In the run up to my 50 years and now I have reached my half century I have experienced many occasions of interrupted sleep. This prompted me to monitor and research the subject and gather some useful tips and strategies to combat this frustrating affliction.
If you find yourself wide awake and back in daytime mode, thinking about stuff when you know you are tired and struggling to get back to that restful zone. Or you have a schedule that prevents you from sleeping at the correct time then let me share with you my findings with tips to banish the sleep bandit!
Digesting stops detoxing
Those who choose to eat into the evening hours are causing their bodies to digest food when it should be detoxing. The habit of eating like Kings in the middle of the day has a lot of logic! Firstly, most people in the daylight hours move their body between meals which helps improve metabolism and burn calories. But secondly, when the body has a choice of digesting or detoxing it will always choose to digest. Why? Because food needs to travel through the Gastro Intestinal tract whether it is digested or not as if left, it will fester and ferment causing damage to the intestinal walls.
Detoxing is an important function too but one the body considers less important if it needs to digest! The daily detox that your body carries out isn’t a 10 juice drinking detox that many health experts promote. It is a function that should happen every night when you are asleep. Your body uses this quiet time when it doesn’t need energy to power your brain or move your muscles to allow your kidneys and liver to focus on removing waste and toxins from the body. So when you wake in the night one reason is because your body is still digesting food.
I am guilty of this! The restaurant table booked for 8pm. Three courses as well as wine! It’s easy to forget that the body is hard at work digesting from the first mouthful. And depending on what I’ve eaten it could take a number of hours before the food is broken down ready for absorption.
Alcohol, Coffee and Stimulants
This moves me nicely onto the next reason why you may not be sleeping. Alcohol and coffee have the ability to overstimulate organs so they are hyper charged and working beyond their ability. Having organs working optimally is good but over working organs like the liver and kidneys causes them to become stressed and fatigued. When these organs are exhausted their work rate slips and they do not carry out their role of detoxing the body of toxins.
So be mindful what stimulants you put in your body throughout the day. Listen to how your body feels after taking them. If you feel unusually ‘wired’ then you may need to scale back the quantities and consider avoid taking them before bed.
Our eyes don’t only take in images and send them to the brain for processing. They also tell us when it is time to rest and when it is time to be awake. This is known as the Circadian Rhythm and it works by reading the lighting conditions in our environment, to control our internal body clock that makes us sleepy or alert.
But with the recent dawn of the mobile phone, laptops and gaming screens that emit blue light, they can play havoc with our Circadian rhythms. The blue light fools our bodies into thinking it is still daytime when in fact it is nearing sleep time. This causes us to be awake later and pushes our sleep window back making us tired in the mornings.
It isn’t a problem if we are lucky enough to have a lie in and achieve our full 8 hours rest. But if you have to rise for work or wake when daylight shines through the window then your sleep will be deprived and health will be impacted as a result.
Even phone developers have recognised the blue light may be causing a problem as they have added a feature to their phones. On the IPhone, you can change the colour display to emit warmer tones in the evening so your mobile phone does not disrupt circadian rhythms.
Mobile phones are not the only thing that disrupts our internal body clock. Shift workers, night working and parents with young babies all can have their circadian rhythms disturbed.
I noticed my sleep patterns were off when singing and performing. I wouldn’t get into bed until 3am and at the time the blinds in our bedroom didn’t block out much light so I was waking at 7am, regardless of only having 4 hours sleep.
It took me a few months to realise what was going on but at the time, I felt like I had been hit by a train and in a permanent state of jet lag! I couldn’t understand why I was so tired and wondered whether I could continue singing as the after effects were too exhausting.
But then I read about Circadian Rhythms and realised I could use light therapy to manage my condition.
Hormonal Imbalance and Hot flashes
Hormones play a big part in keeping us asleep so when they are out of whack they cause our sleep patterns to fall out of sync. Whilst I haven’t shown full blown signs of perimenopause, I have suffered with hot flashes at night.
I have found the herbs Agnus Castus, Wild Yam and Black Cohosh very effective when I am hot flashing. Contact a qualified herbalist for more details on dosage and contraindications.
The importance of Breathing
Breathing is a function that is handled by the autonomic nervous system. We don’t tell our body to breathe or tell our hearts to beat, it just happens. As we sleep our airways flatten so breathing may be challenged at night. And if we snore or have asthma breathing properly whilst we are asleep may be even harder. When air is restricted vital nutrients and minerals may not be reaching the areas of the body where they should and function will be compromised.
Ensure your bedroom is well ventilated so fresh air is flowing into the room. Also practice deep breathing to ensure you stretch and strengthen your intercostal muscles as this will help you to breathe deeply when you are asleep.
Other strategies for restful sleep
Create a sleep routine and stick to it! Place an alert in your phone to remind you to start getting ready for bed. The body loves routine so it won’t be long before you won’t need a reminder. And remember every hour of sleep before midnight is worth double.
If you have it, change the settings in your mobile phone to Night Shift. This changes the display screen to a warmer hue which may help you to sleep better.
If working unsociable hours consider investing in a SAD light and use in the early evening to prolong the daylight hours for your Circadian rhythm. When I did this it allowed me to stay alert for a lot later into the evening and early hours of the next day. But remember our bodies need 8 hours sleep so if you are pushing back your awake time, you must ensure you get your sleep straight afterwards and ensure your sleep area is dark and distraction free.
Try meditation or yoga to improve breathing. Ten minutes every day for a month doesn’t sound like a lot but will have a positive impact on your wellbeing.
Magnesium bath soaks are fantastic for relaxing muscles and getting this much needed mineral into the body. If you are unable to soak in a bath make some Magnesium oil and spray onto bare skin before going to bed.
Ensure you are eating the correct amounts of fibre each day. Fibre is great for transporting toxins from the body.
I hope I have given you some ideas on how to improve sleep. Sleep problems can be attributed to so many health issues like depression, exhaustion and weight gain so getting it right is very important. Let me know if you have any other suggestions on how to improve sleep in the comments below as I would love to know what you do to improve your sleep.
Here’s to your Health Elevation!