We all know the story, lying in bed wide awake in the wee hours of the night, unable to sleep and dreading yet another day ahead feeling exhausted and flat. Just as the sun begins to rise you finally drop off, only to be rudely awoken by the sound of your alarm. Or do you find it hard to get to sleep, tossing and turning wishing you could just stop thinking and fall into a deep refreshing sleep? Lack of sleep and associated fatigue seems to be the curse of the modern age. Adults need an average of seven to nine hours of sleep a night, but insomnia can keep them from getting the sleep they need. With around 1/3 of Australians suffering from a sleep issue of some sort there is no doubt there is plenty of ‘counting sheep’ going on every night around our country. Just as exercise and nutrition are essential for optimal health and happiness, so is sleep. The quality of your sleep directly affects the quality of your waking life, including your mental productivity, emotional balance, creativity, physical vitality, and even your weight. Without enough hours of restorative sleep, you won’t be able to work, learn and create at a level even close to your true potential.
Our Sleep and Stress Workshop covers nutrition and lifestyle factors along with specific yoga and relaxation techniques to get your sleeping through the night again.
Nourish your Adrenals
Your stress response, often known as ‘fight or flight response’, is powered by the hormone cortisol – secreted by the adrenal glands. This mechanism is intended to save your life when we are under threat and once the threat passes, return to normal. The problem is that in our busy world prolonged stress can leave our body’s thinking we have a never-ending emergency, the cortisol remains high and adrenal fatigue sets in. Stress and adrenal function affect sleep, particularly the circadian pattern of cortisol. When we are managing stress effectively, cortisol should rise in the morning to give us energy for the day. By the time we are ready to hit the hay, it should drop, making it easy to fall into a deep, refreshing sleep. However, if it remains elevated at night we find it hard to unwind and slumber, instead feeling slightly wired, edgy and anxious – exactly when we need to find our Zen. Ultimately you must get sleep if your adrenals are to get stronger.
Food as Medicine
Without doubt what you eat affects how you sleep. One of the keys to a restful night’s sleep is to get your brain calmed rather than revved up. Some foods contribute to restful sleep; other foods keep you awake. Foods containing the nutrient magnesium help nourish our adrenals, calming the body and mind. Tryptophan is the precursor to the sleep inducing hormones melatonin and serotonin. Snacking on foods high in this amino acid before bedtime will help make you sleepy. And eating carbohydrates with tryptophan with help make it more available to the brain. Try having a bowl of natural, full cream yoghurt with a handful of nuts before bed to get you sleeping more soundly
Our Sleep and Stress workshop incorporates plenty of food as medicine tips, to help you make the best choices to keep your energy levels balanced for a productive day in the office and ready for a good, restorative night's sleep.
A few low-key yoga moves can signal to your brain that slumber is coming. It is also a beautiful way to lower stress levels, calm the mind and relieve the tensions of the day and can be an effective natural sleep remedy. Certain resting and inversion poses can be particularly helpful for combating restlessness and insomnia, especially when practiced in the evening just before turning in. A Harvard study found that daily yoga for eight weeks improved total sleep time and the time it took to fall asleep.
So make sure you take time to look after the most important person - you. To sleep well we need a calm, well nourished body. Step off the merry go round and find your zen.
Wishing you sweet dreams.
Lindy Cook is a Naturopath, Nutritionist and Director of Corporate Chillout.