Dr. Katie’s top tips for better sleep

Trouble falling asleep?
Staying asleep?
Getting comfortable in bed?

 

Your top sleep questions, answered!

Great day to you, New Day!

I get so many questions from practice members about sleep these days that I thought I would blog about it.

There have been many periods of my life when I have suffered from difficulty sleeping, so if you struggle with sleep, I feel your pain!  I have assembled below my top tips for getting better sleep in response to the most common sleeping problems I see in practice.

1.  Problem #1: “I’m just a night owl!”

Many people tell me that they are natural “night owls” and prefer to get work done, exercise, and the like, at night.  These are all bad habits and are not natural!

All our bodies actually work best when we wake up with the sun, and taper off of overly stimulating activities past sunset to get you ready for bed.  That includes eating heavy or spicy meals, watching any stress-inducing movies or programs, caffeine, alcohol, and exercise.

sleeping 1

Tip#1 Transition to an “early to bed, early to rise schedule. For self-proclaimed night owls, this may sound impossible. If you need help transitioning, I have some tough love for you.  Try setting your alarm(s) for sunrise every morning, and force yourself to get up and engage in exercise.  Stay awake for the rest of the day, and spend at least a few minutes of yourday outside, in the sunlight.  Then go to bed by 10 or 11PM. By the 3rd or 4th night of this, you will most likely find it easier to fall asleep early.

Tip #2  Manage your social life.  If the demands of your social life make it difficult for you to avoid the stimulating activities mentioned above in the evening hours (believe me, I understand), try giving yourself 3 nights in a row of calm evening activities that do not include alcohol or caffeine for every one night of over-stimulation. This pattern will help your body re-balance and reinforce the healthy pattern.

Tip #3 Unplug and/or enable new “yellow screen” options for your gadgets.  If you’re thinking your sleep schedule is inborn because you are just a natural night owl BUT you spend hours before bed looking at computer screens and iPhone screens, you may be creating the problem.  iPhone and Android now have settings that change the light that your phone emits to a wavelength that is more relaxing for your nervous system.  Go to the link below to learn more!

unnamed (6)

http://www.buzzfeed.com/nicolenguyen/heres-how-to-stop-your-iphone-from-destroying-you#.aug1KQEx32

Problem #2:  “When I lay down, I can’t relax”

If you follow the advice above and you still find that you are wired when you lay down in bed, there are some other ways you can soothe your body and mind so that you can sleep better.

Tip #1 LAVENDER ESSENTIAL OIL!  Young Living Lavender Essential Oil has revolutionized my sleep, and it could do the same for you. Lavender contains powerful relaxation-inducing compounds.  Just putting a drop or two of Lavender on a cotton ball inside your pillow case may be helpful.  Or, you can do what I do and drink a little bit of water with one drop of Young Living Lavender right before bed.

lavender

Tip #2  Eucalyptus Blue Essential Oil. I like to diffuse Young Living Eucalyptus Blue in the room where I sleep.  Ever since I started doing this, my sleep has been much deeper and more relaxing.  Eucalyptus helps open up the sinuses and clear respiratory issues that can be distracting when trying to sleep.  I have even found that I seldom even wake up to use the bathroom during the night since I started this routine.  Don’t have a diffuser?  Mix a drop or two of Eucalyptus Blue with a carrier oil (olive oil, coconut oil, etc) and rub it on your neck and chest before you go to sleep.

eucalyptus

Both of these oils are in stock in the essential oils store at New Day!  Try sampling them on your next visit to see if they might help you

Tip #3  Get out of your head, and into your body!

When you’re trying to sleep and your mind is buzzing, this means that your nervous system is running some version of a fight or flight response.  This is the part of our nervous system that is active when we are in danger.  When this is happening, your physiology and body chemistry have shifted to support your survival in a crisis. Our body awareness and ability to sense the signals our bodies are sending us gets worse.  There are many things in life that can trigger or perpetuate an overstressed nervous system, such as life stresses, worrying thoughts, lack of physical activitity, and most importantly, lack of care for our spines and nervous systems.

When we are over thinking due to fight or flight overdrive, feeling in the body is a perfect way to disrupt the feedback loop.  This is one of the ways Network Care works– reprogramming the nervous system for safety and the ability to feel puts the brakes on the anxiety-inducing fight or flight response.  Make sure that you are getting your Network Care regularly, as this reprogramming will help all the other tips work better!

In addition, help yourself in the moment, when you are laying in bed feeling anxious, by getting up to do a yoga stretch and doing a Somato Respiratory Integration (SRI) exercise.  SRI is the breathwork modality created by Dr. Donald Epstein, the creator or Network Care, to help us be in our bodies and out of our thoughts.  If you are laying in bed more than 20 minutes and can’t sleep, I highly suggest you get up and try these exercises.

sri workbook

The SRI Workbook is for sale at New Day for $30.  You can also learn the exercises through going to the link below and watching the youtube video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yB6FycWNJIU

Also, here is a tutorial on how to do my all-time favorite yoga stretch, Triangle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8BM_HRr7dI

Problem #3 “I can’t get comfortable in bed because my body hurts”

If not feeling good in your body is what’s keeping you from sleeping, it’s likely that many of the above tips will help you.  Feeling discomfort, aches, and pains in the body often means that your body’s fight or flight response is on and therefore inflammation in the body has increased.  Also, chronic lack of body awareness throughout the day can result in pains as your body attempts to send louder signals to get your attention.  Get Network Care for your spine, do your SRI exercises, and use any of the other tips above.

stretching

Here are some final tips for helping you feel better in your body while sleeping.

Tip #1 Use the right pillow.  There is no one right pillow for everyone.  But if you are waking up chronically sore in the neck, even though you are receiving chiropractic care, that is your body telling you that you need a new pillow.  Try a firm-yet-pliable pillow such as down, that molds to your head and neck.  Avoid hard, structured pillows that attempt to force your neck into a “proper” alignment.

Tip #2 Stretch your neck and/or low back before bed.  The best stretches work because they help release the body as the brain and body connect.  Do some simple circular movements one way, and then the other, nod the head up and down, and turn the head from right to left.  Avoid any hard yanking or pulling of your neck.  Instead gently let things loosen up using your breath and your focus while you do the stretches.  Similarly, bring your knees in to your chest and breathe into your low back.

Tip #3  DO NOT Sleep on your stomach.  Sleeping on your stomach is very damaging on the spine and should be avoided because you must wrench your neck to the side in order to breathe.  Train your way out of stomach sleeping by sleeping on your side with large pillows in between your knees and your arms.

side pillow

That concludes my thorough, but by no means exhaustive, blog on getting better sleep!  Network Care, by helping the spine and the nervous system find peace and safety, is an ideal way to improve sleep.  If you have any questions or comments on improving sleep, please ask at your next visit!

Check out our previous post: “Ever feel like you don’t belong?

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