

It’s rare that I see a client who doesn’t need magnesium. Magnesium relaxes muscles and soothes nerves and is most helpful if you can’t fall asleep.

The statistic is that 80% of us are magnesium deficient. It’s easy to lose magnesium through stress, tea, coffee, alcohol, sugar, excess sweating and having heavy metals in our system. Luckily we can add it back in, and taking a 20 minute bath with 250gm to 500gm Epsom salts before bedtime is a relaxing way to do it. I’m also a big fan of magnesium spray oil used after a shower in the morning. Adding both to your routine is a low cost option too.

A 2019 study found that CBD greatly improved sleep quality which had a positive effect on other symptoms associated with the menopause, especially anxiety and low mood.  CBD helps regulate the stress hormone cortisol released by the adrenal glands. For best results go organic, choose a low strength, check the certification and start with three drops before bedtime and increase the dose gradually over several days.

Switch the big light off

Dimming your lights in the evening will indicate to your body that bedtime is getting close and will help make melatonin. Aim to be in bed 10 pm, even if you aren’t quite ready to fall asleep and keep lights low.

For optimal sleep, you want your bedroom to be cool and dark room with all electronics turned off, or, even better, removed from your room.

Your environment

Is your bed right for you? Mattresses need changing over time, as do beds. Many manufacturers go for comfort over an optimal night’s sleep which can mean you are ‘sleeping hot’, as many modern synthetic and foam mattresses keep you hot.

When we fall asleep, our body temperature drops. A natural fibre mattress will help disperse the heat you’re expelling and enhance your sleep.

Sleeping and other hormones

Whilst ‘hot flashes’ or ‘sweats’ at night are common during menopause women might also experience a rise in temperature when ovulating or just before periods. Note what happens to your body every month. If you suffer with this a lot, you may want to find a more natural fibered, breathable mattress and see a natural health practitioner to help balance hormones.

A note on sleep and the menopause

The biggest thing to be conscious of is that the adrenal glands are taking over the role of making oestrogen – we still need some oestrogen post menopause but it’s no longer made in the ovaries.

During periods of stress the adrenal glands will be doing their work to produce cortisols (steroids) and so making oestrogen goes on the back burner.

Getting yourself into a calming night-time routine will help to rebalance these all important glands. You may need to experiment with what works for you and calms your mind to help prepare for easeful sleep.

Weird O’Clock waking

The actual time we wake at night can indicate which organs need support according to the Traditional Chinese Medicine system.

If we are waking between 1am and 3am it shows that we need to learn to love and support our liver, so a cleanse and detox might be the solution as we will be letting go of some of the liver’s workload. If the liver is processing less we will feel more relaxed and sleep more deeply. An inability to relax is a sure sign that the liver is overworked! Message me if you’d like to hear about the group cleanses and 10 Day Detox I work with.

Wakefulness between 3am and 5am is more related to our lungs and perhaps issues of sadness or loss so a talk therapy, homeopathy and flower essences would be a  great choice.

And finally we are meant to get a little surge of energy at 5am to begin to bring us towards properly waking but if we are stuck with complete wakefulness at 5am and it’s not working for us there are solutions so don’t feel stuck, reach out for help.