So here we are...the last week of October!
As I walk around for my 100 miles challenge, I see pumpkins, wreaths, and all things autumn. TV adverts and supermarkets are already trying to get us in the Christmas (shopping) spirit. I don't want to rush to the end of the year. I just want to savour the season.
I love autumn, the crisp leaves and beautiful colours, but I don't so much like the cold mornings and dark nights. When the clocks go back this weekend, it can often upset our already fragile sleeping patterns.
If you find you just can't sleep, here are what the experts believe might be the reason and some tips to help you fall asleep faster and sleep better.
8 Surprising reasons you're not sleeping
1. You're not getting enough Vitamin D
We all know how important vitamin D is for bone health, but did you realise it can also affect our sleep? Research shows that low vitamin D levels are linked to lower sleep quality and a higher risk of sleep disorders.
Take a supplement: the recommendation is to take 10mg daily from October to March. Your body can make all the vitamin D you need when your skin is exposed to sunlight, but it's common for levels to drop during autumn and winter.
2. You have allergies
Nasal allergies affect almost everyone. With changing seasons, especially in spring with pollen flying everywhere, it's important to protect your sleep. Apart from seasonal variations, allergies caused by indoor dust mites and air pollution might also keep you up.
To reduce allergies: keep windows closed and remove pollen from your clothes and hair. Although antihistamines could help you combat allergies, they have other side effects. Other ways to prevent allergies are to clean your bed often and take a quick, warm shower before bedtime. If you have a shower before bed, try the beauty sleep shower oil with a restful blend of essential oils that will enhance your bedtime routine.
3. You're due on your period
Our periods have a lot to answer for! And it turns out our sleepiness nights are a part of the equation too. In the days before your period, changing levels of hormones can affect the amount of REM sleep you get. Your body temperature can also go up during your period, affecting your ability to sleep deeply.
Be kind to your body: it's a sensitive time, so the best thing you can do is focus on nourishing self-care. Try to get some exercise, avoid overindulging in alcohol and caffeine, stay hydrated, and be mindful of your emotions.
4. You're sleeping wrong
Do you often wake in the middle of the night with a sore or painful neck? It could be time to reassess your sleeping position.
Sleep on your back: This is considered the best position because it optimises the support for your whole body. Sleeping on your side with your legs straight out is a close second as it helps to keep the spine elongated. If you must sleep on your front, opt for a flat pillow (or none at all). Place a pillow under your pelvis for alignment.
If you feel your pain worsens at night or these positions don't help, you might want to book a spinal alignment check with me (under spinal touch therapy) to see if your posture is the problem.
5. You're sleeping next to pets
If you have pets such as dogs and cats, chances are you allow them to cuddle up next to you in your bed at night. While comfortably snuggling with your fur babies is known to reduce stress and anxiety, it doesn't always lead to a good night's sleep. Let us take the example of cats. Cats have different sleep-wake cycles than humans, so allowing them to sleep on your bed might wake you up at odd hours. Studies show that cats can be as disruptive to sleep as humans sharing a bed.
Train your pets to sleep in their bed: try to regulate cuddling with your pets during daylight hours, and train them not to enter your bed when you want to sleep.
6. Your current book is too exciting
Are you a big fan of thrillers that leave you on the edge of your seat? An over-stimulating book can really scupper your sleep as you absorb yourself in the plot. Similarly, sad books can have the same effect as you identify with the characters! You might need to change your late night reading habits.
Read something calming before bed: we sleep when we feel safe, so ideally, we should read something that helps to slow our minds down. Choose something positive that enables you to go to sleep thinking the world is a good place!
7. Your bedtimes are irregular
You may think that heading to bed earlier on occasions will help you sleep better, but this isn't the case. Establishing a regular routine is important to help your body adjust to a regular internal clock.
Go to bed at the same time every night: Yes, even on the weekend! Maintaining a consistent schedule is important for staying out of sleep debt. Try to ensure you have a minimum of seven hours a night across the board.
8. You have sleep anxiety
Do you ever lie in bed and worry you're not asleep yet? And then find yourself struggling to get to sleep because you're worrying too much? It's a vicious cycle, also known as sleep anxiety. Anna Williamson talks honestly about this experience in her book Breaking Mad, and it's a great read with lots of tips on dealing with anxiety.
Face your fears: A simple way to break this cycle is to face your fears with acceptance. Look at your emotions as they arise and give them physical attributes such as size, weight, shape, colour and texture. This works to diffuse the power they have on you and your sleep.
“Sleep is the best meditation” - Dalai Lama