5 Steps to Better Sleep

Tim Leeming

5 min read

Cozy bedroom interior with a view of a tranquil outdoor scene, featuring a hanging chair and a sliding glass door.

Getting a good night’s rest can seem like a distant memory or long lost friend for a lot of people.  Poor sleep quality and quantity is a much bigger issue than you might realise.

More than 50% of the new patients we see report sleep as a health issue, feeling fatigued and exhausted.  The problem is more often frequent waking throughout the night, but can also include finding it hard to fall asleep initially or difficulty with going back to sleep if waking up in the middle of the night.

A fantastic resource to check out if sleep is a major issue for you is Professor Matthew Walker’s book Why We Sleep.  Professor Walker is the foremost international expert on sleep and he is an eloquent communicator of key insights and the leading research available.

It might feel easier to bury our heads in the sand and shrug it off as not such a big deal that we aren’t sleeping well.  “Plenty of time to sleep when I’m dead” as the saying goes.

However the research is abundantly clear that even one night of limited or poor sleep has massive physiological repercussions. 

After just one night of sleeping less than five hours, our Natural Killer cells (cells of the immune system that fight cancer) drop by 70%. 

Routinely sleeping less than six hours per night increases cancer risk by 50%.

Routinely sleeping less than five hours per night puts you at 200-300% increased risk of catching a cold compared to somebody sleeping eight hours.

When you are sleep deprived, you are significantly more likely to sustain an injury during exercise or physical activities.  Your appetite shifts to craving sugar, leading to unfavourable food choices and the downwards spiral that this can create.

So now we’ve covered the impacts of living with less sleep than we need, what can we do to correct the issue?  Below are five of the simplest but often overlooked strategies. 

1) See the first hour of daylight with your bare eyes
The light we experience at dawn and dusk, when the sun is lower in the sky, is a powerful regulator of our circadian rhythm (our sleep-wake cycle).  One of the best things you can do to reset your sleeping patterns is actually at the beginning of the day, not before bed.  Commit to getting outside and seeing 5-20 minutes of the day’s first hour of sun, in your bare eyes and on your skin.

2) Go to bed exhausted
As stupidly simple as this sounds, it’s important to acknowledge that there are two forms of exhaustion.  There is physical exhaustion, and there is mental exhaustion.  Many of us arrive at the end of the day feeling exhausted, but often we are only one or the other.  If you sit at a desk all day, you may be mentally fatigued by bedtime, but you have not exhausted your physical body.  If you work in a manual labour role all day that doesn’t stimulate you mentally, the opposite will be true.  This is why it is vitally important to have daily outlets for both physical and mental stimulation.

3) Be like a caveman
In the 90 minutes before you go to bed, the more your home looks, sounds and feels like a cave, the better.  Low, orange lighting (like that of a camp fire) is ideal.  A cool temperature (18 degrees as per the research) is optimal.  A soothing and relaxing environment, as opposed to a highly thrilling Netflix binge.  In fact, minimal technology is beneficial.  Turn phones to flight mode, switch off your Wi-Fi, TVs and other sources of electrical stimulation.

4) Consider your consumption
For many people, avoiding food or drink in the last two hours before bed can make a big difference.  Most of us are aware that caffeine consumption throughout the day can harm our sleep; a good guideline is to finish your caffeine before midday.  An hour or two before bed, a small cup of chamomile tea can be a helpful way to gently support a deeper and more restful sleep.

5) Practice nasal breathing
Once you’re in bed, before you lay down to nod off, sit comfortably and spend 3-5 minutes focusing on long, slow breaths in and out your nose.  Make the exhales longer than the inhales.

I believe these tools are overlooked because they’re so simple, they’re free and readily available to almost everybody… this can lead to us falling into the trap of “oh how would that work when the special supplements I need for my sleep a very expensive…”

With that said, these techniques require time and repetition for results to become obvious.  Don’t try these things for a week and come to me to tell me it didn’t work.  Consistently practice these points for 90 days, and then see how you are going.  The longer you’ve had sleep issues, the more attention this will require.

Are you wondering why a chiropractor is writing about sleep, or asking about sleep during the initial consultation with new patients?

The truth is that better sleep is one of the most widely reported improvements that our patients begin to achieve in their initial months working with us.  If you need help with getting adequate rest and recuperation, reach out to us today.

Dr Tim Leeming

Amanda in the new patient room at Being Chiropractic

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New Patient Initial Consultations are open to all ages. X-rays are available onsite and included in this offer if clinically indicated and recommended by your chiropractor.