The Power of sleep!

Written by CNM Naturopathic Nutrition and Health Coach Graduate Cerie Mcgee. 

In my health coaching clinic, ‘tiredness’ and ‘fatigue’ are words that I hear often. lt doesn’t take a sleep specialist or doctor to tell us that lack of sleep plays havoc with our mental and physical wellbeing. Just trying to think straight with little sleep, feels impossible. The power of good sleep can’t be underestimated.

Whether the problem is getting to sleep, staying asleep or poor-quality sleep, they can all lead to daytime exhaustion and fatigue. There are so many reasons it can happen, including hormonal imbalances, stress, anxiety, shift work, kids waking up, caffeine, alcohol, pain, to name a few. Most of us lead such busy lives that it can just be difficult to switch off at the end of the day.

I empathise with my clients because I would say that my personal relationship with sleep is ‘sensitive’. By this, I mean that I must be very conscious of my sleep hygiene. Unlike my partner who seems to fall asleep anytime and anywhere he chooses, I can only sleep horizontal, in a bed, I wake easily and my ability to sleep well is affected by my hormonal cycle and stress levels.

Over the years of studying nutrition, health coaching and breathwork I have managed to build an effective tool kit to help myself and my clients to improve their sleep. If you are struggling to sleep, here are some of my top tips to get you started on a path to healthier sleep.

Make your bedroom a sanctuary

It sounds basic, but it’s important that the bedroom is kept for relaxation and not for stimulating activities such as watching TV or working. Making your bed as cosy as possible and burning relaxing essential oils such as Lavender or Ylang Ylang, can be helpful. If you struggle with falling asleep, reading in bed is a relaxing activity. Ensure eating, tv, exercise etc are done earlier in the evening and your brain has enough time to wind down, there is nothing worse than being wired yet tired.

Go to bed early

It can be easy to get caught up in the latest Netflix drama and stay up late but going to bed before 10pm is ideal and has shown to correlate with healthier sleeping patterns. Being consistent with this through the week/weekend helps to create a good routine. Sure, we all have times where we stay up later on the weekend, but be conscious of ‘social jet lag’, mid-week tiredness and fatigue, due to little sleep over the weekend.

Exercise during the day

Although exercise helps to increase our energy levels, it can also help with getting a restful sleep at night. This could be aerobic, strength or balance training. Just ensure any vigorous exercise isn’t done within 3 hours of bedtime.

Get the lighting right

The dark helps to create melatonin – our sleep hormone. So, make sure your bedroom is dark enough to sleep or wear a comfortable eye mask if light comes in. Blue light from devices such as computers, iPad, phones etc is stimulating and will keep you awake. So, avoid using your phone and devices before bed, or in bed. Likewise ensuring you get daylight during the day enforces our bodies natural circadian rhythm.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine near bedtime

Clients often say that after a few glasses of wine, they seem to drift off nicely…. until they wake up at 3am and can’t get back to sleep. This is a common problem. Alcohol can seem like a relaxant, but it increases our stress hormones and causes a dip in blood sugar when it wears off. In addition to this, the quality of sleep we do get is poor as the body is busy trying to detoxify the alcohol. Similarly, caffeine is likely to keep us awake so best consumed earlier in the day. Occasional alcohol intake is fine, but it should never be used to aid sleep because it is actually disruptive to sleep.

Eat & soak in magnesium

Magnesium is known as natures sedative. Eating foods rich in mg in your evening meal may help, leafy greens, avocado, fish, legumes, nuts. Also bathing in magnesium/Epsom bath salts before bed, is an excellent addition to a night-time routine and super relaxing too!

Brain dump

If you go to bed and suddenly your brain is going 10 to the dozen with plans, schedules, work etc, try dumping your thoughts/lists for the following day down on paper before you go to bed. It can be a really good way of clearing your mind and ensuring you’ve planned effectively for the next day.

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A Health Coach is trained to educate, empower and support clients to make positive changes to improve their health and take control of their life. Using a range of specialist coaching tools and techniques, a Health Coach works with clients to set realistic goals that can easily be achieved and sustained.

Health coaching enables people to create real change in every aspect of their life, including their diet, fitness levels, career, relationships, home environment and general wellness. Health coaches can assist with a range of health-related issues including weight loss, stress, digestive problems, blood sugar regulation and detoxification. They are able to create meal plans, nutritional recipes, exercise and sleep routines, stress management plans and problem- solving strategies.