Sleep has been much on my mind this week, given my toddler has been getting me up anywhere from 3.30am! So much for sleeping like a baby 🙁
Everyone knows that sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. Less well-known is the fact that it's used to get compromise in negotiations both political and corporate: 'We have to keep at it until we agree something, no matter how long it takes!' Certainly, I know I'll agree to many things I would normally fight a bit harder when I'm exhausted: 'Watch TV all morning? Sure, just let me sit here quietly...'
Another connected aspect that relates more directly to wellness is the link between lack of sleep and weight gain. Not only do you feel hungrier when you're tired, and tend to have less energy and enthusiasm for exercise, but you also make poorer eating choices.
In particular, you're more likely to reach for high carb options, for the quick energy. Unfortunately, it's not only chocolate, which contains caffeine, that hampers your sleep. Any high sugar food will give you a buzz that makes it harder to get to sleep, and keeps you in a lighter, less restful sleep.
So, what will help you sleep better and avoid these tempting pitfalls?
One thing that helps with cravings is to up your protein throughout the day. Any protein is good, and eggs or chicken are some of the best, as they also contain tryptophan. This is a building block to make melatonin, so it helps you produce the melatonin to regulate your sleep. And there's evidence that protein helps you feel more satiated, which also helps you sleep better and longer, rather than waking up because you're hungry!
2) Warm Milk
Equally, the old idea of having warm milk before bed works in a couple of different ways. Firstly, having something warm is more satiating, so you're less likely to reach for something that will give you an unwanted buzz. Secondly, it's also got quite high amounts of tryptophan in it.
3) Herbal Teas
On the warm drink front, some herbal teas are also good. For example, you could have a warm mug of chamomile tea or valerian, lavendar or lemon balm, and even peppermint. Although peppermint is often associated with energy, it does settle your stomach, so if indigestion plays any role in your sleep troubles, give it a go.
4) Read a Book
There was also some research recently which showed that even six minutes reading a book helps you unwind before bed in a way that TV doesn't. The notion is that you shut out the stresses of your day as you immerse yourself in what you're reading. Therefore, the researchers suggested that it doesn't matter what you read, so long as you "get into it". Still, you won't catch me reading something scary before bed, no matter how immersive. After all, you don't want to fall asleep easily, only to wake up with nightmares!
A short, gentle yoga practice can also destress you, getting you into a better frame of mind to sleep. It also helps prevent cramps and tingles in the night waking you up. For this, the best option is something focused on seated poses, especially forward bends, which are considered the most calming poses. Rotations are also excellent, wringing the tension from your muscles and activating the organs in your trunk.
6) Worry Journal
Write out your worries before you go to bed. Externalising them in this way can help prevent those times of churning thoughts keeping you awake.
Like reading, meditation can be a great way to de-stress at the end of the day. Perhaps better yet is a guided meditation, focusing on relaxation and releasing worries.