How to sleep soundly

Exactly why we need sleep is not fully understood, but it may be that our brain is rebuilding its stores of chemicals and hormones that are used during the day. Sleep definitely provides a chance to rest and repair all areas of the body. Physiologically, it is interesting that we all need different amounts of sleep many famous and successful people claim to need only four hours sleep a night, whereas others feel ghastly if they have less than eight bours. Too much sleep can cause headaches and migraines while too little leaves even the best of us feeling low in energy, ratty and below par.

As we get older our sleep pattern alters, we take longer to get off to sleep and wake more often during the night. We also generally need less sleep. Young children often take little catnaps throughout the day. Many adults retain this ability to catch forty winks, hut others either feel that they never get enough sleep or don’t feel refreshed when they wake.

There are two types of sleep slow-wave, orthodox sleep, which is of paramount importance to allow our body to replenish itself, and dream-sleep, otherwise known as rapid eye moment (REM). During the night we alternate between both types. The different types of sleep account for why we feel refreshed after one-night sleep and not others.

The connection between caffeine and sleep is well known caffeine can keep you awake at night. But many of my patients are astounded to learn that there are many other links between what and how we eat and drink and our ability to sleep soundly, one of the most dramatic examples of how foods can affect both mind and hoody is seen in hyperactive children. Some- times only a minute quantity of an unwanted substance needs to pass their lips before they become uncontrollable. If you think about the amount of food, we put into our bodies every day, whether we are a child or an adult, we can begin to appreciate the potential effects. Get the nutrients right amid the body can slumber efficiently, but if you continually bombil it with chemicals and incorrect foods the body will complain.

 Sleeping pills

strongly suggest you look to food before turning to sleeping pills. Not only are you filling your body with chemicals, but you are in danger of becoming dependent so that you need to take stronger and stronger doses, and become desperately anxious if the pills are not available.

The majority of sleeping drugs alter your natural sleep pattern, which is why they should only be taken on a short-term basis. If you have been taking drugs to help you sleep, such as Diazepam or Mogadon, when you come off them you will probably experience a temporary increase in sleeplessness. However, once the body adjusts to not having them you should sleep soundly. If you are concerned about any aspect of the medication, you’re taking discuss this with your doctor.

Exploring the natural alternatives to sleeping pills can nor only be useful for adults, but can be a life saver for parents with young children who seem unable to sleep properly. By following the advice below you will ensure that you are doing everything you can to help your body.

A good night’s sleep

Whether your problem is an inability to fall asleep, frequently waking up during the night, or feeling in the morning that you haven’t had a really good sleep, there are several nutritional and lifestyle factors that can improve your ability to sleep well.


There is a close link between carbohydrate-rich foods such as pasta, potatoes and bread – and sleep. A bowl of pasta can act as a perfect natural sleeping pill. The reason lies in the fact that the digestive system is a collection of glands and muscles. Like other muscles, it needs a plentiful supply of oxygen and the appropriate hormones to enable it to work properly. After you have eaten, Mother Nature produces hormones in your body that cause you to feel sleepy so that you are unable to move around and divert the oxygen away from the stomach to your limbs, Carbohydrate-rich foods stimulate the body to secrete copious amounts of these hormones. You can use this to your advantage by making sure your evening meal is rich in carbohydrates choose dishes such as lasagna or risotto, or an accompaniment of spaghetti or mashed potatoes.


Although most people are aware that caffeine can keep you awake, to everyone realizes that it’s not just the after-dinner coffee that’s the culprit. Caffeine is mainly found in coffee and tea, but it is also present in chocolate, cola drinks and some of the so-called health/vitality/energizing drinks. So hot chocolate before bedtime is not as soporific as it appears. Also, if you have a number of these drinks during the day, it can take your body several hours to clear them from your system Sugar is another stimulant, causing a rush of energy shortly after you’ve taken it,

whether in the form of a high-sugar malted bedtime drink, fruit squash. sugary snacks such as chocolate, biscuits or toffee popcorn, or a sweet desserther a late meal Children’s bodies are generally more sensitive to sugar swings. but even adults need to be aware of how copy it is to disturb the pattern of sleep. Lan not saying that you need to cut these things all together, simply look at how and when you eat them.

