sleep - the old and the new

everyone does it, some of us do it better than others! here are some tried and tested helpful hints for a quality sleep, as well as some new ways to challenge your body!

-aim for 7-8 hours and try and keep to a regular time to wake and to sleep – this helps to establish a routine

-mindfulness/meditation prior to sleeping – this assist in calming the active brain and soothing the nervous system. Even a one minute relaxation will help - close your eyes, hold your breath in for as long as comfortably possible, breath out and consciously relax your hands, shoulders and jaw.

-using the bedroom only for sleep or sex, not watching tv/working/eating

-avoiding bright light exposure in late evening – use the twilight app on any devices if their use is unavoidable otherwise banish them from the bedroom.  Ensure a quiet dark bedroom and encourage light exposure on rising.

-use a suitable mattress and pillow for support and comfort

-allocate time earlier in the evening or day to think about stressful things, things to do or planning your week to put these thoughts to rest before bedtime

-if sleep onset is longer than 1 hr, try getting up and going to another room, perhaps having a cup of herbal tea or reading and returning when tired

-have a warm bath with epsom salts before bed – research has observed that passive body heating increased the perception of sleepiness before bedtime as well as promoting slow wave and stage 4 sleep. Epsom salts are magnesium sulphate, magnesium is a smooth muscle relaxant.

-regular exercise well before bedtime – exercise has been shown to assist sleep quality and onset by promoting thermoregulation, energy conservation and body restoration, the best effects have been noted with aerobic endurance training and acute exercise of one hour or more, however it is important to note that training of high intensity and long duration can have a negative impact on sleep. 

nutrition and sleep

-avoid a heavy meal within three hours of sleeping

-Adequate protein (especially after 5pm) – this may help to prevent nocturnal hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) by stabilizing blood sugar levels. A specific amino acid, l-tryptophan, is important in the synthesis of melatonin, a hormone involved in sleep regulation.
Dietary sources of tryptophan – nuts (almonds, pistachio, cashew, hazelnuts) bananas, beans, dairy (especially cheese), fish (tuna, shellfish), legumes, oats, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, turkey and chicken.

-Essential fatty acids – EFA’s are required structurally for the health of neuronal membranes as well as producing prostaglandins that promote and suppress sleep.  Prostaglandins are cyclic fatty acids with hormone-like effects.  

-reduce alcohol, caffeine, sugar and sugar substitutes intake and avoid after 2pm
-interested in learning more about your specific nutritional needs? come and see steph :)

breathing exercise - nadi shodhan pranayama
(nadi = subtle energy channel; shodhan = cleaning, purification; pranayama = breathing technique)
1 - Sit comfortably with your spine erect and shoulders relaxed. Keep a gentle smile on your face.
2 - Place your left hand on the left knee, palms open to the sky or in Chin Mudra (thumb and index finger gently touching at the tips).
3 - Place the tip of the index finger and middle finger of the right hand in between the eyebrows, the ring finger and little finger on the left nostril, and the thumb on the right nostril. We will use the ring finger and little finger to open or close the left nostril and thumb for the right nostril.
4 - Press your thumb down on the right nostril and breathe out gently through the left nostril.
5 - Now breathe in from the left nostril and then press the left nostril gently with the ring finger and little finger. Removing the right thumb from the right nostril, breathe out from the right.
6 - Breathe in from the right nostril and exhale from the left. You have now completed one round of Nadi Shodhan pranayama. Continue inhaling and exhaling from alternate nostrils.
7 - Complete 9 such rounds by alternately breathing through both the nostrils. After every exhalation, remember to breathe in from the same nostril from which you exhaled. Keep your eyes closed throughout and continue taking long, deep, smooth breaths without any force or effort.

Steph Lees