I am the first to put my hand up to say that I have suffered from many restless nights. I am sure all of you are familiar with that dreadful feeling when you wake up bolt upright in the middle of the night, mind whirring, making lists (some important, some not), unable to switch off the past, present or future then panicking if you don’t get back to sleep, knowing how exhausted you will be when that morning alarm buzzes. I am sure we have all been there. If you haven’t, I need to know your secret.
I also know how amazing I feel after I have got nights rest. I feel refreshed, good energy levels, no snooze on my alarm. My head is clear, my work is more productive and life is just generally better and more positive.
Just to make it more personal. This time last year, I was overworked, incredibly stressed from my first year of nutrition study and trying to earn my keep in between study, not sleeping well or going to bed early enough, lost weight, thinning hair, bad spotty skin, constantly contracting colds from one sneeze, lots of hay fever and allergy type symptoms and I felt a constant tightness across my shoulders. I have to say that it was not a good look.
Sometimes it is so easy to look at someone with these symptoms and say ‘relax’ and ‘get an early night’, but when it’s yourself, it is incredibly hard to realise that you might need to alter a few things in your life. This last year I have really worked at trying to improve my sleep, lower my stress levels and I have to say I feel like a completely different person. A majority of it was down to implementing a few simple steps. I started to monitor what I have done when my sleep patterns are great and I wanted to share with you some little tips and pointers that have been great to get myself a much needed good night sleep.
Out of interest and having briefly touched on the sleep pattern in my first year of anatomy and physiology whilst studying nutritional medicine, as well as pointers from my nutritionist/naturopath. I feel that I am certainly grasping my rest patterns and each time I practise it is improving.
Did you know that the facts of a good night sleep is actually needed for our bodies to repair, if we don’t get it we will not be able to recover from what we did on the previous day or week. Sleep is needed to help improve our immune system. Lack of sleep you are more likely to be run down; catch that and flu, increase your risk of heart disease and strokes. Symptoms such as depression and anxiety run rife with the lack of sleep too.
If you are super tired, your body is very likely to be running on “flight or fight” mode, trying to conjure together energy to get through each day. In this state the body releases cortisol which is known as the “stress hormone” to deal with this preparation for fight or flight mode. If you are constantly releasing this hormone it actually suppresses your immune system (hence you get sick). It also can lead to adrenal fatigue, osteoporosis (as it inhibits bone formation), hyper-glycemia (restricts the functions of insulin), digestion and reabsorption is less likely to occur so you are not receiving the nutrients from the food you eat. To be constantly in this state can lead to utter exhaustion and sometimes collapse.
I wanted to share with you some hopefully encouraging tips that I have used to help improve my regular restful nights. I want to relate these tips that I constantly practise, similar to if you go to the gym. One gym session is not going to get you your perfect body but lots of regular exercise will help you get there.
We have to practise, learn and re-learn, we need to get know what works best for our bodies.
- Drink herbal tea during the day. My main preferences go as follows; ginger (I love this brands ginger and chilli one), mint tea (this spearmint and peppermint one are the bombdizzle), rooibos tea (I love these ones) or some green tea (gorgeous geisha is my fave). If you need a sweet afternoon pick-me-up definitely go for a liquorice tea. Also another caffeine style pick-me-up get a dandelion tea (I like the organic stuff from these guys). No coffee or black tea after 12noon everyday. In the evening I always have a mug of chamomile tea around an hour before I head to bed. Throughout the day always maintain your fluid levels. Did you know that as regular human beings with no exercise during the day, we need (must) consume 2.2Litres of water on a daily basis, with exercise this goes up to 3 or so litres a day. If you are not a herbal tea fan which I know some can be, try putting fruit, lemon, mint into your water.
- Get good quality protein into your diet during the day. Did you know that good quality protein can help alleviate high stress levels, it can help stabilise your blood sugar spikes. Protein is essential for to help support your hormones in your body, by having these in good stead will allow your body to function optimally. Protein packed recipe ideas: One of my fave breakkies is my buddha bowl (you can find the recipe here) another nourishing breakkie is my turmeric scrammy eggs, lunch I love nordic nicoise or my turmeric poached chicken noodle salad, dinner I love my one-pot coconut chicken.
- Turn off at night. I don’t just mean just turn off your computer. You need to turn off all electronic equipment (including your TV, iPad, iFad!), set your phone to flight mode or do not disturb past 9 0’clock is my rule. Get into a good book (my amazing read at the moment is I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, you literally cannot put it down) read 10 pages or more at night before sleep. I also find that a 5 minute meditation practise for me works a treat, I downloaded my free smiling mind app (find it here). I try to meditate 3 times a week (15 minutes in total of my week and I have noticed a vast difference in my calmness). I love bedtime yoga (try the free video here) too about an hour before I sleep, I do all of my yoga online with this wonderful American called Adrienne, who has a free youtube channel.
- Eat whole foods: it is so important to eat whole foods in their most natural state. When I mean whole foods I mean real food and not processed. Try to alleviate packeted foods (like pastas, ready-made-lasagnes, tins of beans, breads, takeaways, chocolate). Sometimes sleeplessness can be due to eating a large amount of processed foods which can create inflammation on our body. Eat proper vegetables (lots of greens), fruits, good quality free range or organic protein, limit your dairy. The more unprocessed the food the better it will be for you. I have lots of great recipes full of whole foods that you can entice yourselves with, check out the recipe page here. Also if you want a good night sleep don’t drink alcohol, your liver processes alcohol at 3am so when you get that bolt upright wakefulness after a night on a few wines, it is your liver turning on trying to process the toxin that is alcohol.
- Eat 2-3 hours before you go to bed. When I am wanting to have a good rest I will eat at 6.30pm, it is usually my smallest meal of the day, unless I am out for dinner with friends. I love to have my soulful chicken soup for dinner, full of good quality protein and healing benefits of the broth. I also if I would like something cool, I opt for a banana, spinach, almond milk, avocado and protein powder smoothie (here is a great recipe here or here, just add 1 tsp of good quality protein powder to it). Your body needs time to digest its food, going to bed on a full stomach will not help your restful night.
Hope you enjoyed this, I also love to hear your feed back. So get in touch.