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18

Nov
2018

The Sleep series Part 1 – Good Sleep Prep.

A common and profound barrier to optimal health is poor sleep with many failing to put in place a solid pre-bed routine that promotes a relaxed environment for a great night’s sleep. 

Have you ever tried to go to sleep after a very stressful day in the office? 

I would hazard a guess that it took you a good long while to actually get to switch your brain off and sleep at all. The repetition of the stressful events replaying on tap with no rhyme or reason.

One of the first strategies that I put in place with my clients is to set a consistent pre-bed routine – one that promotes deep relaxation, not just baseline levels of relaxation which generally includes binge watching a series on Netflix. 

Good Sleep Prep Step 1 – THE LAST MEAL OF THE DAY

Your pre-bed routine starts with your last meal of the day.  What you putt in that meal can go a long way to promote a better sleep. 

TIP: Try adding some carbohydrates into your last meal, for example – Sweet potato, Rice or Oats.

Carbohydrates help boost the neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) Serotonin and Gaba which are responsible for feeling happy, calm and relaxed. 

Think of it this way.  How do you feel after you have eaten an extremely heavy carbohydrate meal like a roast dinner for example?  Sleepy?! 

If you start your day with a carbohydrate heavy meal, it might be worth changing your breakfast to something like an omelette, meat or oily fish. These foods rich in protein and fats boost the neurotransmitters responsible for Drive, focus and brain speed. 

Good Sleep Prep Step 2 – SWITCH OFF YOUR SCREENS

Artificial light is a major cause of sleep disruption, one that continues to get worse with our increasing dependability on phones and laptops.

There are certain spectrums of light – we should wish to avoid with the biggest one being blue light.   Blue light from screens has been shown to significantly decrease melatonin levels in the brain 

Serotonin is the precursor to Melatonin – Which we know is great for feeling happy and relaxed. 

TIP: If you absolutely have to use your devices then try this.

Download a program called F.lux.  This will shift the colour of your screen from blueish hue to an orange – reducing your exposure to blue light and helping to save melatonin and sleep much better. 

Good Sleep Prep Step 3 – BREATHE

One thing I like to do and feel works wonders for me is breath work – I like diaphragmatic breathing. 

TIP: Lay down in a dark room on your back.  Inhale deeply through your nose and hold the breath in your diaphragm for a 3-5 seconds. 

Then, exhale through your mouth for another 3-5 seconds and repeat for around 10 minutes or until you feel relaxed. 

Good Sleep Prep Step 4 – READ

Reading a good book is a fantastic alternative to screen scrolling pre-bed.  Try the following.

  1. Pick a book unrelated to work.  You do not want to build on the stresses of the day by reading work related content.  This will more than likely enhance the active brain – not relax it. 
  2. Aim to read between 10-20 pages. This should be enough to leave you feeling relaxed. 

I have been known to fall asleep mid sentence! 

Good Sleep Prep Step 5 – GO DARK 

Make sure the room is absolutely pitch black, no lights from TV’s, alarm clocks etc.

  1. Make sure your room is cool and not too hot.
  2. Try meditating.  This ties into breathing techniques but may be simply listening to some relaxing music.
  3. Try ‘Brain dumping’.  Some call it journalling!  Think of your brain as a computer hard drive.  IT only holds a finite amount of memory.  When that memory is full, the computer slows down and eventually crashes.  This is the same with your brain. Try removing some of the memory by writing down your key points of the day or irrational stressors.  That way, you leave some memory clear to fill with more positive actions. 

In part 2 of this series, I will be going through some of favourite sleep aids and supplements to help improve the quality of sleep. 

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