Feb 19, 2016

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By: Beatrice Peters (BPhty) ‘I Quit Being Tired’ Health Coach

Getting a good night’s sleep leads to a cascade of good events. We’ve all experienced this- you wake up feeling refreshed and re-energised after a great night’s sleep. You make a healthy food choice for breakfast which leads to having the energy to exercise, your mind is clear and focused so you can make good decisions and your mood stays stable no matter what may happen during the day.

We’ve all had the opposite experience too. You wake up when you haven’t slept enough or you haven’t had a restorative sleep. Straight away the first thing you crave is strong coffee to wake you up and you might choose a fatty, sugary breakfast to give you a boost. This then gives you a temporary blood sugar spike which leads to a mid morning drop and the whole cycle starts again (coffee, food cravings). You feel grumpy, short tempered and you get frustrated even with the smallest thing.  You don’t have the energy to look after yourself: you’re too tired to exercise and you don’t make good choices.

So improving the quality and quantity of our sleep is vital-how do we do it?

First, you need to consider what you’re eating and what you’re drinking.

  • Decrease your caffeine levels (caffeine has a 6  hour half life so you need to stop drinking it early enough so it doesn’t affect your sleep)
  • Spread your hydration throughout the day so you’re not drinking lots of water at night which interrupts your sleep with bathroom wake ups
  • Avoid the foods which irritate your digestive system. There’s nothing worse than trying to fall asleep with a pain in the abdomen or waking up during the night with a tummy upset.

Manage your stress levels

High levels of stress or being in a constant stress cycle means your cortisol levels are high. If you don’t manage your stress well this will affect the quality of your sleep as it puts you into ‘fight or flight mode’ which inhibits the rest and repair functions in the body. Sleep won’t be restorative if you have high cortisol levels so no matter how many hours of sleep you have, you won’t wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

So how do we manage stress and lower our cortisol levels?

  • Exercise lowers your body’s cortisol levels. Choose an exercise activity that leaves your feeling great and that works for you and your lifestyle. If you love high impact exercise such as running go for it. If you are very stressed or very tired a restorative form of exercise such as yoga would be the best option. Exercise also increases your body’s serotonin level which is your happy hormone.
  • Take some slow, deep breaths during the day and when you get into bed. This instantly calms your body and puts your body into ‘rest and repair’ mode.
  • Decrease your caffeine levels- caffeine increases the cortisol levels in your body so substitute it with herbal tea or another drink that you enjoy. If you suffer from anxiety lowering the levels of caffeine may help you.
  • Clear your mind- Practice mindfulness and being present in the moment. If you have lots of thoughts going around in your head- give yourself 5 to 10 minutes to write some of them down and then take the piece of paper into a different room so its not in your bedroom.
  • Place a hot water bottle or a heat pack  on your abdomen- this will calm and relax you.
  • Create a relaxing environment in your bedroom by diffusing an essential oil. Choose an oil that is calming and that you love the scent of. Lavender, Bergamot, Vetiver and Sandalwood are great oils for sleep.  A few drops of an essential oil such as lavender on your linen works a treat as does a relaxing massage before bed time.
  • Make your bedroom a sanctuary, a place for rest and pleasure that is relaxing, calm and safe. Get rid of any work documents, computers, work-books or tax returns. Keep all your electronic equipment out of the bedroom- phones, TVs, laptops.  Turn your screens off at least 30 mins before you go to bed.
  • Make your bed as inviting as possible with a beautiful cover, comfortable sheets and beautiful artwork.
  • Bring nature into your room. A plant in a beautiful pot not only helps the décor but it helps with the air quality in your room. There’s nothing better than fresh flowers in your bedroom. A ceiling fan or an open window will help to circulate the air and help you sleep.

If you suffer from dust allergies consider alternatives to carpets and curtains.

In summary, there are lots of ways you can promote better sleep. These range from diet and lifestyle changes to making your bedroom more conducive to sleep.

If you need any help with improving your sleep, stress management, exercise, the use of essential oils and improving your diet, Beatrice Peters (‘I Quit Being Tired’ Health Coach and physiotherapist) consults from Family Doctors Plus on Tuesdays.  She’s passionate about helping people make changes to their life so that they have more energy. Our receptionists can arrange an appointment for you to see Beatrice Peters.

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