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The Five Pillars of Health

Restful sleep is the foundation of mental, emotional and physical well-being.  Just like diet and exercise, a good night’s sleep is essential for good health: it helps regulate mood, sharpen attention, boost memory and bolster the immune system.

Sleep is a natural activity, but many things can interfere with restorative sleep — work schedules, anxiety, electronic devices, even food and drink. And, as we get older, our sleep patterns may change though our need for sleep doesn’t. Few experiences are as frustrating as a restless night.  Simply willing yourself to sleep is rarely successful; but following some simple suggestions may be.

Avoiding caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, cola) within 6 hours of bedtime may help, but not everyone is affected by caffeine equally: some people are less sensitive, so try experimenting with what works for you. Reducing alcohol intake, taking regular exercise, avoiding daytime naps and following a regular bedtime schedule may also help as will avoiding strenuous or stressful activities within a few hours of sleep time.

Reading can be soporific, but electronic devices backlit with blue light may trick us into thinking it’s still daytime and suppress melatonin (the sleep hormone) making it harder to get to sleep. For restful sleep, bedtime may be the perfect time and place for a paperback revival.  It’s also ideal for practicing meditative breathing e.g. breathing in for 4 counts, holding for 7 and breathing out for 8. Repeat this 3 times to relax your mind and fall gently asleep.  

Eating also influences sleep. Meals high in carbohydrates and protein may benefit sleep duration and quality if eaten at least an hour before bedtime. Foods rich in tryptophan and melatonin (e.g. turkey, pumpkin seeds and cherry juice) may help prepare you for sleep by regulating your body clock.

Sleep apnoea – a condition linked to snoring in which the airways constrict - has several causes, but simply changing your sleeping position from on your back to your side may help. If not, please talk to your GP because it and other forms of insomnia may indicate a more serious underlying condition. 

Restful sleep is vital to our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, but just adjusting a few habits maybe all it takes to sleep well and stay well. Sweet dreams…

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