When we think about taking steps to improving our health, we generally think about improving or diet and getting more exercise. Sleep and relaxation are also fundamental to feeling well, alert and focused throughout the day.
When asked ‘how are you doing’, what’s the common response? ‘I’m so busy with work, family….etc.’ We pride ourselves with how much we can achieve in one day, how busy we are and how there isn’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.
Just stop and think, the natural cycles of the day bring periods of action and periods of rest. The organs of the body are not designed to work 24 hour a day. Every cell in the body needs time to regenerate and restore. The mind also needs to rest, allowing thoughts to be digested and assimilated, just like the food we eat.
If we look back at our Circadian Clock in our Introduction, we can see the natural periods of action and rest. We want to eat when our metabolism is most efficient, be active mentally and physically when the brain and the body are functioning at their peak and rest when the natural daily biorhythms prepare us for the period of restoration and rejuvenation.
Pushing beyond these natural cycles only brings stress and exhaustion, putting stress on the organs of the body and the mind.
I am seeing this more and more in people I am treating with Ayurvedic Therapy. One growing condition is Hypo and Hyperthyroidism. The thyroid gland plays a crucial role in a multitude of metabolic processes in the body. It acts as our bodies battery pack. The stresses of our busy lives without adequate time to rest and restore is draining our batteries leaving us exhausted.
Getting enough good quality sleep and allowing ourselves periods of relaxation is key to enables us to wake up each day feeling alert, focused, and emotionally and physically.
Sleep is when the body has time to repair the cellar damage that occurs throughout the day. Even more so now due to the accumulation of small stressors throughout the day: train cancelled, so late for work, working long hours indoors and not getting enough natural light, demands we place upon ourselves and other people place on us to achieve…the list goes on.
Sleep is also the time where the mind closes down and files the thoughts and actions of the day. Sleeping well is the preparation so we can awake feeling refreshed to do it all again tomorrow.
Don’t underestimate the need for good quality sleep. It is after all one of the foundations of total health and wellbeing.
What can you do to ensure to receive sufficient good quality sleep.
- Working with our natural circadian rhythm throughout the day. Your natural circadian rhythm is responsive to daylight and dark, promoting the secretion of melatonin at night to prepare the body for sleep and regeneration. In response to the fading light of the day, melatonin secretion begins. Overuse of blue light from screens reduces the secretion of this sleep hormone, therefore keeping you wake at night.
- Low levels of melatonin at night increases hunger, causing us to snack more in the evening. Eating close to bedtime stimulates the liver and digestive system to breakdown and assimilate the food we are eating. The cycle of wakefulness begins.
- Eating late at night also stimulates the release of digestive acids, which can lead to acid reflux, a major cause os sleepless nights.
- To prevent this, try to consume your last meal at least 2 hours before bed.
- Try to be consistent with waking and sleeping time. Bed by 10pm and waking at sunrise: 7am in the winter and a little earlier in the summer.
- Try to expose yourself to some bright light as soon as you wake up and get outside during the day as much as you can.
- If you wake up during the night. Don’t get up and definitely don’t eat or drink anything. A sip of room temperature water is fine.
- If you drink caffeine, have it before noon.
As well as considering our diet and activity for health and wellbeing. It’s also crucial to consider our ‘non activity’ – sleep.
In our next blog, we will consider Movement – What and when is the best time to exercise and be active based on our Ayurvedic Type and our natural circadian rhythms.