1: Get plenty of natural light and reduce blue light from screens.
2: If you’re an early riser, get daylight in the afternoon. Late risers who stay up later, get your sunlight in the morning.
3: Focus on 90 minute blocks of sleep - not a total of 8 hours…
4: Pre-bed ritual - > set the tone for sleep.
5: Naps can improve your recovery but not for too long. 20-35 minutes.
6: Get your sleep environment free from technology, LED’s and any lights whilst you sleep.
7: Invest in a good bed and pillow. If you wake up in pain - that’s a good sign you need an upgrade.
Now read on for more depth…
Our bodies work in rhythm with the light and the dark and we engrain ritualistic behaviours and bio-regulation into our system.
In fact we have internal clocks that change our hormones, needs and behaviours over the day:
Peripheral clocks - Cellular clocks in tissues outside of the brain. Lung, kidney, heart, gut etc.
Central clocks are cells that keep time particularly in the expression of various genes. These are in our brain (suprachiasmatic nucleus).
These cellular clocks use a feedback loop from the expression of various genes or the presence of the protein products (per and cry) in the body to keep time. These oscillate back-and-forth being more or less active over the course of the day.
These will regulate biological functions such as body temperature heart rate digestion hormones immunity hunger and appetite moods and emotions energy and alertness growth development and ageing.
We know that the human biological clock is accurate - but sometimes this needs resetting just like any normal clock, as it won’t be completely accurate on its own.
We know that if we get a good night’s sleep we are just a better human being the next day. To be a bit more nerdy, we definitely see that better sleep improves mood, irritability, sense of wellbeing, fights depression, helps you feel stronger, digest food better with less cravings and 1000 other things that will improve your daily behaviours.
The cycle of sleep:
Stage 1 - Light sleep calms the body.
Stage 2 - GABA - slows down brain activity and allows for the central nervous system to chill. Relax, destress and enter deep sleep.
Stage 3 - Deep sleep - where the magic of detoxification, repair, rebuilding, transporting and removing waste products from cells, alongside fat mobilisation and muscle growth. This is where it gets hard to wake, deeper and more restorative sleep
Stage 4 - REM - not the band but the dreaming and up-regulated breathing that occurs.
This all happens over a 90-minute cycle, so think in 90 minute divisions over !’I must get 8 hours’! … so 6-9 hours is just a good recommendation.
‘Once or twice a week - if you’re heavily training or under heavy stress - aim for a good 10 hour block. With greater demand on the body and its systems comes greater demand of recovery and support.’
Where does your sleep need just a little bit of work?
Firstly think about the good bits of your sleep, are you great at falling asleep, staying asleep or even waking up?
Now think about where it could be better?
Why do you think you can’t go to sleep at night?
Why can’t you switch off the phone?
Why do you need to talk to your friends?
Why do you need to stay in the gossip?
Why can’t you be settled in your environment?
Keeping this in mind - if you have a health prioritised goal - sleep is the biggest thing you can do to achieve it and even better, it’s free!
… so maybe rethink catching the gossip and taking on people woes until 2am… if you like to stay up late, try to see more sunlight in the day, combined with some exercise, that’ll help you feel more motivated to getting to sleep when you can.
Now look at the cycle of sleep and how do we support it?
I can’t fall asleep:
Possibility of over-stimulation (sympathetic nervous system activity) in the day carrying into the evening, living on caffeine in the day and lack of calm (para-sympathetic nervous system activity) towards the end of the day.
Training at night with stimulants like caffeine.
Large amounts of protein, salt, fibrous veg and overall calories late in the day or before bed.
Blue light (screens) keeping us wired.
Unable to switch off due to work patterns or responsibility demands.
Lack of minerals to support GABA production.
Focus on: the pre-bed ritual.
Bathe with epsom or magnesium minerals in a lukewarm bath. Too much stimulus again if it’s too hot or too cold.
Try 200-500mg of magnesium bound to glycinate in the 1-2 hours before bed— too much may make you feel sluggish in the morning, low blood pressure, weak muscles, so vary your intake on biofeedback.
