Does your brain get the sleep you need to operate efficiently?

03 December 2016

Does your brain get the sleep you need to operate efficiently?

According to research over 33% of all adults struggle to switch off at night and get to sleep. Most of us work long hours often without adequate
lunch and stretch breaks. On top of that add in a poor diet and lack of hydration and it is a cocktail of insomnia. If this sounds familiar then maybe one or two of the following tips will be worth a try.

Early Bird Exercise – Exercise is fantastic for our health and stimulating our brain. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. Some people find it very hard to slow down the brain receptors following the energy rush, a very good reason to exercise early in the day and not late at night as sleep can be difficult if the brain is buzzing with endorphins.

Mind Maps – Clear out your left over “To do” list them for tomorrow, doodle a mind map, make a plan, literally dump them from your brain. Having a pen and paper available at night can also help if you wake up and remember something; rather than trying not to forget about it before the morning, write it down and get back to sleeping easy.

Diet Disasters – Eating late at night, especially if it is difficult food to digest, is a well-known sleep stopper. Try to eat at least a few hours before going to bed and if you get the nibbles later, eat something light but slow release energy such as crackers or oat cakes, this will keep you satisfied for longer and help to stop any night time hunger pangs.

Correct Calories – Magnesium is a sleep enhancer so include plenty of it in your diet. Such foods as salmon and trout, leafy green vegetables such as spinach, seeds of pumpkin and sunflower, beans, and avocados are just a few. The recommended daily intake of magnesium is 400mg.

Hydration Happiness – Drink at least 2 litres of water slowly throughout each day. NHS studies show that as many as 90% of us are regularly dehydrated most of the day. Our bodies need water to operate properly and without enough of it our internal organs suffer, another reason for insomnia to set in. To help further a glass of coconut water before bedtime can not only help to hydrate but also contains some magnesium as well as other minerals.

Stay Cool – Aim to make your bedroom a cool, calm and relaxing environment. This can be through the colours of the décor, for example no harsh bright colours, using room spray to steep the room in sleepy fragrances, bergamot, lavender, experiment to find what works for you. Fresh cool air in the bedroom is a sleep tonic so get the windows open and turn the radiators down. More bed clothes are better than hot bedrooms to induce sleep.

Real relaxation – If you have tried Mindfulness then you will know all about breathing for deep relaxation and being “in the moment”. This is such a great way to induce sleep. By changing our breathing pattern we indirectly change our physiology. When we breathe in, or inhale, we activate our sympathetic nervous system, which activates our physiology as well as our stress response. This is often called the fight or flight response. When we activate our sympathetic nervous system, our heart rate increases, pupils dilate, blood vessels constrict, sweat increases, and the digestive system slows down. We get more alert and overall tension increases. When we breathe out, or exhale, we activate our parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the “rest and digest” activities that occur when the body is at rest. Therefore, when we exhale, our heart rate slows down, intestinal and glandular activity increases, and we generally feel more relaxed. The practice of focusing on our breathing leads to reflective rather than reactive responses. It gives us control over our responses so we respond rather than react.

A breathing technique that is very helpful in deactivating the stress response consists of breathing in through the nose to the count of four and breathing out through the mouth to the count of eight - Breathe in through your nose to the count of four and out through your mouth to the count of eight. When you exhale, purse your lips and blow gently like you are blowing out a candle or blowing a bubble. This will help you slow down the exhale.

Let’s hope that some of these tips do the trick for you because sleep deprivation can bring on major health issues, cause irritability and depression which can lead to problems developing in all areas of life, work, home and relations and on and on. Wishing you many peaceful nights!

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