Improving Sleep

Osteopath, Dr Natasha Paunovic presents some simple and helpful tips for improving the quality of your sleep.

1. Exercise

Exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality. Exercise improves the body’s circadian rhythms, which results in greater daytime alertness and increased sleepiness at night. This response is not instantaneous, with improved sleep linked to regular routine exercise over several weeks or even months. On the contrary, a poor night’s sleep can change a person’s perception of their exertion, leaving them feeling more exhausted.

2. Diet

Ensure your diet contains the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is found in turkey, steak, chicken and pumpkin seeds, and to a lesser extent in peanuts, sunflower seeds, beans and milk. In the brain, tryptophan is converted in to serotonin. At night, serotonin undergoes two metabolic changes to become melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that helps to regulate the body’s circadian rhythms and promotes restful sleep.

It is important to also ensure that your sleeping environment is as dark as possible as even a small amount of light is enough to suppress melatonin production. Avoid taking melatonin supplements as they have the ability to interfere and even suppress natural melatonin production, further contributing to sleep issues.

Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and cigarettes before bed.

3. Stress and Worry

If you often go to bed worrying about the next day’s events or find it hard to let go of unsolved problems, then it can be a good idea to put pen to paper. Keep a notepad and pen next to your bed so you can write down your worrisome thoughts or a task list that can easily be attended to in the morning.

Practice relaxation exercises, which can be done in bed. A useful technique is to relax separate muscle groups and visualize the muscle relaxation at the same time.


1. Tense a muscle for 7-10 seconds
2. Visualize the muscle being tensed and feel the build up of tension
3. Release each muscle quickly and relax, allowing the body to go limp before moving on to the next muscle

4. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy has shown to be an effective long term therapy for insomniacs. It involves identifying and eliminating negative thoughts or beliefs that prevent sleep.

5. Stimulus Rule

If you have not fallen asleep within twenty minutes of going to bed, get up and listen to some relaxing music or practice relaxation exercises. Once you feel sleepy again, return to bed. This technique promotes a strong association between bed and sleep and will improve your ability to fall asleep once in bed.

Dr Natasha Paunovic is an Osteopath at Melbourne Osteopathy Sports Injury Centre. Her interests in Osteopathy are wide and varied and she can assist with positive long term outcomes by providing patients with education, lifestyle advice and rehabilitation exercises.

If you want to discuss any aspect of sleep or health with Natasha or one of our other practitioners, please feel free to ask a questioncontact us or email us at