After over two months of solid Iso, one of the big things I hear from clients is how things are affecting their sleep is going. Things just arent right, they’re feeling tired more often.
How is your sleep?
Are you finding you are:– waking feeling unrested and wanting to curl back up in bed or hitting snooze X amount of times?- sleeping more or less overall?- waking up more, or cant get back to sleep if you do stir?- are you having weird dreams?
It all make sense in the larger scheme of things.We’re all under a certain degree of low grade stress from the circumstances of daily life at the moment. So many fluctuations. If you add that to existing stressors, lower levels of activity, comfort eating and drinking, fears for the future or finances, then its no wonder things are NQR.
Poor sleep = torture!
There’s a reason sleep deprivation is considered a form of torture and a breach of human rights. A chronic lack of sleep (or poor quality sleep) is closely associated with various heart conditions, strokes, obesity, diabetes, mental health issues including depression and anxiety, poor cognitive function, memory loss, poor immunity, hormonal imbalances, and lower fertility rates.
Why do we sleep?Quality sleep is critical for our body to rejuvenate our body and brain, to remove dead cells and create new ones, repair tissue, to grow muscle and synthesize hormones. We require it in order to retain new information and new learn skills. No animal can survive without sleep.
Are you performing at your best?
To put it bluntly if you are not sleeping well you are not functioning well. Your systems are being taxed. It puts our brain and body under increased pressure, then we experience hormonal fluctuations, food cravings, as our energy levels and mental focus plummet. Then it has a domino effect, its hard to want to exercise, among other things, if energy is bottoming out, hormones are in hell and we start consuming caffiene, medications, highly caloric food and alcohol to get some energy back.
And then we get more tired, more depleted, more sluggish, our hormones and often our gut develop imbalances, we store more weight, it is a greater detriment to your mental health. It’s very much a catch 22 situation. The bigger the deficit the harder it is to recover and restore your body to equilibrium.
How to optimise your sleep?
So what can you do? Like most other things worth doing, it takes a bit of work but here’s some strategies to help improve things.
- Assess the situation: Sometimes tracking sleep can be helpful, using an app or fitness tracker. This is especially so if you think your sleep is okay but you are waking feeling unrested. You can pick up patterns when you do this. Maybe you are stirring in the wee hours, different times are associated with different hormones being released. Maybe different things you do, eat, drink, think about are causing restless nights.
- Regulate: Try to establish a routine, general times you wake and sleep. Ideally rising with the run and settling with the sunset. winter is a great time to do this as the days are shorter. Get out in the daylight during the peak hours when your body will absorb more Vitamin D. Ideally around midday, as Vitamin D deficiency can effect sleep.
- Stimulation: Ease back on stimulants in all forms, even if you get to sleep easily, you may wake during the night due to the half life of some substances like caffeine. Caffeinated beverages and medications are one form of stimulation. Another form is blue light, so limit the tech time after sunset. If you must use your phone, laptop or TV, you may want to consider investing in blue blocking glasses. Also avoid watching, reading or conversing about highly emotive or stressful topics, this can overly stimulate your emotions making it hard to quiet your mind.
- Darkness: Make sure your sleeping environment is dark. If not can you invest in heavier window coverings. Can you remove light emitting devices. A sleep mask can be helpful, but even then light can be absorbed by exposed skin, the darker you can make your bedroom, the better. This is even more critical if you work shifts, environment is everything.
- Temperature: Keep it chill. Getting too hot can effect the quality of your sleep. If you find it hard to get to sleep in the cold, have a hot shower before bed and as you drift of your body temperature will decrease helping you sleep more soundly. This can be helpful if hormonal fluctuations effect your sleep, often occuring around women’s menstrual cycles and of course menopause.
- Internal chatter: If your mind is in overdrive, find a strategy that works for you to switch it off before bed. Maybe it’s a phone call with someone. Maybe journalling or writing to do lists will help your sleep. Maybe a creative/mindful activity in the evening will help calm your mind. Meditation, breathing exercises, child play, all of these things can be calming influences for a nervous system in sympathetic overdrive.
- Movement: More movement during the day can lead to better sleep, so walking and exercising are great. If you are not physically tired it can be difficult to get sleep. If you haven’t been able to get out, maybe opt for some gentle stretches, calming yoga like nidra or yin yoga, floor pilates exercises or foam rolling. keep it low intensity, don’t ramp up your systems.
- Gut comfort: It’s useful to be aware of how different foods and drinks impact your body. Some people may find if they eat spicy foods, a huge amount of protein or heavy carbs, excess sugars or alcohol in the hours leading up to sleep then they have a restless sleep. When you eat if you experience adverse effects such as reflux, gas, bloating, restlessness, poor sleep, pay attention! Your body is trying to do its best to keep you alive, so help it by nourishing yourself with things that heal and not harm you.
- Supplement: There are some compounds that aid sleep and are completely natural. There are various tea’s and scents that can help calm you and aid sleep. There are certain foods that can help you to get a restful sleep. Compounds like magnesium can be helpful to relax your mind and body. If your sleep is a concern, a good point of call is a GP checkup to get some blood tests done and see how things are. Is your vitamin d or iron low? Cholesterol and hormones out of whack. The better informed you are the better you can work on your sleep.
Knowledge is power, even when it comes to sleep. If you need some help working on your sleep let’s chat!