Sleep part 2: Top 5 tips for a deeper, more restful night's sleep.
In my last blog we discussed the biology of sleep - hopefully now you understand a little more about why sleep is so vital and necessary and are eager to work on the necessary steps to get a deeper, more restful sleep.
Today let's discuss my top 5 tips for getting the kind of sleep that you wake up from feeling energised and ready to face the day head on with a smile on your face.
Tip 1: Reduce your stimulants and support your sleep and energy naturally
This is an important and necessary first step. Start by limiting yourself to no sugar, caffeine or chocolate after 2pm - yes this includes dark chocolate (the most stimulating). To support your energy throughout the day, B Vitamins work best. They assist your body to produce more energy while also regulating sleep cycles.
I also recommend taking a natural medicine for sleep support. My preference for my patients is Metagenics Neurocalm Sleep. However the Ethical Nutrients Triple Action Sleep Support is the next best thing. These formulas contain calming natural herbs such as Zyziphus and Lavender extract that help you to wind down from the stress of the day with the added benefit of boosting your production of Melatonin. These offer improved sleep with no drowsiness the next day, in fact I often find myself more alert and motivated the next morning which reduces the need for the coffee which leads to better sleep.. and so the cycle continues.
Tip 2: Do the right type of exercise (at the right time)
Exercise is a great way to improve your sleep but it must be the right type of exercise at the right time of day. Yoga, Pilates and Swimming are the best forms of exercise for the evening as they are calming and initiate the parasympathetic nervous system or the "rest and digest" response. Aerobic exercise, HIIT, heavy weight training, cross fit and dance classes are best served earlier in the day. These types of exercise help to initiate an energising release of "happy chemicals" which make you feel inspired, excited and generally happy to be alive. This works great before work or at lunch time but when taken in the evening may result in you being overstimulated and lying awake buzzing with ideas - we've all been there.
Tip 3: Reduce stress inducing activities at night
This means not checking your finances/writing your to do list/watching the news/checking up on your ex's social media feed/watching a scary movie/discussing things which may cause arguments with your partner or housemate/paying bills in the evening before bed. If any of the above must be done, do them well before bed time and then move on to Tip 4.
Tip 4: Introduce a calming, stress busting, soothing routine that punctuates your day and prepares you for sleep
This could be a hot shower with lavender oil, a meditation session or a light yin yoga session. I often get my patients to use a meditation app such as Calm, Yoga Studio or HeadSpace prior to bed to completely relax before bed. It's highly effective - even for the most tightly wound.
Tip 5: Plan for sleep
It might sound funny but an important factor to consider when you are trying to improve sleep is to actually make sleep a high priority. Let sleep become what your evening is all about! Sleep is hardly ever going to improve when it is seen as an inconvenience that must be put off until the last moment as you're suffering from weeknight evening FOMO. Let your evening be a gradual warm up towards a deep and relaxing sleep. Sleep is really wonderful, something to be celebrated, nurtured and prioritised. Let your sleep be the reward for a busy day, not the payment.
In order to achieve this last point, I'm going to now walk you through the perfect evening routine from start to finish...
Arrive home: Allow yourself 30-60 minutes to tie up your day, this includes adding items to your to do list, sharing your day with your partner/friend/journal and taking off your work clothes.
Dinner: Eat without watching TV, eat a nourishing well-balanced meal that contains a palm sized serve of protein, 3 handfuls of veggies and a nourishing low sugar carb such as brown rice, quinoa, potato or legumes. Dinner ideally should be 3 hours or more prior to bed time. You should take your sleep support here also.
Brush your teeth now - brush your teeth right after dinner. The minty flavour of toothpaste is too energising to be used right before sleep time. This also helps to prevent post-dinner snack searching.
After dinner: depending on what time you arrived home, you may have time to allow yourself to watch TV here. Be sure to allow 2hours for the night time wind down however. You may enjoy a cup of lavender, sleepytime or camomile tea here.
Exercise/Meditation/Stretch for 30 minutes: 2 hours before bed it's time to exercise, this can be some light yoga, stretching or a meditation exercise. Whatever suits you.
1 hour and 30 minutes before bed: Time for a hot and steamy shower, add some lavender oil drops to your chest before hopping in. This will steam up as the water hits and you'll feel calm and beautifully relaxed as a result. Add a few drops to your pillow when you get out too.
1 hour before sleep time: Dim the lights and read a good book. Nothing too stimulating, something that is calming and peaceful works best here. Real books always win over e-books (sorry kindle), it's the earthy feel and smell of the paper that grounds us and helps us to feel calm and rested.
So there you have it, my top 5 tips for better sleep. Start planning your required changes today. This routine may look foreign and impossible to you right now but just take it one step at a time (beginning with step 1) and you'll find you're drifting off more easily in no time. If you still struggle despite this advice, book an appointment. Hormonal imbalances, Food Intolerances, Toxicity and Nutritional Deficiencies can cause chronic sleep disturbances and insomnia and there are many safe and natural remedies and eating plans which can help to provide quick and long lasting relief.
Until next time stay deliciously healthy.
Jennifer May Adv.Dip.Nut.Med.ATMS.MINDD
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