10 tips for the Busy Person’s best night’s sleep....
Ahh, the allusive deep sleep! For some reason, some of us are good sleepers, others of us are less than amazing in our ability to nod off. I may be completely exhausted all day like a zombie, but then be so wired at night and find it difficult to sleep, only to wake up exhausted the next day. Over the last few years I have really tried to work on my sleep habits, and although they are a work in progress, falling pregnant recently has re-affirmed my passion for a good night’s sleep and how much importance we should place on it for so many reasons:
Sleep is so important for many bodily functions, such chronic disease prevention, hormone regulation, as well as mood and weight regulation. Researchers have found connections between sleep and heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, poor memory, weight gain - and even shortened lifespan. According to a study published earlier this year by the American Psychological Association, sleep has been proven to be the single most important factor in predicting longevity. So why are we in a competition for who sleeps the least, wearing it like a badge? This, as well as having fallen into exhaustion beyond an easy return, has totally changed my attitude to sleep.
We all need different amounts of sleep, so its worth working on what your optimal “sleep number” – start from 7 hours and add an extra half an our each night, to see when you feel the freshest. No 2 people are exactly the same, so saying we all need a magic number of sleep hours is perhaps not the closest to the truth. Some of us function well on 7 or less, whereas others need 8-9. Find where you wake up (and continue throughout the day) feeling the freshest, and try to stick to this. If you cant get your “optimum number” overnight, look for a pocket in the day where you can take a 20-60min power nap.
2. KICK YOUR CAFFIENE HABIT!
There is no harm in having a morning coffee or two, but when we start to creep into multiple coffees and stimulants throughout the day, this can send our cortisol levels up and down and really confuse our bodies natural rhythms. Try to limit caffeine after 12pm, and work towards not NEEDING to have one to wake up in the morning, rather using it as a mid morning treat. Extreme exhaustion first thing in the morning that isn’t altered by the amount of sleep you have is definitely worth checking in with your doctor or naturopath over, this isn’t “normal,” even if society tells us it is!
3. EAT EARLIER, TRY FOODS HIGH IN TRYPTOPHAN (SLEEP INDUCING HORMONE)
Eating a high fat meal or high fat/ high carb combination at dinner can slow down digestion and make it less easy or comfortable to get to sleep. Some carb rich foods such as sweet potato contain more sleep inducing/ mood balancing hormones and minerals such as tryptophan and potassium, which have been linked to an easier journey to falling asleep. Try opting for lean proteins with veggies and a side of sweet potato rather than creamy pastas or oily dishes. You may find eating more in the early part of the day, and eating a lighter meal such as a salad and protein or as above helps aid easier digestion and a more comfortable and easy road to falling asleep!
4. LIMIT ALCOHOL INTAKE AT NIGHT
While alcohol may make us sleepy, it can really interrupt our natural sleep patterns, causing a less deep / replenishing sleep, as well as causing us to be more dehydrated overnight/ the next morning.
"Deep sleep is when the body restores itself, and alcohol can interfere with this," explains Dr John Shneerson, head of the sleep centre at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge. "As the alcohol starts to wear off, your body can come out of deep sleep and back into REM sleep, which is much easier to wake from. That's why you often wake up after just a few hours sleep when you've been drinking."
He explains that in the course of a night you usually have six to seven cycles of REM sleep, which leaves you feeling refreshed. However, if you've been drinking you'll typically have only one to two, meaning you can wake feeling exhausted.
A glass here and there for balance is perfectly fine, but consider cutting right back or completely to see if you wake up feeling fresher!!
5. LIMIT SCREEN TIME AFTER 7PM
Blue light emitted from our devices can also meddle with our circadian rhythm (sleep/ wake cycle), confusing our brain as to whether it is night or day.
Many studies have demonstrated links between working the night shift and exposure to light at night to several types of cancer (breast, prostate), diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It’s not exactly clear why nighttime light exposure seems to be so bad for us. But we do know that exposure to light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms. We can all vouch for this- I know the nights I stay up late working on my computer, I can exhausted but wired at the same time, making it difficult to fall asleep. Try setting a cut off time for work/ TV/ screen time (this includes checking social media!) and reap the benefits of an easier nod-off.
6. AVOID STRESS-INDUCING WORK OR TASKS IN THE EVENING.
For example, looking at financials or anything else that makes you feel uneasy and gets your brain whirring/ increases your anxiety levels. I have learnt this one the hard way- this kind of work is best tackled early in the day when you are fresher and more primed to work at your optimum (less fatigued) as well as problem solve any issue. We tend to be more affected by stress when we are already tired, so try moving this kind of work (including discussions around these issues) to earlier in the day.
7. MAKE YOUR ROOM DARK
This signals to your body and its hormonal rythyms that the time is night for sleep. If you haven’t got blackout blinds, consider getting them installed, or find a really good sleep mask that cuts out extra light.
8.CREATE A GOOD "SLEEP HYGIENE" ROUTINE
Start with lighter meals before bed, turning off devices earlier, and then look to start a “wind down” routine – a cup of chamomile tea, a warm bath or shower, or relaxing reading a book. Remember to leave bed for sleep only (well, plus one other!), absolutely avoiding TV, eating and perusing social media in the bedroom!
9. LEAVE YOUR MOBILE IN THE KITCHEN - INSTALL AN ALARM CLOCK!
This can be a hard one, but absolutely worth it! Not only will you not be tempted to check it, be potentially be disturbed by messages/ emails/ calls, but you will also not be tempted to look at your phone as the first thing in the morning or during the night if you wake up- again avoiding the blue light emission which disrupts your circadian rhythm, as mentioned above!
10. TRY SOME EVENING YIN YOGA
YIN yoga is fantastic for those of us who live energy charged lives, and find it hard to take the time to sit still and refuel our bodies energy stores.
In Chinese medicine, the body is looked at from a balance of Yin (cool) and Yang (heating) energy, and a deficiency of cool can also leave us exhausted and over run.
Try getting to 1-2 yin classes a week to start to restore the balance, or try this simple pose for 5-10mins before bed – Legs up the wall – Viparitta kirani (see above image).
Happy ZZZZing people!
Let us know how you go –
Yoga is a practice to realise we are already whole, perfect, and have everything that we need within us. Yoga is possibility.