I have struggled to fall asleep for most of my life and it only became worse after I had children. I would lie in bed for hours trying to fall asleep. If my children woke in the night it would take me ages to get back to sleep. I also used to grind my teeth so badly that I often woke with a headache and sore jaw. My husband used to say that it looked like I was concentrating so hard to stay asleep! My son was a nightmare to get to bed too, often screaming for ages or coming up with a zillion excuses why he couldn’t go to sleep resulting in very unpleasant bedtimes. He also used to have frequent night-terrors which are so awful to see happening to your child.
Now I treat clients with sleep problems all the time and this is what I have always told them because this is what I was taught at uni… it is called Sleep Hygiene.
1. Only go to bed when you are sleepy
2. Bed is for sleep and sex only – never read, eat, watch tv etc. in your bed
3. Avoid caffeine, particularly in the afternoon
4. If you are not asleep after 30 minutes, get up, go to another room, do something boring until you feel tired then go back to bed – repeat until you fall asleep. Do this again if you wake in the night
5. No napping in the day
6. Keep the bedroom dark and quiet
7. Develop a bedtime routine
8. Get up at the same time each day
9. Exercise improves sleep but don’t do it too close to bedtime
Many people are helped by these tips but I really struggled with the concept of getting out of bed if I was not asleep and could not give up my bedtime reading (with 3 kids there is not much other time for it). I also saw many clients who just did not seem to be able to improve their sleep this way so I kept investigating other options.
One day I came across bedtime yoga which I began to practice nightly for a few minutes before bed. You can find plenty of information about this on the internet. I particularly like this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lNiQIEfOAU. It worked really well and I highly recommend giving it a try.
However, early in 2013 my husband and I agreed to cut out all harmful additives from our family’s diet and low and behold sleep in our house has improved out of sight! I now fall asleep quickly and easily most nights unless I have indulged in food that I shouldn’t have or have worked on the computer until late (or eaten chocolate with espresso in it before bed!). I now take ages to read a book because I can’t stay awake reading for hours like I used to and I don’t grind my teeth.
My son also falls asleep quickly and easily, he is a pleasure to put to bed and the night terrors have disappeared! He has had one night terror since we went additive free and that was after attending a birthday party.
As we chose to cut out all additives I cannot tell you what particular ones were causing us trouble but here is a list of additives to avoid. I think it is better to cut them all out.
102 tartrazine, 104 quinoline yellow, 110 sunset yellow, 122 azorubine, 123 amaranth, 124 ponceau red, 127 erythrosine, 129 allura red, 132 indigotine, 133 brilliant blue, 142 green S, 143 Fast Green FCF, 151 brilliant black, 155 chocolate brown
200-203 sorbates (in margarine, dips, cakes, fruit products)
210-213 benzoates (in juices, soft drinks, cordials, syrups)
220-228 sulphites (in dried fruit, fruit drinks, sausages, and others)
280-283 propionates (in bread, crumpets, bakery products)
249-252 nitrates, nitrites (in processed meats like ham)
ANTIOXIDANTS – synthetic antioxidants in vegetable oils and margarines
319-320 TBHQ, BHA, BHT
621 MSG (in tasty foods, fast foods, snack foods)
627, 631, 635 disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, ribonucleotides (can be associated with itchy skin rashes)
HVP HPP hydrolysed/formulated vegetable/soy/wheat/plant protein, yeast, yeast extract, broth
ADDED FLAVOURS – there are thousands of artificial flavours which don’t have to be identified by number because they are considered to be trade secrets. Flavours may contain unlisted artificial colours and preservatives.
Compiled by Sue Dengate, author of the bestselling book and film ‘Fed Up: Understanding how food affects your child and what you can do about it.’
What tips do you have for better sleep?