Make Sleep Count

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Quality over Quantity

Make Sleep Count - lady asleep at the deskIt is possible that you can spend nearly two-thirds of your life asleep yet many people place less importance on this time than their waking hours. Easy to do, after all we are unconscious, yet the quality of this time has great influence over the quality of our waking hours.

Sleep is all about recovery – physical, emotional and energetic. In order to function fully whilst waking, we rely on the immune facilities, detoxification, tissue and muscle healing and emotional processing that occur during the wee small hours. If this downtime isn’t respected, we may quickly see symptoms like fatigue, irritability, poor concentration and poor recovery from stress, injury and skin complaints.

Lack of sleep, even at a small accumulative level can lead to craving sugar and stimulants as our bodies try to fuel up in the face of less vitally built-up energy. Indeed too little sleep has been associated with incremental weight gain through increased appetite for this very reason.

Research has shown that it is not quantity, but quality of sleep that counts. Feel more rested and wake more refreshed with some simple solutions:

Calm Brain, Better Sleep:

  • Wind down for bed from 9pm – we can tend to ‘do’ rather than ‘undo’ late evening, often with a fear of coming down from stimulation like TVs and constant noise. Nourish a calm ‘alpha’ brain state ready for bed with a bath, reading non-thrilling books, listening to soothing music or a calm yoga practise or meditation.
  • If worries keep you awake at night, write them down – accept that your brain may be on ‘constant alert’ from daytime stress and realistically ask yourself if there is really anything you can do to resolve the problem at that time. Rather than gnaw at things you cannot change, write them down so you don’t feel the need to hold on to them.
  • Always kiss and make up with your partner before you go to sleep if you have argued – don’t take unresolved issues into your dreams.

Create Your Sleep Haven:

  • Consistent bedtimes and length of sleep optimise sleep patterns best – aim to always get up at the same time, however poor your sleep in the night.
  • Keep the bed for sleeping in only (and making love). Create a safe, cosy haven for sleep – make sure the bedroom is quiet and restful and enjoy fresh clean sheets. Keep this space free from clutter and mess to encourage a clear, calm mind.
  • Invest in heavy curtains – dark bedrooms create better sleep, as our pineal gland only produces the sleep hormone melatonin when it senses low light levels.
  • Wear ear plugs if you are easily disturbed or your partner snores!

Nutritional Considerations:

  • Have three regular meals – including protein at each – meat, fish, eggs, nuts, beans or goat’s cheese – to produce sleep hormones and regulate energy to not rely on the sugar or caffeine that can keep you awake later.
  • If you wake in the night, have a bedtime snack – slow release carbohydrate foods like apples or oatcakes help prevent night blood sugar crashes that cause a stimulating adrenaline surge. A few stalks of celery can calm the nervous system – a potent traditional sleep remedy.

Viparita KaraniSimple Evening Restorative Yoga Practise:

Viparita Karani

Lie with your legs up the wall, with your feet together and the back of your pelvis supported by a bolster or cushion that allows you to be free from the waist up. Hold your arms two feet away from your body, palms up and breathe calmly though your nose for 5 minutes, focussing on lifting the heart and keeping the jaw, throat and face soft to calm the nervous system.

Focussed Breathing Practise

Lay or sit in a fully supported position with eyes closed. Release the jaw, forehead and eyes. Begin counting ‘one’ on the inhalation, ‘one’ on the exhalation. Continue counting the full breath cycle like this up to ten and then start again. If your mind wanders or you lose count, simply start again at one. You can also use this technique if you wake during the night.

Sweet Dreams!

Author: Charlotte Watts