In this week’s article I will share the sleep protocol I give to my clients to help set them up for a good quality night sleep. Sleep is the mysterious shift in consciousness that our bodies require every day to maintain our health and general well-being. As we found out last week, not only do we function less effectively when we fail to get enough quality sleep, but it can lead to long-term health problems and a cascade of hormonal responses that lead to unwanted fat gain. That’s why we need to do all we can to deal with any sleep issues and ensure that we enjoy quality sleep.
As a nation we aren’t sleeping as well as we used to with a recent study in the UK finding that a staggering 45% of people slept for less than 6 hours a night. With 7-8 hours been the recommended, or optimal, this is clearly a worrying statistic! A little less sleep every once in a while isn’t a problem, but if you do find yourself regularly getting less than six hours a night and feeling pretty tired all the time, then it might be time to overhaul your sleep and lifestyle habits.
Here are my top 5 steps for a better nights sleep…….
Pre Step) Avoid caffeine or stimulants after 4pm.
This may sound simple, but it’s something that a lot of people over look. Many people can’t metabolise caffeine effectively, meaning that a 5-6pm coffee is still driving there body crazy as they try to sleep. In addition, this along with other stimulants raise Cortisol levels which should be at their lowest before bed. It is actually the rise in Cortisol and its peak at around 6-8am that wakes you up in the morning without the assistance of your alarm.
So, first step, ditch the stimulants!
Step 1) Take a relaxing shower or bath
One Hour before bed – have nice warm, relaxing bath or shower. Even in the Summer. it’s advisable to take a luke warm bath or shower, a cold one actually having the opposite effect by raising your core temperature as you dry off. Adding Epson Salts to the bath water may help your muscles relax and enhance the chill factor. And, if you are so inclined, adding candles for ambiance is never a bad idea.
The key is to just relax and unwind!
Step 2) Take Magnesium Tablets
Magnesium is a great natural antidote to stress, and is considered to be the most powerful relaxation mineral available. Anything that is tight, irritable, crampy, and stiff — whether it is a body part or an even a mood can potentially be relieved with magnesium intake.
This critical mineral is actually responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions and is found in all of your tissues — but mainly in your bones, muscles, and brain. You must have it for your cells to make energy, for many different chemical pumps to work, to stabilize membranes, and to help muscles relax. I suggest taking 400-500mg of magnesium some 30 minutes before you bed down for the night. However, in getting the best bang for your buck, there is good and bad magnesium on the shelves;
Best – magnesium citrate, glycinate, taurate, or aspartate.
Avoid – magnesium carbonate, sulfate, gluconate, and oxide. They are poorly absorbed (and the cheapest and most common forms found in cheap supplements).
Step 3) Write a reflective Journal
Each night, before you go to sleep, take a moment to think of, and write down, 5 positive experiences over course of the day. Positive thinking before bedtime is doubly advantageous because it can help decreases cortisol and increases serotonin, which relieves stress and anxiety, making it easier to fall asleep.
Going to sleep in a positive frame of mind will also help you improve your outlook when you wake in the morning, improving cognitive functioning amongst other benefits. Writing down the 5 positive experiences is critical as it has been shown to be more effective and clarifying than simply thinking of them.
On those nights when you really can’t be bothered to write down 5, or for that matter any, this is when it’s most important to do it. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel when you change your perception of the day in the pursuit of finding the 5 positives. I promise you, there will always be at least 5!
Step 4) Read a book quietly
Many of the top sleep experts recommend establishing a regular de-stressing routine before bed to calm your mind and cue your body up for shut-eye. The previous 3 steps have all been aimed at getting you into this calm relaxed state. Reading can also be a great way to help you relax, unwind and keep your brain sharp. As long as the book you are reading isn’t a gripping page-turner that’ll keep you up all night you should find that with the magnesium working its magic you start to get drowsy and drift off.
But be warned, bright lights, including those from electronic devices, signal to the brain that it’s time to wake up, meaning reading your book under a dim light is a better bedside bet than a laptop.
Step 5) Make your room quiet and dark
I know this isn’t possible for everyone. If you have a partner who watches TV next to you or you don’t have black out blinds it can be a challenge.
One of the most important features of your bedroom that’s conducive to a good night’s sleep is that it should be dark. This is because the all-important sleep-inducing hormone melatonin is extremely light-sensitive and may not be produced optimally unless it’s completely dark. Electric lights have contributed to disrupting the body clock as bright lights signal to the brain that it’s time for wakefulness and activity. Even the smallest amount of light in your bedroom whilst you’re trying to sleep can have an adverse effect on the ability of the pineal gland to produce melatonin, causing difficulty sleeping.
If you can’t afford black out blinds I recommend buying a simply eye mask as it works wonders – I use mine every night and even take it on hotel trips.
Follow these top 5 tips for a week, and as your body starts to get into a routine
you will notice that your body will start responding and a good night sleep should ensue.
If you missed my article about sleeping in the heat it may be worth checking that out for when/if the nights start getting warm again.