When you have a bad night’s sleep, you probably think back to the previous evening and try to work out what went wrong. You might wonder whether you went to bed too late, whether noises disturbed you through the night, or whether you need to replace your pillow. However, you might be looking for answers in all the wrong places. If you want the good night’s sleep you deserve, you have to lay the groundwork from the moment you wake up with a regular routine designed specifically to regulate your cortisol and melatonin hormones.
In this article, I will walk you through and teach you exactly what you must do in the morning, afternoon and evening to optimize your precious sleep time. Implement the steps in this article and you will wake feeling much more energized every morning.
DON'T TRIP UP IN THE MORNING
Let’s start at the very beginning – with your snooze button. Your first and most important task each morning is to teach yourself not to use the snooze button. If you read my article on 'the hormones of sleep/your sacred sleep cycle' you will know that our sleep cycles are sacred. Maintaining a healthy sleep pattern is one of the most important steps towards achieving a deep, blissful sleep. By using your snooze button and delaying when you get out of bed, you confuse your body and allow it to think it can begin another 90 minute sleep cycle. When the snooze button goes off again in 5 minutes time your body may have already reached the second stage of sleep which will be much harder to wake up from and contribute to even more tiredness.
It’s far better to get up at precisely the same time every day, in order to set up a regular waking pattern for your healthy sleep cycle. My suggestion is to use an alarm clock such as a LUMIE that wakes you up using gradually increasing light instead of sound and cues your body to naturally produce more cortisol to help you wake up naturally, therefore creating a healthy sleep cycle. Using light instead of sound will mean your experience of waking is far less 'ALARMING!'.
If you need that extra motivation to wake you up in the morning I suggest keeping a notebook and pen by your bedside and writing down the dreams you remember while you are still semi-conscious. This will help you slowly wake up and give you the added benefit of connecting you to another part of yourself. Your dreams can be an incredible insight into another dimension of yourself which only plays out when you are disconnected to your conscious mind.
Our natural spike in cortisol happens at around 8am every morning so reaching for caffeine first thing in the morning can be detrimental to creating a healthy sleep pattern. If you have to have caffeine in the morning (and I certainly hope you won't need to reach for caffeine if you follow these simple tips and implement a healthy sleep routine) wait until around 10am when your cortisol and energy levels naturally start to dip.
Although caffeine can wait, breakfast is essential in the morning. Eating a meal high in proteins and carbohydrates at the same time every day helps regulate your circadian rhythm. With a little planning and creativity, anyone can put together a quick and healthy breakfast before they leave the door.
KEEP THE MOMENTUM GOING IN THE AFTERNOON
Choose your lunch with care. Avoid loading up on simple carbohydrates, because they will make you drowsy in the afternoon and disrupt your sleep cycle. Eating a lunch filled with healthy complex carbohydrates and good fats will lead to stable energy levels in the afternoons. But if you do find yourself reaching for the cookie jar at around 3-4pm resist the temptation as simple carbohydrates and proteins at this time of day will trigger your body into thinking it needs to go into action for you, rather than creating a natural winding down for your body. Have a handful of nuts to hand or choose a piece of fruit such as an apple or clementine which are low GI fruits and won't spike your blood sugar. If you like to nap in the afternoons, keep them short, I recommend no longer than 45 minutes.
GIVE INTO THOSE ZZZZZ'Z IN THE EVENING
Make sure your bedroom is a sanctuary for sleep. Remove all electrical devises except bedside lamps and your Lumie lamp. Charge your phone somewhere outside of the bedroom and turn it to silent or off overnight. Remove all other devices from the bedroom such as iPads, laptops and TV's. The stimulating effect of blue-light screens gives our bodies a dopamine hit every time we use the internet and can cause a cortisol surge at the exact moment we want to avoid cortisol in our body.
I also suggest avoiding using technology for at least 1 hour (2 hours is best) before you sleep. If you find the temptation too difficult or worry people won't be able to reach you, simply turn mobile data off on your phone at a certain time each night. You will still receive phone calls and text messages but you will be able to avoid your usual habit of scrolling endlessly through Instagram or/and Facebook/Pinterest etc. Be honest, how many times have you wasted an hour of your time when you should have been asleep because you were aimlessly using your phone?!
The internet is a wonderful tool for our curious minds, but used at the wrong time of the day our bodies get confused and allow another surge of cortisol to flood our bloodstream, creating that 'second wind' we can experience in the evenings where you all of a sudden feel like you have the energy to finish that essay, watch another episode or finish the task that half an hour earlier you had decided would have to wait until you felt more awake. Listening to your body and allowing yourself to fall asleep when you 'feel' tired is very important in creating healthy sleep.
The golden rule is to go to bed at the same time every night as this preserves your circadian rhythm. Research has shown that our body does its most reparative and rejuvenating work between the hours of 10pm and 2am so its essential we are asleep sometime in the 10th hour of the evening to reap the benefits of this.
Have your final meal about 3 hours before bedtime. Avoid saturated fats, particularly during the evening, because research indicates that they have an adverse effect on your sleep-wake cycle.
Creating an evening bedtime ritual is also a great way to help your body naturally unwind. This could include lighting a candle in your bedroom, brushing your teeth, taking your probiotic and magnesium supplements, putting on something comfortable to sleep in, taking 15 minutes to meditate, writing in a journal or reading a few pages of your novel.
Finally, sleeping in a cool room will also help ensure a sound slumber. Research suggests that we sleep best if our room is kept at 65°F/18C.
By following these simple strategies you can create a healthy sleep cycle and circadian rhythm that your body will thank you for. Good luck and I wish you sweet dreams!
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