When you think about the basics of wellness, sleep is always one of the top on the list. Getting enough sleep can stop you from making poor choices, keep your energy levels up and your general happiness levels where they should be. Seems simple right? Not at all. Sleep is absolutely essential but also one of the most easily disrupted.
I used to be one of those that was absolutely convinced that I needed very little sleep. Ah, one of the lucky few that could operate on a few hours, function and function pretty well! Just as well really. I was also one of the many that had mild insomnia!
How. Wrong. I. Was. The problem that I had was I couldn’t remember how I felt on a full tank of sleep. How much easier I coped with general every day problems and how much quicker my problem solving skills were. I hadn’t realised that my moods fluctuated and my levels of optimism had dramatically dropped. Oh, then there was that energy thing! It really wasn’t there.
It may seem a little high maintenance and rather indulgent to focus purely on your own sleep but I promise you. It will change your life. Seriously.
Have you ever noticed how children have the innate ability to fall asleep anywhere? Think back to when you were little. There was very rarely a place that could stop you from getting to the land of Z. Add to that a child’s carefree abandon and the ability to let go and not sweat the small stuff – ahhhhh sleep nirvana!
Well, life may have changed that a little now and those days may seem very far away. If life keeps you distracted from precious sleep and watching the hours tick away as you stare wildly at the ceiling, waiting for it to find you – then this may just help you to get your sleep quota back into a healthy zone! Start by creating a regular ritual to get you into the right head space and see what restorative night’s sleep can do for you. You can even keep a journal to track your results.
10 WAYS TO ENHANCE AND DEEPEN SLEEP
1. BAN CAFFEINE AFTER 10AM
Ok, this may sound so much easier said than done. However, if you are having any problems in the sleep department, then sorry friend, caffeine must be the first to go. If you are not quite ready to give it up completely, try limiting your consumption to before 10 a.m. Therefore, your body has time to fully process its wakeful effects. Ready to transition from coffee? Try non-caffeine substitutes. Give Kombucha Tea or yerba mate a go!
2. MOVE IT
Studies show that exercise of moderate intensity can help people fall asleep faster and remain asleep longer. This doesn’t necessarily need to look like boot camp + spinning classes, but an invigorating power walk or yoga is perfect. If you manage to make this consistent then you will get even better results.
3. START A RITUAL
Try getting your mind around the fact that sleep is one of the most important aspects of your daily activities. It is just as important, if not more so, as nutrition and exercise if you are trying to slim down. Sleep is your time for healing, regeneration, rest and recovery. So setting up your bedroom for your best sleep yet is incredibly important. Listen to what you respond to. How many hours sleep do you need? Does candle light vs electric work better for you? Do you prefer a warm shower before hitting the hay? Try different things before you settle on what your perfect night time ritual is for you. I know that candles are incredibly important for me as well as organising everything I need for the morning – this clears my mind, ready for sleep.
4. BREATHE DEEP
There are quite a few really effective routines that can calm the mind/body into a deep sleep. Breathing has been known for centuries to help calm the mind and therefore – reset the body. Try this before bed:
1) Breathe in deeply through your nose for 4 seconds.
2) Hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds.
3) Exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds.
4) Repeat as needed.
I gave magnesium a try after a friend of mine swore that it was her sleep miracle and something that she would never be without. There are quite a few things that can deplete our magnesium levels from too much coffee to excess alcohol and stress. This is way you often see magnesium as an “executives supplements”. Symptoms of low magnesium levels can be wide, from muscle cramps, insomnia, anxiety, chronic fatigue and so much more. You can find many magnesium rich foods so that you can up your intake with:
* Almonds, cashews, peanuts, Brazil nuts
* Black beans
* Brown Rice
*Garlic, dandelion greens, parsley
* Kidney beans
Or by using essential daily magnesium supplements. Just remember, it is always worth seeking your doctors opinion with any supplements that you may want to use.
GABA, or gamma-amino butyric acid, is an amino acid which acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, inhibiting nerve transmission in the brain and calming anxious activity. This is another sought after sleep supplement.
7. ESSENTIAL OILS, ESSENCES & RESCUE REMEDY SLEEP FORMULA
I am a huge fan of oils and natural essences and find that there are many that you can make at home yourself (if you are feeling creative!) or you can also find some really good ones out there that are ready to go. I have used Bach’s for a while, for everything from flying to stressful situations.
8. GET OFF THE GRID
This one is HUGE. There are so many studies that have been done that highlight how the use of technology can mess with our nightly patterns. In a perfect world, we would all be completely powered off at least two hours prior to sleep, but that simply is not always possible or realistic. It is very important, however, to limit your EMF (Electromagnetic Fields) exposure to ensure a peaceful night and allow your body to heal properly. If you use TV to wind down in the evening, the try to finish your viewing at least one hour prior to going to bed. Make sure that you power down your laptop, tablet and mobile (exceptions for alarms of course).
Having these waves circling around you whilst you are sleeping is really not great. There is plenty of exposure during the day! Night is your time to soothe and rebuild. Use that final hour to read something inspiring, do your breath work routine, sip your tea and magnesium, and journal.
9. CREATE ATMOSPHERE
Studies also show that cooler room temperatures can trigger the body’s sleep system. Keeping your head cool is ideal and helpful as well. Although everyone is individual, 65 degrees is a great place to start. Also, as light inhibits the secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone, it is so important to keep your bedroom dark and perhaps wear an eye mask, if needed. Does clutter bother you? Get rid of anything unnecessary and make sure you have bedding that you love and makes you want to curl in deep!
10. NOISE MACHINE
As a light/anxious sleeper, I actually love my sleep sound apps. They are perfect for masking any sounds that may wake me and to help me get to sleep faster. My favourite is rain!
Reset Your Inner Clock: The Drug-Free Way to Your Best-Ever Sleep, Mood, and Energy, by Michael Terman Ph.D
Rhythms of Life: The Biological Clocks that Control the Daily Lives of Every Living Thing, by Russell G. Foster and Leon Kreitzman
Exhausted to Energised by Dr Libby