Why Sleep Is So Important & My Top Tips!
A common thing that I hear about all the time from clients, friends and family are cries of help surrounding being diagnosed with insomnia, not getting enough sleep, waking in the night and not being able to get back to sleep or just waking up not feeling very rested.
Now more than ever, research is showing us the extreme healing power that sleep has on us. There are studies being done to show how getting a good nights sleep even promotes things such as weight loss, a stronger immune system and balanced hormones on top of all of the incredible benefits that we already knew about. We also cannot access sleep when we are stressed, hence why we need that relaxing period before bed.
When I was in Bali earlier in the year, I was on one of the Gili Islands for a month learning to become a yoga teacher. For me, this was a month of some of the best sleep I’ve had consistently in my life. I came to realise just how evident the circadian rhythms actually are in our body. We were waking up at around 6am (sunrise) to begin our morning meditation and therefore at around 7pm when it became dark, we found ourselves automatically becoming tired. After around ten days of this, for me it became automatic response to the sleeping when it was dark and rising as soon as it was light. Adding to this, there were far less bright lights before bed, we ate dinner in the near-dark outside and had no wifi in our rooms so I would instead choose to read or journal straight before bed by candlelight. It was all of the things I knew that I should do to get a good sleep routine but instead of just thinking that I should do them, because of the schedule of the teacher training, I was forced to do them. It was life-changing. I was waking up actually feeling refreshed and re-energised WITHOUT coffee, or a quick scroll on my phone before sleepily rolling out of bed.
Basically, when we activate our parasympathetic nervous system, ie- rest and digest… we are able to sleep! However, our parasympathetic nervous system is a binary system. This means it is either on or it’s off- it can’t be a little bit on. If we are putting outselves to bed at irregular bed times, after huge meals, nights full of radiation from our phones, Netflix, laptops and constantly thinking about our huge to-do lists, it’s no wonder that we can’t sleep. Our body hasn’t got our parasympathetic system switched on. To add to this, the fear about not getting enough sleep, takes away from the quality of sleep as well.
I’ve consolidated some top tips that I try my very best to stick by when it comes to sleep. I now believe it’s is up there with green vegetables and water. It’s so much important than we give it credit for. It is a chance for the body to heal, slow down and do all of the important replenishing work for us.
I also read a really good book which I would recommend called Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson. There are 21 chapters on the different areas that contribute to having restorative, deep sleep that heals the body. I found it really interesting because he discusses how we now have an abundance of health information available to us. We can be doing everything right, from eating well to meditation and exercise but if our sleep is not long enough, or deep enough then the healing benefits of a healthy lifestyle won’t have as much effect. When we are in a deep sleep, we are in an anabolic state (builds us up). Being in this state fortifies our immune system, balances our hormones, boosts metabolism and increases our physical energy. I now see sleep as a very important part of my day, not necessarily for longer amount of a time but making sure that it is as restful and restorative as possible to fully charge up my internal systems. The key is giving your body the dreamiest + deepest sleep possible with the least amount of interruptions. It's not about getting MORE hours of sleep, but about making those solid hours very deep and meaningful.
MY SLEEP TOP TIPS
(to activate rest and digest and to experience deep, nourishing shut-eye)
DEVELOP A NIGHTLY ROUTINE
Most of us just assume we can finish whatever we are doing such as a few work emails, watching a movie or doing the dishes and just magically go straight to sleep. This is okay sometimes but usually doesn’t send very good sleep signals to the brain. I can’t stress the importance of having a wind down period. There’s nothing like feeling your eyes close because you’re actually ready to sleep! Some things I recommend to add to your wind-down routine…
- Dim the lights, I love just using my Himalayan crystal salt lamp half an hour before sleep or a candle
- Switch off blue-light screens, aeroplane mode your phone and put it out of sight!
- Consider reading or journaling about your day as a pre-bed activity
- Sip a cup of herbal tea
- Have a hot, relaxing bath with some lavender oil or shower close to bedtime
I listened to a scarily eye-opening podcast the other day that I would recommend. Search in the podcast app for: Melissa Ambrosini- EMF’s- the invisible toxin!
Get the screens away from your eyes for 1-2 hours before bed as that blue-light that comes from our laptops, ipads and phones does no favours for activating sleep in the body. Plus, think about the information that you take in just before you go to sleep, that goes straight into your conscious and subconscious mind! The best option would be to put all technology in a different room from where you sleep, but for the sake of an alarm, I still keep my phone next to my bed but I do put it on aeroplane mode to block any incoming messages/calls!
Have you ever eaten a meal super late to going to sleep and find it takes you a while to fall asleep? For me, I can often feel the food digesting!
The digestive system works SO hard to break down our food. If you’ve just eaten a huge meal right before trying to sleep, often all of the energy in your body is working on breaking the food down and not focused on deep REM sleep.