On Catching Your Zzz'z

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Sleep is an incredibly important component to your vitality and all facets to your overall health. Sleep allows your body to repair, regenerate, and recover. Let’s not forget that sleep is needed to process all the detoxing your liver performs twenty-four hours a day. Sleep is not only important for cognitive performance but if you’re also struggling to shed pounds, have difficulty coping with stress, or are a carb and sugar fiend, the more sleep you will need. Quality counts too!
 
Sleep helps with:
Increased energy
Sharper concentration
Better decision-making
Improved memory
Ability to manage stress
Improved physical health
Better immune system
 
Every now and again we have a bad night’s sleep due to late night fun or crying babies, or our fussy furry friends.  Although this is no fun, our bodies can typically recover by sleeping double time the following day. But what about when sleepless nights become days, weeks, even months? That's when you know it’s time to address the root causes to your sleeping issues.

Some causes to poor sleep:
 Late night eating and/or sipping on alcohol disrupts Rapid Eye Movement, which accounts for 25% of our sleep state when we are dreaming and fluctuates hormones. Another hindrance is late night eating, especially closer to 11pm, which disrupts the liver’s peak functioning time.

All sorts of factors can throw your sleep out of whack like light, temperature, noise, and electromagnetic fields (EMF’s). Sleeping in complete darkness allows your pineal gland to produce melatonin, which is key to your immune system and the quality of your sleep. Even a tiny bit of light can stop the production of melatonin for the night.

High stress & hormone imbalance. High cortisol at night will most likely make you feel tired yet wired. Cortisol should be highest in the morning and slowly decline as the day goes on. A combination of low estrogen and high adrenaline can contribute to night sweats.

Medications like beta-blockers, antidepressants, ACE inhibitors, statins, and other medications can disturb your ability to sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to:

Impaired brain activity & cognitive dysfunction
Memory problems
Moodiness
Depression
Accident prone
Hallucinations
Weakened immunity
Weight gain
High blood pressure
Type 2 diabetes
Heart disease

Sleep Inducing Foods
 Snacks that helps calm your mind is a good idea to have an hour before your bed routine.  

  • Organic plain whole yogurt contains tryptophan, an amino acid that helps calm your brain and makes you sleepy. Also rich in calcium, which helps to reduce stress and calms the brains nerves.
  • Bananas contain, magnesium, potassium, and tryptophan. Magnesium and potassium are extremely nerve calming and helps muscles relax.
  • Herbal teas like lemon balm, passion flower, and valerian root help ease you into sleep and they make it a good nights rest too.

 Develop some good habits by making the bedroom a sanctuary for sleep and sex only. This means no watching tv in bed, catching up on emails, online shopping or social-gramming on your phone (I know it’s a challenge!) Instead develop some good moves to practice before bedtime.

  1. Start unwinding at a consistent time every night. Dim the lights, this will signal your brain to start producing melatonin. Shoot for an hour before bed.
  2. A hot bath with Epsom salts and lavender essential oils or a hot steamy shower with lavender essential oils. And get yourself some lavender essential mist to spray over your bed as well.
  3. Good ole gentle stretching like cat/cow poses, for 5-10 minutes before you begin your breathing practice can help loosen muscles and relieve stress.
  4. Guided meditation and breathing techniques can help you to think less about things and help you to focus on rest.

If you have the time doing all them would feel great. But if not, don't fret and just choose one. Go with what is doable and feels good to you. 

In general...

  • A general rule of thumb is to avoid coffee after 12pm and all caffeine (including teas) after 2-3pm.
  • Exercise is important for body and mind. It helps to relieve stress but can also raise cortisol. Cortisol should be higher in the morning and decrease over the course of the day, but you may disrupt this cycle if you train hard in the evening. Go for strenuous activity in the morning instead.
  • You can certainly move or exercise at a lower intensity at night – like a nice long walk, yoga, or pilates – to keep the cortisol levels low but get the movement that you want.
  • It’s a good idea to blackout your bedroom as much as possible – use room darkening shades or anything else. Darkness triggers your body to produce melatonin – a hormone that helps to manage your circadian rhythm by inducing calm and sleep.
  • Turn off your electronics and wi-fi at night. Simply pull the plug on some of your electronic devices. How about leaving them in another room?
  • Cut screen time from tv, laptops, and cell phones. Make this a part of your night wind down ritual.
  • Eat your last snack of the day at least an hour before bedtime. Make it small. 
  • Do some light reading with dim lights, but not so dark that you’re squinting your eyes.
  • Listen to soothing music.