In today's society there are expectations on us to be on the go all the time and as Brené Brown puts it "exhaustion is seen as a status symbol". Even when we get into bed to rest, our brains are often still active and the stress of the day to come effects our bodies even after the lights go out. As a result we wake up feeling like we haven't had a good nights sleep and the next day becomes more of a struggle. This perpetual cycle puts a lot of pressure on the physical body and emotions and can lead to conditions such as adrenal fatigue. Below are some easy changes that you can make to your daily routine that will help to improve sleep and help you to wake up feeling more energized.
1. Prioritize your sleep
Get in tune with your natural circadian rhythm. This is your bodies internal sleep/wake cycle. You may notice at certain times of the day you start to feel tired, or maybe you are an energetic morning person. This is your individual circadian rhythm. While it does differ person to person 7-9 hours is the recommended sleep range for adults. The circadian rhythm also works best when it is regular. This means going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day.
Between the hours of 10pm and 12am is when that the body does most of its cell repair and regeneration. Ensuring you are in bed and ready to sleep by 10pm means you will catch the prime healing time of your sleep/ wake cycle. If you are a night owl and miss this precious window you miss out on key sleeping, resting and repair time.
2. Avoid screen time before bed.
Light (especially blue light) from phones and computers are stimulating for the brain and activate the mind during this time when we are supposed to be winding down and getting ready to shut down for the evening. This artificial light interrupts our natural circadian rhythm and confuses the brain on whether it is time to wind down or wake up.
3. Ensure you have a pillow that is the right height
Complaints of neck tension on first waking or morning headaches can suggest that your head is in an awkward position while you are sleeping. The pillow should be at such a height when you are on your back or side that the neck is straight and not being lifted up or dropping down while you are asleep. It is best to avoid stomach sleeping as the head has to be turned to a very unnatural angle for long periods of time. If you think about walking around all day with your head turned all the way to one side for hours on end just imagine what kind of neck ache you would end up with!
4. Use your breath to wind down
The exhalation breath helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This kicks in when our fight and flight response switches off and activates the body to rest and digest. It is during this time our digestive functions, cell repair etc all take place. Using breathing techniques when you are trying to get to sleep will hep to quieten the fight and flight response and get the body into rest and repair mode.
Try the following breathing sequence for 5-10minutes when you are getting into bed.
- Breathing in and out of your nose.
- Place one hand on your belly and one on your chest
- Breath in through your nose and down into your belly, letting the lower ribs expand. (You want the hand that is on your chest to remain still and not elevate when you inhale.)
- Start to slow the breath down and gently bring the inhale and exhale to be the same length
-Work slowly towards a longer exhale and shorter inhale.
- If your mind starts to wander, steer in gently back to focusing on your breath.
5. Avoid chemicals that interrupt sleep.
Avoid sugar and caffeine during the afternoon and leading up to bed time. Caffeine stimulates the nervous system and blocks the chemical in your body that brings on drowsiness and regulates the sleep cycle. Shifts in blood sugar levels through out the day can also confuse this cycle and maker getting into a good sleep pattern more difficult.
It is a good idea to avoid drinking too much water before bed so you don’t have to get up and go to the bathroom throughout the night.
These simple steps are ones that you can easily integrate into your daily routine. Often it feels like we don't have time for these things but ultimately if you MAKE the time everything else will seem a bit more manageable.