Sleep is one of the most sought after things these days!
Why is sleep so important?
This is where all the good stuff happens. Whatever we want to achieve or improve on, the element of ‘sleep’ must included in the equation. Without it, our bodies cannot rejuvenate and repair.
I see the impact of a lack of sleep a lot when treating injuries, where a patient just isn’t getting better. This is especially apparent in nerve related injuries, where they can’t get any relief from the burning, pins and needles or numbness sensations in their arms and fingers. Day-to-day repair, such as detoxification of the by-products the body makes, and the clearing of oxidative stress from the day's events, cannot take place, meaning the ageing process is accelerated. Those struggling with to catch up on their zzz's tend to look and feel older than they actually are.
Immune health is in the forefront of all our minds at the moment and, needless to say, sleep will help in the detection of and recovery from bacteria and viruses, and help reduce inflammation within the system.
Whether you want to lose fat or gain muscle.... yes you’ve guessed it - you need sleep!
We are only able to organise our thoughts into neat little boxes in our minds - so they are easily retrievable - when we experience several sleep cycles each night. This in turn helps us to feel calmer, less anxious and feel more equipped to cope with the fast-paced lives we lead.
How we can improve?
It’s all about moving our bodies from a stressful ‘fight or flight’ state to a more comfortable, calmer position.
All bodies, no matter our age, welcome routine. We need to encourage our stress levels reduce in the knowledge of what is coming next and help our body to move into the calmer, parasympathetic nervous system.
Magnesium salt baths (2 cups in warm water and soak for 20 minutes) at least 3 times a week would help tremendously. Magnesium is known as the ‘humans natural tranquilliser’. You can discover more about the healing power of magnesium in my recent Mad about Minerals post.
There are several magnesium supplements on the market, it’s a bit of a minefield. Many are combined with other lovely nutrients and herbs for specific needs such as digestion, gut healing and supporting the nervous system. Please contact me, or your Naturopathic Nutritionalist, to recommend one that best suits your needs, it’s not a one size fits all!
You can also up the ante while you bathe and tap into even more of your senses to encourage relaxation, such as listening to music that you associate with calm, relaxing times, and burn some essential oils, such as frankincense, chamomile or lavender. Frankincense is also a great option, as it has been found to reach a cellular level within 30 seconds from inhalation. Did you know that by combining frankincense with other essential oils, it enhances the benefits of these oils also?
In utilising our senses, we can connect a physical act with the mental pathways to help them move into the calmer nervous system. For those that find calming our mind or ‘connecting with the mental’ side of our wellness difficult, working with senses is ideal.
Our ‘Touch’ nerves are where baths are also useful. The sensory nerves on our skin are larger than our pain nerves, which means that touch can be useful to override any pain signals that may be sending our nervous system into panic, stress or ‘fight or flight’, and making relaxation difficult.
The warm water can support this, as can a lovely massage combined with essential oils, for a double whammy of relaxation!
This does not necessarily need to happen directly before bed, my clients always comment on how much better they sleep after a treatment session with me, they really look forward to it! Please get in touch to book a massage in our lovely treatment rooms in Manchester city centre, or to organise a home visit with one of our specialised therapists.
Concentrating on our breathing is another physical action that can help us connect with the mind and promote relaxation. Through slowing, lengthening and deepening our breaths, and using certain tongue exercises, we can work with our Vagus nerve to soothe our nervous systems. Should you need some help with useful techniques, please consider a private session. Do get in touch and we will connect you with a suitable breath work practitioner.
Block out blue light
It's also important to move away from devices a couple of hours before bed, or you could consider getting yourself some Blue Block glasses to block the blue light out (Blublox.com do some good ones). Blue light confuses the brain and reduces the release of melatonin secretion which directly effects sleep.
Nutrition for Sleep
Be mindful not to eat too late, as you don’t want to be spending your vital sleep time using energy to digest food instead of using it to help repair, rejuvenate, protect and organise your thoughts.
Work with - not against - your circadian rhythm, and promote your energy levels in the morning with foods containing tyrosine, such as steak and dark chocolate. For those of you who know me, I’m pretty obsessed with the benefits of cacao and include it in all our Naturally Raw Cakes that we deliver around the Manchester, Cheshire & Lancashire areas.
Have your heaviest meal in the morning or at lunch and leave your evening meal
lighter in size. Also, choose lighter meats such as pork, chicken and turkey or fish later in the day for their high tryptophan levels to promote calmness, and vegetables such as squash, broccoli, green leafy veg, peas and soy beans. Nuts and seeds are also high in tryptophan as well in zinc, selenium and magnesium, with cashews being the highest in magnesium (to help relax), pumpkin the highest in zinc (to help repair and build) and Brazil nuts and walnuts the highest in selenium (to support your happy head hormones!)
Always do your hardest exercise session in the morning, moving towards classes such as restorative or yin yoga, breathwork and meditation toward the close of the day.
Please note meditation is not for everyone. Sometimes the thought of sitting and ‘meditating’ stresses people out even more. If this is the case, find something you enjoy doing and relate to, such as listening to nice calming music, going for a walk, or catching a friend over a cup of herbal tea!
Should you want any further advice, a more personalised nutrition and lifestyle plan, or help looking for a yoga, breathwork, physio, sports rehabilitator or massage therapist please contact me on Nicola@cforganicwellness.com - I would be delighted to help connect you with the right practitioner.