Who else has been experiencing some sleepless nights recently? According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults need 7–9 hours’ sleep a night to help them to function at their optimal level. Now, more than ever, proper sleep is really important for all of us.
When counting sheep doesn’t work
Now clearly, these are extraordinary circumstances, but there are lots of factors which can contribute to poor sleep and we do still have control over some of them. Here are some of my suggestions for ways to encourage better sleep:
- Get daily exercise where possible, even if that’s just a walk around the block or an online workout video in your living room
- Avoid sugary or carb-heavy meals late in the evening as the resulting sugar high will keep you up
- Limit caffeine intake: reduce the amount you’re consuming and don’t have any after midday
- Reduce your alcohol consumption
- Include healthy fats in your diet, they can help stabilise your emotions and mood
- Try using essential oils; lavender and frankincense are particularly good for promoting relaxation and sleep
- Take a bath with added Epsom Salts to soothe tense muscles and ease your mind
- Work on your bedtime routine; incorporate relaxation techniques to help you unwind. This could be reading, journaling or a quick yoga sequence
- Turn off all electronics at least one hour before bed. Exposure to the blue light they emit can disturb your melatonin levels, disrupting your circadian rhythm and making it hard for your brain to switch off. (This will also help to calm your thoughts without a constant stream of news or social media posts invading them.)
Self-care and cortisol
There are two main factors behind all of these recommendations – improving your self-care and reducing your cortisol levels. Good self-care is vital for all sorts of reasons, and is often the aspect of our routine to be dropped first in times of pressure or stress; it is more important now than ever to look after yourselves properly. Doing so will also have a knock-on effect on your levels of cortisol, which is one of the stress hormones.
When our fight or flight response is triggered, our cortisol levels rise. This is, of course, an appropriate response to some situations, but if you have slightly raised cortisol levels at all times due to your behaviours and diet then it can result in a negative effect on our bodies. Importantly, it plays havoc with our sleep and can lead to adrenal fatigue, leaving you feeling simultaneously tired and wired with little chance of staying asleep even if you do manage to drop off in the first place.
A few additional steps you can take to bring your cortisol levels down are meditation; ensuring a good supply of Vitamin C in your diet, through supplements if necessary; and trying to include more avocados, wild salmon, green veg, nuts and seeds in your diet as they are high in calcium, magnesium, selenium and zinc which can help to lower cortisol.
If you’d like to talk more about tactics for improving sleep or you have any questions around managing your stress, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07837993241.