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Last Updated on January 11, 2021

5 Things That Will Help You Sleep Naturally

5 Things That Will Help You Sleep Naturally

Sleep is an essential part of everyday life. We all love a good night’s sleep and loathe the tiredness and lack of concentration that comes from not having slept well.

Sleep also contributes to our feelings of wellness and our happiness. Many of us go through periods of time in our lives where we experience problems with our sleep. Sleep disruption, delayed sleep, insomnia—whatever you want to call it, sleep issues are a common experience, especially when you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed by the demands life places on you.

There is so much general advice out there on things to help you sleep, referred to as sleep hygiene. This includes how many hours to aim for, going to bed at the same time every day, getting up at the same time every day, avoiding day time sleep, taking regular exercise (but only during day time), avoiding caffeine alcohol and nicotine, not going to bed hungry or overfull, and having a good routine for bedtime.

One of the things I always advise my patients is to rethink their use of screens, especially in their bedrooms. You may find it hugely beneficial to change the way you use screens and electronic devices at night and leading up to bedtime.

In this digital age, most of us love our electronics, whether it’s a tablet, mobile phone, games console, laptop, computer, or TV. But these things take up a lot of our time, and they do not help with sleep at all.

In fact, they are proven to disrupt sleep. They can suppress the body’s ability to release melatonin—a sleep-inducing hormone.  Therefore, avoiding these things can help you sleep better.

The habit of checking our devices last thing at night and reaching for them first thing in the morning is ingrained in us. Remember these points when you next find yourself reaching for your device:

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  1. They stimulate your brain.
  2. The light that some devices emit can interfere with your internal body clock.
  3. Devices can be highly addictive, eating into even more sleep time.
  4. Checking work emails at night can create worry and stress, leading your brain to become stimulated in thinking about a specific issue/task.

Sleep hygiene is really important for us, and I would recommend thinking about all these things if you haven’t already.

In addition to sleep hygiene, here are some natural things to help you sleep, that you can try straight away, some of which you may not have come across before. Even with the best routines and behaviors around sleep, we can still struggle to get some decent shut-eye, and having ways to deal with that can be invaluable.

Quoting the Dalai Lama,

“Sleep is the best meditation.”

1. Mindfulness and Breathing

Mindfulness—yes, here it is again. We’ve all heard of it, and you guessed right—it can help with your sleep and is proven to do so.

Looking at it simply, mindfulness is the ability to objectively and non-judgmentally take notice of our internal and external experiences as they happen and without reactivity. When we can’t sleep, we experience unwanted thoughts and unpleasant feelings—the type we want to get rid of quickly, so that we can fall asleep.

Mindfulness shifts our focus from trying not to think about these things to accepting that these thoughts and feelings will come and then, noticing their presence without struggling against them. Then, as you lie still in your bed, move your focus to your breath and simply count 1 on every inhale and 2 on every exhale. Do this very slowly, allowing your lungs to fill and empty as you go.

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Some people find that tuning into this rhythm can get them off to sleep. It’s important to stick to this consistently before you decide it doesn’t work. Naturally, our attention can drift away. When this happens, just restart the counting of your breath. Let your body relax with each breath as you feel calmer, and approach the fringes of sleepiness.

2. Weighted Blankets

Maybe you’ve heard of these before maybe you haven’t, but they really are something else. Weighted blankets are exactly what they sound like—heavy blankets that are just the right weight to apply deep, evenly distributed pressure on your body, resulting in a calming effect that aids relaxation and sleep.

Some people have described the feeling of a weighted blanket as being hugged or held. There has been lots of research on the effectiveness of using weighted blankets, and a recent study in the Journal of Clinical and Sleep Medicine confirmed the benefits of using them. They have helped many people reduce sleep onset time (the time it takes to get off to sleep) and the number of nighttime awakenings.[1]

Aside from the deep pressure and holding experienced by the use of a weighted blanket, they have also been shown to increase serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in regulating sleep. All these benefits from a heavy blanket.

Learn more about the benefits of sleeping with weighted blankets here: Weighted Blanket for Anxiety and Insomnia: How to Make It Work

3. Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra is one of the fastest-growing forms of yoga right now, and guess what, it can help you get right off to sleep. Yoga Nidra is a technique for supporting your body’s natural relaxation response. It has been noted as therapeutic for several health conditions.

It’s essentially a type of meditation of the experience of falling asleep. This is a type of yoga where you don’t actually have to move. You just lie still under your duvet—cozy and warm—and are talked into sleepiness by listening to a recording.

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Think of it as a type of restful yoga in bed, requiring you to listen to a Yoga Nidra recording to help your mind and body restore themselves to a restful sleep state. You can find recordings on YouTube to give this technique a try. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t fallen asleep after a session of Yoga Nidra.

