Counting Sheep? Here’s how to fix it
Feeling exhausted and frustrated because you can’t get some shut eye? Have you lost track as to how many sheep you’ve counted over the week? I know many people turn to an over-the-counter sleep aid or even medication to help fall asleep. During stressful events in my life, especially when studying for exams in university, I also turned to over-the-counter sleep aids. Upon waking I found I had severe brain fog (similar to what happens when I eat gluten) and was slow to start my day.
When it comes to lack of sleep and insomnia, one of the biggest issues we overlook is determining what the root of the problem is. While an over-the-counter sleep aid is a band-aid solution, dealing with insomnia or sleeplessness (the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep) can be what’s ailing you, and can be a culprit to weight gain.
Sleep is necessary for hormone balancing, cellular rejuvenation, stress management and brain health. Ideally, health and wellness practitioners suggest getting seven to nine hours of sleep. Anything less will interrupt your sleep cycle and imbalance your hormones. Lack of sleep can also inhibit your body’s efficiency to rest, repair and eliminate wastes.
As a holistic nutritionist, I strive to treat the problem not the symptom. I recommend my clients re-set their sleep patterns. If you feel you are experiencing sleepless nights, assess how you are feeling. Increased levels of pain, anxiety, stimulants and your bedroom environment can be major culprits. Stress (high levels of the hormone cortisol), depression, hypoglycemia and sleep apnea (interrupted breathing) can also lead to insomnia.
To help get a better night’s sleep, and have a relaxed and restful night, try incorporating these tips:
1.Exercise early into your day. This helps give you an outlet to release tension and running thoughts that are going through your mind. Plus it also releases endorphins, so you can mellow out your nerves and anxiety. A great way to incorporate exercise into your day is trying an early morning Pilates or Yoga class.
2. Avoid coffee and stimulants. Learn to wean yourself off of coffee, caffeinated beverages and sugar. These are big NO-NOs. Change your habit of drinking warm coffee or tea in the morning by substituting it with warm water and lemon. You’ll feel better and have a little mini cleanse every morning. Now that’s a win-win!
3. Don’t drink and eat a big meal late a night. Alcohol combined with a big meal late and night may initially make you feel bloated, stuffed like a turkey and sleepy. Plus it leads to indigestion or heart burn (even weight gain) and can cause you to wake up during the night.
4. Reduce your exposure to electronics – including laptops and your cell phone before bed. Exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) can lead to sleepless nights. Instead, make it a habit to shut off all electronics and unwind at least an hour before bed.
5. Add a few drops of organic lavender oil to your pillow before bed.
6. Create a wind-down routine at night, so your body has a natural rhythm.
7. Try a few yoga poses in the evening like viparita karani pose (legs up the wall). Place your gluts right up against the wall with a rolled up towel or pillow behind your lower back. This will slow down your heart rate and calm your nervous system.
8. Meditate. Close your eyes and sit in stillness for a few minutes before going to bed. Download the Headspace app for free easy guided meditations.
9. Do a brain dump. Got so many thoughts, ideas and feelings going through your head? Write it all out on a piece of paper or notebook then go to bed. Upon waking, look at the notebook.
10. Try taking a Magnesium supplement at night. Magnesium is a natural relaxant and tranquilizer. It relaxes skeletal muscles and smooth muscles of the blood vessels and GI tract. A recommended dosage per day ranges from 310 – 400 mg.
Assess your diet and sleep patterns. Do you usually eat your meals late at night? Do you frequently have coffee and or other stimulants mid to late day? Do you wake up every night at the same time? Track your patterns for a week or two. You may be surprised at what culprits in your diet and lifestyle can be preventing you from getting better sleep.
Did these simple sleep strategies work for you? Sweet dreams!