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Dr. Karen Sun: Sleep Support

Updated: Jan 23, 2022

Sleep support

A good night sleep is very important for our health, as this is the time our body needs to regenerate itself. Here are a few easy steps to help you make sleep a top priority:

1. Exercise: Aerobic workouts in the morning, and relaxation exercises at night, such as yoga, help you sleep better at night.

2. Healthy diet and eating habits: Avoid eating too much at night, and avoid drinking too much alcohol or water after dinner. Avoid stimulants such as coffee, tea (except calming herbal teas), or chocolate after noon time.

3. Make your bedroom a into an enjoyable oasis, by having a comfortable mattress and cozy linens. Reduce unnecessary light or noise stimulation. Ensure your bedroom is well ventilated, and not too hot or cold. Wear ear plugs if your spouse, or significant other, snores.

4. Avoid night time tension such as fighting with your spouse or children, watching violent movies or the evening news (mostly bad news nowadays), surfing the internet, or working in front of computer.

5. Have a sleep routine such as one hour before you sleep, taking a soothing bath, listening to tranquil music, or doing aromatherapy with essential oils. Meditation helps too by slowing down your brain waves.

6. When we get older, the sleep quality decline usually is due to lack of hormones. In my clinical experience, Estradiol and Progesterone, really help women who have reached menopause sleep better. Melatonin, a.k.a. the sleep hormone, which declines with age, also helps.

But in most cases, when people don’t sleep well, it’s usually due to emotional stress. Cortisol, the stress hormone, needs to be higher in the morning to give us energy, then lowers gradually throughout the day, especially at night for good sleep. If the Cortisol level is high at night, it will make it hard to fall into sleep and even if we fall into sleep due to fatigue, it will wake us up in the middle of night and make it hard to fall back to sleep.

To reduce cortisol at night we have to process our emotions to reduce the stress of our body. We are human, so we have emotions. A few basic emotions are:

1. Fear

2. Anger

3. Sadness

4. Guilt or shame

5. Joy

We have a few basic needs :

1. Safety: either physical safety or emotional safety

2. Love and connection: such as affection, appreciation, intimacy, companionship, compassion, empathy and communication

3. Autonomy: such as freedom to choose, space, independence

4. Meaning: such as purpose of life, creativity, learning and growth

5. Peace: such as equanimity, acceptance, hope and balance

6. Physical: such as food and water, shelter, sleep, comfort and sex

7. Play: such as having fun, adventure, relaxation and humor

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