Essential oils - lavender, chamomile and bergamot - fragrance or bathing.
Dimming your evening lights and swapping out high powered bright bulbs for warmer low level colours.
Meditation or mindfulness and breathing practice.
Cut off caffeine at 1pm to allow the half-life to detoxify.
I can’t stay asleep:
Peripheral clocks irritating the body through the night. Potential that blood sugar, liver and detoxification pathways irritating the nervous system during the night. Lipid mobilisation, and environmental cell stimulation. Lack of GABA from high stress and lack of minerals.
Not balancing blood sugar in the day.
Overactive nervous system - training and life is too intense.
Too much or too little water intake.
Focus on: supporting the bodies systems.
Keep heavy amounts of calories away from the end of the day.
Eat evenly spaced protein pulses and calories in the day.
Focus on ‘’yin’ based foods - white fish, turkey, yoghurts and grains in the evening.
Focus on calcium, magnesium and not potassium and sodium.
Hydrate in the day.
Black out curtains remove stimulating light in a morning.
Use magnesium to support GABA production and detoxification bound to glycinate, as glycine also improves detoxification and sleep quality.
Removing LED’s and any light from the environment.
Keep the room cool.
I can’t wake up:
Hindered adrenal activity, blood sugar regulation, circadian rhythm and peripheral and central ‘clocks’.
No regular sleep and wake time and having poor sleep hygiene (consistency).
No dream or enjoyable activity to look forward to.
No light in the day, especially the morning.
Focus on: Habits and consistent regular patterns.
Waking up and falling asleep at different times is similar to being jet-lagged - the body doesn’t know ‘where it is’.
More adequate rest will give more adequate energy.
Have a passionate goal to get you focused on being up and out.
Having restful evenings and not being hungover.
Prioritising recovery and rest.
All of the previous ‘Focus On’ points
BUT BROTHER - I’M HERE BECAUSE OF THE FOOD!
With that point said we need to look at nutritional perspectives.
Feed calming foods rich in magnesium and calcium as the day goes by - Yin based foods don’t stimulate the brain and body as much. This is typically…
Dark leafy greens
Whole seeds and nuts, especially cashews, almonds, sunflower, and sesame seeds
Squash and sweet potato
Turkey and chicken breast
Base meals with these foods in mind and be mindful of salt intake later in the day. Flip your traditional breakfast choices to dinner and vice versa to meet your circadian needs better. Red meat, heavy salt and oils in the day, white meat, yoghurts, oats, fruit and seeds later.
It’s very hard nowadays to get enough magnesium in our diets. If your diet is still not giving you the recommended daily dose of this essential mineral, many supplemental options for magnesium are available at your local drug store. While it comes in many forms, all of which will help regulate your GABA levels and lead to restful sleep, knowing the different types of dietary supplements available can be helpful.
When you’re making your selection either online or at the drugstore, keep in mind that some magnesium supplements include a blend of different types of magnesium, whereas some you can purchase individually.
Glycine is another sleep-inducing amino acid. One form of supplemental magnesium is magnesium glycinate. Studies have shown that glycine helps detoxification and promotes natural, healthy sleep patterns, including healthy REM cycles.
When under stress consider magnesium citrate. In addition to soothing muscle cramps, magnesium citrate has calming properties, helping your mind and body relax.
Topical mag is highly absorbable and can help relax your muscles as well as your skin. Ina topical form you can also target your magnesium to muscle sites.
Other common forms of magnesium include magnesium sulfate (found in Epsom salts), magnesium oxide, magnesium threonate, and magnesium malate.
Additional Health Benefits of Magnesium
While a pattern of better, restorative sleep can improve your overall health, magnesium also touts additional health benefits.
Magnesium assists more than 300 enzymes in your body, keeping you feeling balanced and healthy. Additional mental and physical benefits include:
Lower stress, better mood
Better attention span
Better athletic performance
With more demands on our bodies we need to provide effective support to keep ourselves well. With high support and high demand we can achieve our goals and your great demands also need great recovery.