Sleep is so important and one of the biggest healing cycles that our bodies go through in a 24 hour period. Therefore, it goes without saying that with poor sleep comes poor health.
When we sleep our bodies go through an amazing transformation. Our body’s very ‘building block’s’ help repair our bodies on a cellular level. Our bodies are literally repairing themselves overnight. Creating new skin cells, nerve cells, brain cells, repairing tired and damaged muscles, strengthening our bones. Our vital nutrients are passed around the body to where they need to go, repairing our organs, growing our hair, nails, ensuring our senses are working.
There are numerous reasons that we are unable to sleep well. The biggest problem is the inability to switch off. This seems to affect women more so than men which can then lead to frustration with your partner keeping you laying wide awake even longer.
There are two things to focus on when wanting to go to sleep:
- Switching off mentally
- Slowing your body down physically to a state of relaxation
In this article I have prepared a list of things that will help you to get a good nights sleep, which will in turn help to heal your gut, promoting good gut health and reducing IBS symptoms.
First and foremost you need to be comfortable, your body needs to be supported by your mattress, the room needs to be dark, a comfortable temperature for you, quiet and distraction free.
By far the best investment I ever made was a new mattress. It is well worth the money to get a good nights sleep. I personally prefer a firm mattress as I struggle with shoulder pain, however when you go to a bed store they will help you find the right mattress for you. I also have blackout curtains to help me get proper sleep all year long.
Using an eye mask or ear plugs can help you to feel like you are in the dark and quiet even when you are not and I never travel without these. I find it difficult to sleep anywhere apart from my own bed so if I am away for the night these come with me every time.
Making sure that you eat a healthy diet that is not aggravating or irritating your body in any way, a diet that is helping to aid your healing overnight rebuilding processes by being filled with all the right nutrition for you and your body is the number one thing that you are in control of.
With IBS each person is 100% individual and will require a tailored approach to diet specific to them in terms of DNA, lifestyle, health issues and concerns, food sensitivities, allergies and personal preference. There is no one rule fits all which makes following a generalised program like the FODMAP quite difficult for most people with IBS. It can even lead to more confusion and feelings of unease around food.
Leaving a gap of 4 – 5 hours between your last meal in the evening and going to bed will help your digestive processes to be past the energy sapping stage (producing digestive enzymes is one of the most energy sapping processes our bodies have to go through each day) which means that when you do get to sleep, you are not digesting foods, your body is focusing on the ‘repair and protect’ functions that should happen during the night.
For more information on how to get the right diet for your body and actively heal your gut, helping you to become IBS free click here.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps us to sleep when it is dark. Our Pineal glad produces this naturally throughout the day, in particular when stimulated with sunlight for at least 20 minutes a day. Try and get out each day and let the sun beam onto the top of your head, helping to stimulate this important gland, creating this hormone.
Doing exercise for an hour a day will really help your body to become stimulated during the day, realising other hormones, endorphins. This can then help you to relax in the evening as your body will feel more physically ‘tired’ in the evening.
I personally use a combination of yoga and running to help keep me fit and ensure I get a good nights sleep each night, that my body can heal, that my gut can continue to feel good and that my IBS is kept at bay.
My advice would be to find something you enjoy doing, dancing, walking, hiking, cleaning, whatever it is that makes you feel happy and do this every day for an hour.
Meditating can be really beneficial in helping you to calm your mind, to clear your distracting thoughts, slow your breathing, improve your memory, brain function and enable you to be able to sleep well. There are tonnes of different meditations out there including:
- Guided Meditation – listening to a guided sleep meditation and allowing yourself to drift away
- Focused Meditation – Focusing on one spot, a candle, a mandala and then closing your eyes and being within yourself for a time period
- Mantra Meditation – repeating a mantra to yourself, out our or in your head over and over to enable this to enter your subconscious and become a part of you
- Breathing Mediation – focusing on breathing deeply, slowly and pushing other thoughts out of your head by going back to the breathing again and again and again. You will eventually be able to focus solely on your breathing and removing all other distracting thoughts from your head, allowing sleep to come in
Sleep Hypno / Relaxing Music / Ambient Sound apps
There are an absolute plethora of different sleep hypno, ambient sounds, relaxing sleep music, guided meditations and sleep aids available on your smart phone.
My advice is to try a new one every few days until you find one that works for you and use this as your go to sleep aid as and when you need it.
You might want to find someone who has a voice you enjoy listening to. We all like different noise vibrations and some voices, accents, vibrations will gel better than others.
Long Hot Relaxing Bath
This can really help you to unwind, relax, slow down and prepare your body physically and mentally for a deep sleep. put some candles, on, dim the lights, put some chilled music on and just enjoy being enveloped in warm water lapping on your skin, warming you through and slowing you down.
I always think it is like being back in the womb, which is a lovely sleep state to be in. Just don’t fall asleep in the bath please!
I like to use lavender oil in the bath to provide a deeply relaxing experience. Lavender is an incredible herb which helps to promote sleep as it slows down the nervous system.
You can use a lavender oil diffuser int eh bedroom to provide a lavender atmosphere, you can spray lavender oil on your pillow to breath in whilst you lay down and get comfortable. There are lavender sachets you can put under your pillow. you can use lavender body oil, there are tonnes of lavender products on the market and it is a lovely relaxing smell that will help you sleep.
Warm Relaxing Herbal Drink
Chamomile is the number one relaxing tea to drink in the evening and this is because it decreases anxiety and has a mild tranquillising effect, inducing a good nights sleep.
Other night time herbal drinks that can help you feel sleepy and relaxed are:
- Valerian tea
- Lemon Balm
Off you are searching for a night time herbal drink that can help, try and ensure they include one of the above herbs.
I always read before bed. It is a habit I started as soon as I could read at an early age. I remember being told off as a child for reading through the night, I used to read under the duvet with a torch as I couldn’t put my books down. They were too good.
As an adult I like to read even if it is just a page or two, sometimes I will need to read several chapters before my brain is fully switched off for the day before and the day ahead. But once this magic occurs I can fall asleep pretty much straight away.
Last but by no means least sex can really help you get off to a good nights sleep. This is because when we orgasm our bodies naturally produce a hormone called prolactin, which helps you feel relaxed and sleepy.
So whether you have a partner or not, an orgasm can certainly help you drift off to a good quality sleep!
Sleep is absolutely essential in healing your gut, enabling you to feel good and reducing your IBS symptoms. So find something that works for you and after a week or so getting to sleep will become natural and you will only have to delve into this magic list once in a while.
***If IBS pain is preventing you from sleeping help is at hand. Becoming IBS free is possible for all of us. Having IBS is not a permanent state for you to remain in as you may have been led to believe up until this point. Being without IBS is entirely possible. For more information on how you can become IBS free please click here.
I hope you have found this article useful. Please feel free to share this with your sleep deprived loved ones!