4. White Noise

If you are someone who experiences the slightest noise as disruptive to your sleep, then you might find white noise helpful. White noise is when sound waves of a broad spectrum of frequencies are combined to form a sound that blocks out background noise, reducing your attention to external sound. By doing this, white noise acts as a constant ambient sound to help mask the surrounding noise.

Many people find the rhythm of white noise soothing and relaxing. Before you rush out and buy a white noise machine to test out whether it could help you or not, there are plenty of white noise recordings available on YouTube.

Try to be consistent, with some level of persistence. Many things don’t work the first time, but that doesn’t mean they won’t work at all. Moving away from the idea of a quick fix to focusing on experimenting with a flexible attitude can be helpful.

5. Acceptance

From personal experience, changing the focus from trying to sleep to accepting it might not happen helps take the pressure off and reduce sleep stress.

The more we struggle to sleep, the more frustrated we can feel, and the more unwilling we can become of tolerating and experiencing unwanted thoughts and feelings that arise. This can leave us wired with stress and anxiety. This actually heightens wakefulness, with the nervous system becoming increasingly activated and consequently, worsening sleep problems.

The purpose of acceptance is to accept that we will experience unwanted thoughts and feelings. We should accept that we may not sleep so well given the problems we are having, and move to focus on resting and allowing discomfort to be present instead of struggling against it.

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The more accepting our attitude towards whatever problems we are having with sleep, the greater the willingness is to experience poor sleep. This often results in fewer struggles, less arousal, and interestingly, improved levels of sleepiness.

Next time you hit the sack, try to gently say to yourself, “I might not sleep, sleep is sometimes hard for me, I accept it might be difficult again tonight, but I will focus on resting my eyes, and my body.” Keep trying these techniques over several nights to try and lessen the intensity of the struggle you are having with sleep.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you are now armed with a few more techniques to manage sleep difficulties. Remember that like most people, many of us don’t get the exact number of hours we would like every single night. Some nights we get less, and some nights we get more. I certainly do.

Have an acceptance that sleep fluctuates, and at worst, you may feel tired,. But you know there will not be a catastrophe, that you will cope, and that you will get through the day just like you always do.

As always, if you’ve tried lots of things to help you sleep but are still experiencing difficulty, consider seeing your doctor.

More Things to Help You Sleep

Featured photo credit: Gregory Pappas via unsplash.com

Reference

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Dr. Kirren Schnack

Dr. Kirren Schnack is an experienced clinical psychologist.

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Last Updated on May 14, 2021

3 Simple Steps to Reduce Your Gut Inflammation

3 Simple Steps to Reduce Your Gut Inflammation

One of the most serious – and common – causes of chronic disease is inflammation.

High levels of inflammation in the body cause your cells to deteriorate and lose their ability to function properly. In turn, this leads to the development of diseases such as cancer, autoimmune dysfunction, and other disorders.

Inflammation is a necessary biological process that kickstarts your immune system. Chemical mediators alert the body to the areas that need defending or repairing. Unfortunately, when inflammation continues for too long, it can have serious consequences.

The level of inflammation in your body is influenced by a number of factors, including diet, lifestyle, and environment.[1]

In the gut, inflammation can also be caused by an imbalance of microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract. When harmful microbes or yeast such as Candida grow and spread, they can severely damage the lining of the gut. The resulting immune response can cause further inflammation and damage.

Fortunately, reducing gut inflammation can be a matter of altering the choices you make in everyday life. In fact, there are three simple steps you can take today to reduce inflammation in your gut. Let’s take a look!

1. Drink More Water to Get Rid of Toxins

Every single day, we are exposed to toxins. Air pollutants, heavy metals, mold, and airborne pathogens are around us all the time – without us even knowing it.

Many of our foods are full of toxins too, like pesticides, antibiotics, and even added sugars.

These toxins are serious contributors to inflammation. They ‘turn on’ genes that promote inflammation causing cancer, heart disease. In the gut, these toxins can cause imbalances in your gut flora that allow inflammatory chemicals to be released. This inflammation promotes changes elsewhere in the body that can lead to chronic diseases.

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One of the best ways to flush toxins from the body is also one of the simplest. Drink more water! Drinking plenty of water each day is an effective and essential way to help your gut and body detoxify:

  • Your intestinal tract needs water to function optimally, moving waste efficiently through the gut and out of the bowels.
  • Your liver and kidneys are two of your body’s most important detoxification organs. Both of these require a constant supply of water in order to function properly.
  • Your sweat also flushes toxins out of your body. Sweat is largely made up of water.

Just as importantly, each of your cells requires adequate hydration to carry out its proper functions. Studies have shown that inadequate cellular hydration can contribute to the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals and even lead to inflammatory disorders.[2]

In general, the more hydrated you are, the less inflammation will be present in your body.

What to Do:

Try to drink 2-3L of water each day, or six to eight glasses. Make sure your water is fresh and filtered, or at least free of contaminants such as chlorine, fluoride and heavy metals.

It may be helpful to carry a bottle of water with you throughout the day, so you can keep sipping it instead of guzzling a large amount of water at once.