Try to leave at least a couple of hours between the time you eat your dessert and your bedtime. Another option is to make sure your dessert contains some fire, in the form of fresh or dried fruit or whole meal flour for example, to cushion the sugar swings. If you are in the habit of having a snack before you go to bed, choose a high-fiber snack such as an apple flapjack, an oat muffin or a whole meal roll.Instead of hot chocolate, a mug of hot milk or a glass of cold milk will help you sleep easier.


Note when your sleep is particularly disturbed and look at the foods and drinks you consumed on the previous day. With this information, after a week or two you may be able to isolate certain foods that make you restless. Common culprits include spicy or fatty foods, as these can sit heavily in the stomach, and foods and drinks high in artificial additives and preservatives, You may also find that your restless nights coincide with a little indigestion or bloating. This may be as a result of a food intolerance.


While a little drink can help you relax, and a larger amount can make you feel tired, excessive amounts of alcohol disturb your natural sleep patterns and dehydrate you, thereby decreasing the quality of your sleep. You may sleep for longer, but you will wake up with a headache or feeling sluggish, and your energy levels and sense of well-being will be at rock bottom. Occasionally people find that a particular drink aggravates their tendency to feel headachy and down.

This may be because of an individual grape variety or because the drink contains pesticide residues or naturally occurring substances swatch as salicylates, keeping a food dairy and then temporarily eliminating the drink that seems to cause the trouble should help you decide whether you need to look for an alternative beverage. Otherwise, just keep the quantity down and don’t drink every night, out of habit.


Several vitamin and mineral supplements have a slight stimulating effect. Taking them in the morning should help prevent this. You may also find that certain medications, for example sugary cough mixtures and antidepressants such as Prozac and Seroxat, can disrupt your sleep pattern.


Excessive heat can cause disturbed sleep, in centrally heated houses bedrooms are often too hot. Cooling your room down and choosing bedliner made of natural fibers such as cotton may help you to sleep better Sleeping arrangements are of paramount importance with babies. Placing them in a secure position should help both you and your child to sleep soundly. Current advice is to

• Place babies on their backs to sleep

• Make sure they are not too hot

• Make sure babies’ heads are not covered

• Refrain from smoking in the house


Lack of exercise and excessive stress can cause your sleep patterns to be disturbed. Take measures to relieve stress before you try to sleep: listening to music or reading a book or magazine may help Encourage your child to be as active as possible during the day, as this will enable them to become physically tired and free of stress. You may question whether children suffer from stress, but don’t forget that they are under as much pressure as the rest of us in the modern world, and schools are increasingly competitive places. One of the ways that children exhibit stress can be insomnia. Look to the underlying cause as well as doing everything you can foodwise to help them.


Consider using herbs and flowers, either as tea such as chamomile or as drops of aromatherapy oils, either in your late-night bath or on the pillow or on the upper edge of the sheets. Good oils to consider include lavender and basil. This is a useful tip if you have restless children.


Having too much sleep can make you feel at odds with yourself, unable to get your body going, even worse, you may wake up with a headache or migraine. Many of my patients are amazed to learn that oversleeping can cause headaches and migraines. This is because it causes the release of a hormone called serotonin, although serotonin is associated with feeling happy, it is not a question of the more serotonin, the happier you feel, it is more important to maintain appropriate levels within your body. The serotonin released when you oversleep is subsequently processed by the kidneys. Sensitive blood vessels within the head dilate rapidly, pressing on surrounding nerves and causing pain. This is why some people wake up with a stinking headache, having slept for many hours and despite not having drunk any alcohol.

Always feeling sleepy?

This problem is discussed in more detail in the previous chapter. The answer. briefly, is to look to your lifestyle Changing to a regular meal pattern which includes lots of fresh organic food and water, little or no caffeine, alcohol in moderation, and regular exercise, can work wonders.

You will sleep more soundly at night and feel awake when you want to, with none of the in-between mussiness and lethargy Children who seem to exist on healthy foods – lots of fruits, vegetables and fiber – but very little else, can suffer from lethargy simply because their body is not getting enough energy-giving foods. Look at the chapter on Understanding your nutritional needs. Those of you who are feeling psychologically low or depressed may find that always wanting to sleep is one of your main symptoms.. Children who are unhappy often have this problem. Try to get to the bottom of the problem are they being bullied at school or having problems with friends Don’t just feed the sweets and treats to comfort them, as these will not help their bodies.


On a final note, snoring can disrupt slumber. Excess weight and excess alcohol aggravate snoring. Cut down on alcohol or read the chapter on Achieving your ideal weight to help reduce the problem,