There’s nothing worse than when the sun goes down and the world all around you falls into a deep restful sleep, but you just can’t seem to switch off. Not only is it frustrating, it could be impacting your ability to repair and recover from exercise, burn fat, build muscle and function efficiently during the day. Strategies to improve sleep is often a subject so boring it can be enough to send some to sleep by itself. Count sheep, set a bed-time, do some regular exercise etc. You’ve probably heard it all before. You may have even tried them all before and still struggle to get a restful nights sleep. Before you give up, why not give these strategies below a go. They’re not your usual suspects!
Do Some Foam Rolling/SMR Work Pre-Bed
Foam rolling and other Self Myofascial Release (SMR) drills switch on the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for helping you to unwind and recover. Think about it, the last time you had a massage or sports massage you didn’t jump off the masseuses table after you’ve finished feeling ready to power through a killer workout right? You probably felt sleepy, calm and completely relaxed. 30 minutes before you head to bed try foam rolling your calfs, quads, hamstrings and thoracic spine. Try a massage ball if you want some deeper work on your tight spots. Remember to breathe deep, go slow and spend at least two minutes per muscle group.
Eat Some Carbs With Your Evening Meal
A small portion of carbs in the evening is perfectly ok. The media will have you believe this is a cardinal sin. However, they will help you sleep. Carbs release serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter in the body, this will help wind you down for a relaxed nights sleep. Does the phrase “carb-coma” ring any bells? However, carbs immediately pre-bed is a bad idea as it could negatively effect your natural release of human growth hormone. With your evening meal ensure you consume a quality carb source such as sweet potato, white potato, brown rice, brown pasta or quinoa.
Magnesium is an abundant mineral with the body that’s a cofactor for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body including protein synthesis, muscle function, nerve function, blood sugar control and sleep. One study even showed magnesium helps to reduce cortisol, the “stress hormone” that can effect sleep, encourage weight gain and prevent you from building lean mass. You can boost magnesium with an oral supplement, a topical cream or my preferred method – a nice hot soak in an Epsom Salt Bath. Epsom salts are made with magnesium sulphate, so they make a great way to boost magnesium whilst allowing your muscles to relax and brain to unwind in a hot bath.
Buy A Stress Ball
Is the stress of work, family, friends and relationships keeping you awake at night? If so you may need to look into stress management. Learning how to manage your stress and time better and also having a more positive outlook on life situations will make all the difference when it comes to drifting off into a deep sleep at night. Effective stress management is all about being proactive rather than reactive, so it’s important you identify your triggers before they happen. Once you know them you can deal with them by doing things such as squeezing a stress ball, taking some deep breaths or avoiding them all together.
Say A Prayer
Don’t worry I’m not expecting you to go out and buy a bible and start attending church if that’s not your thing, but just take a few moments before going to bed to be thankful for everything you have in life. It’s much easier falling asleep when you’re feeling at peace and at one with your world. Actually writing it down can also help. Try grabbing a pen and paper and listing as many things as you can think that make you happy and that you’re grateful for. Family, friends, loved ones, your kids, your job, your house etc.
Invest In A New Mattress
Did you know the Sleep Council and mattress industry recommend you to replace your mattress every eight years? This is because by this time it would have lost most of its original comfort and support. In that eight year recommended lifespan we spend on average 20,761 hours lying on top of it. Now I know what you’re thinking – they’re only saying that as a way to drive new business. But believe me it’s not until you buy a new mattress you realise how much you needed one! Sometimes those aches and pains we feel might not be a result of wear and tear or getting older, it might br something as simple as your mattress. Is your mattress giving you all the help and support you need for restful nights sleep or is it a hinderance? Something to think about.