One of the healthiest ways to drink water is with a squeeze of lemon juice. Lemon juice is rich in vitamin C and can boost your immunity.

Not sure if you’re properly dehydrated? There’s an easy way to find out! Check the color of your urine when you’re next in the bathroom. If it’s yellow, your body likely needs more water. If it’s clear, you’re properly hydrated.

2. Exercise Regularly to Keep Your Detoxification Organs Active

Daily exercise is absolutely essential for keeping your whole body in good working order, including your gut.

Physical activity stimulates your body’s major detoxification organs, including your intestines, urinary tract, sweat glands, circulatory system, and lymphatics.

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When these systems are able to move toxins and waste out of the body, inflammation is kept to a minimum.

New research shows that as little as 20 minutes of exercise could have anti-inflammatory effects on the gut and the entire body.

Exercise improves the body’s anti-inflammatory response by activating the sympathetic nervous system. This boosts your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. As a result, your body releases hormones including epinephrine and norepinephrine into the bloodstream, which have the job of activating the adrenal receptors of immune cells.

In a recent study, researchers examined the effects of a single 20-minute session of exercise on immune system activation. They found that even this small amount of exercise was enough to suppress the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines by 5%.[3]

Inflammation is a necessary part of the body’s immune response, but too much inflammation can lead to disease. Chronic inflammation may contribute to diabetes, obesity, celiac disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia, or bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

It seems that even short periods of exercise can reduce the body’s inflammatory response, which may lead to exercise being recommended as a part of future treatment plans for inflammatory conditions.

Exercise also forces fresh blood to your tissues, which reduces inflammation by helping flush away metabolic debris. It provides nutrients to inflamed or damaged tissues, which facilitates repair and restoration.

Just like hydration, exercise also keeps your digestive system moving and promotes good digestive health, further reducing inflammation in your gut.

What to Do:

If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, it’s vital that you make a plan to walk, jog, swim, or stretch for at least 30 minutes every day.

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Most modern phones now come with some kind of activity tracker. For example, if you own an iPhone then you might already be familiar with the iOS Health app. This handy app will track the steps that you take each day. Many people aim for 10,000 steps per day, which is a very healthy goal to have.

Equally, try to avoid sitting for extended periods of time. If you work long hours, set a timer to get yourself up and moving on a regular basis, at least every hour.

And, as I mentioned earlier, be sure to follow your exercise with plenty of water!

3. Take Curcumin — a Natural Anti-Inflammatory Remedy

Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, a bright orange spice. It’s one of the most powerful, natural, anti-inflammatory remedies on earth, especially for the gut.

Curcumin aids digestion by relaxing the smooth muscles on the walls and helping with the movement of food through the intestines. It also helps to relieve the buildup of gas and bloating as food is being broken down.

In the colon, curcumin promotes a healthy balance of gut bacteria, which is essential for your immune system to function optimally.  It also encourages cells of the intestinal lining to regenerate and heal following damage caused by pathogenic bacteria or yeast overgrowth such as Candida.

Recent studies have even shown that curcumin may an effective means of inhibiting intestinal fungal infections. Clinical trials have reported that high concentrations of curcumin have a powerful antifungal effect against this harmful yeast, as well as other fungal infections. There is evidence that curcumin can inhibit the growth of Candida albicans more effectively than common antifungal drugs.[4]

Research has shown that curcumin’s medicinal activity is largely due to its phytochemicals. These are plant chemicals that harbor antioxidative and antibacterial properties. These phytochemicals may also help to ease nausea caused by mental issues such as anxiety and stress.

The anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activity in curcumin may also help reduce gut pain caused by spicy foods, alcohol, or pathogenic bacteria. The incredible compounds in curcumin support your natural digestive processes, which can mean that your gut doesn’t have to work as hard to break down food. 

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What to Do:

Taking curcumin is as simple as finding a quality supplement from a good health store.

You can also blend turmeric powder into smoothies, meals or a turmeric latte. Be sure to add a healthy fat such as coconut oil, as well as black pepper. This helps your body to absorb the active constituents of the curcumin.

The Bottom Line

When reducing inflammation in your gut, your first priority should be to reduce the amount of pro-inflammatory factors in your diet and lifestyle.

The three steps mentioned above are very easy to incorporate into your daily routines, and will help to minimize the inflammatory processes happening inside your body.

By supporting your body’s detoxification functions with adequate exercise and hydration, you’ll be dramatically reducing the amount of harmful toxins that your immune system has to fight every day. Fewer toxins means your body can focus more on healing!

This is significantly improved by adding curcumin to your daily diet, whether as a supplement or in your meals. Curcumin is a remarkable ingredient for an inflamed gut: it will help soothe those irritated membranes, fight off yeasts such as Candida, and support the healing of the intestinal lining.

Take these simple steps and start to reduce your inflammation today. Your gut will thank you!

More Resources About Gut Health

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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