How to improve your sleep
By Juliana Kassianos, Transformational Fertility Coach, Yoga Teacher and Founder of The School of Fertility
WHY DO YOU NEED SLEEP WHEN TRYING TO CONCEIVE?
Restore your energy reserves
Regulate your hormones
Allow your whole body to repair and rejuvenate
Enhance your quality of life
Enhance your reproductive capabilities
HOW MUCH SLEEP DO YOU NEED?
Research indicates you’re more likely to conceive if you have seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Try to practice regular rhythms of sleep; go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
WHAT’S YOUR BEDTIME RITUAL?
Power down your batteries ideally an hour before you sleep, to give your body and mind a chance to relax. Here are a few suggestions of what you could do in this hour. Explore different options and find what works for you.
Read a book or magazine (not on a digital device though)
Receive a massage from your partner
Give yourself a facial
Write down your thoughts in a journal
Think about three things your grateful for in life
Meditate in a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed
Have sex with your partner
HOW TO GEAR UP FOR SLEEP
Soak in a warm bath
Take a warm (not hot) bath filled with Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate), which when absorbed through your skin can help you sleep. Raising your temperature will help to relax your muscles and reduce tension in your body and mind. This is only advised for women. Men should avoid taking baths as high temperatures can affect sperm production.
Sanctuary sleep zone
Create an aesthetic environment in your bedroom that encourages sleep by using serene and restful colours, and eliminating clutter and distraction. Keep your bedroom for sleep, rest and sex.
Your bed itself
We spend almost a third of our lives asleep. Invest in a good mattress, some comfortable pillows and snuggly sheets.
Aim for darkness
Eliminate light by investing in some black-out blinds, curtains or shutters. If light still seeps through, try wearing an eye mask.
Keep it quiet
If your partner snores or you can hear noise outside, try wearing ear plugs. Also, a natural sound device may help you drift off.
Glass of water
Keep a glass of water by your bed encase you get thirsty in the night. If you use a plastic bottle, make sure it’s Bisphenol A (BPA) free. Keep water glasses covered if you have pets.
Sleep naked or wear light clothing to help lower your body temperature and stop you waking up in the middle of the night. For women it can help prevent yeast infections and for men, it keeps the scrotum at an ideal temperature for sperm production. Skin-to-skin contact with your partner boosts the release of the ‘love’ hormone oxytocin.
Avoid taking medications
Medications can interfere with your sleep. These include sedatives, antihistamines, stimulants, cold medication, and headache medication that contain caffeine.
20 minutes of daylight & exercise
Get exposure to daylight for at least 20 minutes every day. The light from the sun enters your eyes and triggers your brain to release sleep-inducing hormones like melatonin. Walking outside is ideal, this is because exercise, especially in the morning, can help improve sleep quality.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU CAN’T SLEEP?
Breathe in through your nose for a count of four, hold for a count of seven and breathe out of your mouth for a count of eight. Make sure your focus is on your breathing. Should thoughts drift into your head, don’t get caught up in them, just let them be and they’ll soon pass. Repeat this breathing technique until you drift off to sleep.
Spend 10 minutes meditating before you go to bed to help calm your mind. If you can’t get to sleep or keep on waking up in the night, try Headspace App’s guided sleep meditation.
Write down in a journal, anything that is causing you anxiety before you go to bed and make plans for what you can do the following day to reduce your worries. Getting your thoughts out of your head and on to paper will help to free your mind and move you into a deep and restful sleep.
WHAT’S YOUR SLEEP KRYPTONITE?
Stimulant in tea, coffee and energy drinks that keep you awake. If you do choose to drink caffeine (not advised whilst trying to conceive), try to avoid it in the afternoon.
Can interrupt your sleep due to dehydration. You may find yourself getting up throughout the night for water. If you do choose to drink alcohol (not advised whilst trying to conceive), have one glass of alcohol to one glass of water and try not to drink too close to when you go to bed.
Emitted from digital devices such as your phone, Mac, PC or TV. It can affect the level of sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Stop using digital devices at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep, unless you’re using them for the purpose of guided meditation in which case dim the screen light.
Put your phone on airplane mode so you’re not alerted by any messages that may come through whilst you’re powering down and sleeping. This will also limit the amount of electromagnetic emissions you’re exposed to.
Avoid going to bed on a full stomach. Try to eat no later than two hours before you sleep. High blood sugar levels can make it harder for you to get to sleep and you want to make sure you’ve allowed time for your body to digest your meal. If you’re feeling peckish, have a banana as it’s rich in magnesium, which helps to promote sleep, by working as a muscle relaxant.
Ask yourself the following:
What do I need to do to make sure I get seven to eight hours of sleep a night?
What is my bedtime routine? How can I improve this?
How do I gear up for a good night’s sleep?
Which tools am I going to try if I can’t sleep?
Which sleep kryptonite zaps me of my zzz?
NB. If you experience excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, snoring, and have been seen to have pauses in your breathing by your partner, then consider getting tested for a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea.