Do you have a demanding work schedule, regularly drink alcohol, use a phone or watch TV in the evening, not prioritise relaxation as much as you know you should and consume a Western diet? Sure you do. This is all of us. This is our society. Consequently though, it’s likely to be leading you to be one of the 50% suffering inadequate sleep or one of the 39% exhausted, as reported by the 2017 Sleep Health Foundation Survey. So rather than just feeling like sh*t most days; as Amodrn’s new resident sleep specialist, I’m honoured to educate and empower you with strategies you need to wake feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to face the day.
First thing’s first—why aren’t you sleeping?
We know that it’s emitted from our devices; but what about regular light? Yes, unless you have warm lighting for evening use, as demonstrated by this scientific study,your lights are delaying your melatonin synthesis (the hormone to cause you to be sleepy) by 90 minutes.
Late night TV
Yes, they emit blue light too. And unless you’re protecting your eyes with trendy orange glasses, your brain is essentially being told that it’s the time to be alert and active. Knowing how common it is to switch off from the day with some Netflix and Chill, it’s no wonder we are struggling to sleep.
Lack of stress releasing practices, such as meditation
Stress and sleep are synergistic—reduce stress and you’ll improve sleep; and vice versa. Because of this, I ask: what’s your daily stress reducing activity? As you engage in stress inducing activities each day, such as work, drinking tea, coffee, alcohol and exercise—all of which wind UP your body, without an activity to wind DOWN, you’re likely to going to be wired, sleepless and possibly, chronically anxious.
Lack of post workout stress relief, such as stretching
Following on from the above, many of us use gym, training or an F45 class as an outlet for stress. Of course, I applaud this, but I will ask: do you stretch or wind down post workout, or is it just onto your next activity? For most of us, it’s the latter. However, important to note that exerting tension on your body and exacerbating physiological stress has to be countered by a practice that allows this tension to release.
Now, I know wine and unwind are phonetically similar; and yes, the sedative effects of alcohol allows you to feel relaxed; I hate to break it to you, but using post work drinks to decompress is definitely a recommended stress relief practice; and subsequently; if you are doing this it’s possible your sleep will be disrupted. See, alcohol shifts you into an unconscious state, which allows you to disconnect from your troubles. However when the sedative effects of alcohol wear off; often around 3-4am; you wake up with a million thoughts in your mind, and as you haven’t actually dealt with the stress from the previous day; you’re going to feel even more tense and anxious.
Sugary drinks, including alcohol
So I know the Amodrn community is pretty clever when it comes to diet, because green smoothies and Poke bowls are everywhere on the ‘gram. However, continuing from the last point, the main ingredient in alcohol is sugar. Stimulating the release of cortisol; this can lead you to feeling anxious, restless, and yes, not needing (or able) to sleep. Combine this with the typical ingredients in our favourite bevs, such as a G+T (fun fact: tonic water has the same amount of sugar as lemonade); and it means we can easily ingest a toxic dose of (liquid) sugar, often without even realising.
What can I do about it?
Change your lights to warm lights, as mentioned above. Reducing exposure to blue light helps earlier (and ideal) melatonin synthesis; so you’ll be sleepier when you’re meant to be (around 10, 10:30 or 11pm).
Start meditating each evening prior to bed: this meta-analysispinpointed 47 clinical trials with 3,320 individuals supporting the positive impact of meditation upon anxiety, depression, stress and pain; all factors which predict sleep. ESPECIALLY if you have a racy mind. Find it hard? Join a class or download the Headspace app; and know that practice makes perfect. No time? 1, 2 or 5 minutes is better than nothing.
Deep breathing—it physiologically relaxes the body, providing biofeedback to your mind to relax too. As mentioned, reducing stress is a key strategy to enhancing sleep.
Include a 5 minute post workout stretch, always. Even better—do listen to a meditation track AND do some deep breathing while you’re limbering up. Talk about multi-tasking!
Be mindful of alcohol intake, and be aware of what you’re using it for. I’m not going to tell you to avoid alcohol completely; simply because I love an Aperol Spritz as much as any girl in Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. Just be conscious to use alcohol for enjoyment, not as an escape mechanism.
Limit sugary drinks, opting for soda water with mint (personal favourite) or new kid on the alcohol/sugar free block; Seedlip
Now, there’s a lot going on there; so rather than become overwhelmed and do nothing, work through the list week by week; starting from the top down. Over time, you’ll notice you are more refreshed, rested and rejuvenated than ever. And as your resident sleep specialist, is exactly what I want as well. Need help sleeping? Sign up for Olivia’s FREE 21 Days of Sleep Tips Series, highlighting a sample of the physiological, psychological and nutritional changes you can make tonight to improve your energy levels, mood and concentration tomorrow. Or, email Olivia at [email protected] to find out more about her bespoke online program, The Sleep Solution, and how it can transform your sleep, and restore you to your best self—inside and out.